Leg 2, Day 8: Nervy times for the crew on Dongfeng as the fleet compresses in the dreaded Doldrums

As Dongfeng has continued south trying to hook into the new wind from the southeast, she has slowed in steadily lighter air, allowing all her rivals to catch up and for the fleet to compress, north-south.

This Doldrums crossing has been relatively straightforward but the classic effects – squalls, lightning, wind shifts, massive cloud formations, downpours – are all in play as Charles Caudrelier and his team on Dongfeng continue to lead the way to the southern hemisphere.

As Dongfeng has continued south trying to hook into the new wind from the southeast, she has slowed in steadily lighter air, allowing all her rivals to catch up and for the fleet to compress, north-south.

Just a day or so ago, the boats were spread by up to 100 miles; now the backmarker - Turn The Tide on Plastic, skippered by Dee Caffari - is less than 50 miles behind the red and white Volvo Ocean 65 sponsored by Dongfeng Motor Corporation.

This morning Dongfeng was making 11 knots of boatspeed. But she had the Spanish crew on MAPFRE, skippered by Xabi Fernandez, just three miles behind and going the same speed, with Vestas 11th Hour Racing, skippered by Charlie Enright, only three miles further back. Both Team Brunel and Team AkzoNobel had dramatically reduced their deficit and were just 12 and 13 miles behind respectively.

Although the lateral separation is small, Dongfeng is currently the most easterly boat, leaving her more exposed to unstable and classic Doldrum conditions that are spreading across the Atlantic from the African coast. But the hope is that she will lead the way through and then accelerate away first. Fingers crossed…

In terms of her geographic position, Dongfeng is currently about 760 miles north-northeast of Recife in Brazil and 270 miles north of the Equator, with less than 4,000 miles still to sail to the leg finish at Cape Town.

This means that very soon King Neptune – aka Stu Bannatyne - will be getting his gear on and starting to mix his horrible potions so that Jack Bouttell can pay his dues as a first time crosser of the world’s most famous line of latitude.

Bouttell has been busy recently, working with Daryl Wislang to make emergency repairs to one of Dongfeng’s headsails, but this will not spare him Neptune’s attentions.

Read Jeremie Lecaudey’s blog here