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Volvo Ocean Race Leg 4, the double doldrums effect continues

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Volvo Ocean Race Leg 4, from Melbourne to Hong Kong, Team Brunel
Volvo Ocean Race Leg 4, from Melbourne to Hong Kong, Team Brunel

Sun Hung Kai / Scallywag, who have trailed for most of this homecoming Leg 4, appear to be trying to cut the corner, making painstakingly delicate progress to the west of the fleet. 

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By virtue of this westerly position, the Scallywags are showing as top of the ranking on the 0700 UTC position report on Friday.

It's a bold strategy that may pay dividends, although most weather routing says the favoured position is to the north, where Vestas 11th Hour Racing leads Dongfeng and team AkzoNobel. 

It shouldn't take too long to find out which strategy pays off. The trade winds are not far away. And with them, the purgatory of the doldrums will quickly be a nasty memory. 

"It feels like the trade winds are tantalisingly close. After nearly 24 hours of sailing in more consistent breeze we have all been buoyed by the fact the will soon finally be seeing the distance to Hong Kong start to come down at a decent rate," writes Vestas 11th Hour Racing navigator Simon Fisher.

"However, this morning the doldrums have served up one final treat for us, another big cloud with plenty of rain, gusts, wind shifts and now calm. Light winds have once again slowed us and the little dot showing where the boat should be on the weather routing is once again stretching out in front of us. This, however is a preferable situation to seeing our rivals stretching out in front of us as ultimately it doesn’t matter how long we are out here if it is a little less time than the others!

"We will wait anxiously for the next sched even though we know that the boats around us have slowed with us. It is the ones we cannot see that now may be more dangerous. However, spirits are good on board and we are optimistic about our progress. With the rain this morning we are all showered and clean and ready to do battle for as long as it takes to get us to Hong Kong!"

The pressure to be first to the steady trade winds is immense - after that, the forecast shows steady conditions through the finish in hong Kong meaning passing lanes will be hard to find. 

"It's quite tricky and it's takes a lot of skills from all the sailors," said team AkzoNobel's Chris Nicholson, describing the doldrums. "Sometimes you get it right, sometimes it's a lottery, but in general, the good guys chip through all right."

The next 24 hours will tell us who has come through best.

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