I asked Frits Koek, a well known professional weather advisor for racing, he was involved in the Whitbread and Olympic classes, for his opinion and views of the new course.
So enjoy this one...

Weather at the Mini-Transat 2001
(By Frits Koek, Marine Climatologist;
http://www.fritskoek.com )

This year the Mini-Transat sails to a different finish than in the previous years. Instead of Guadeloupe in the West-Indies, the new destination for the sailors is Salvador de Bahia in Brazil, nearly 13 degrees south of the equator. Although the distance is not such a big difference, the weather is quite.

Coming from the Canary Islands, Guadeloupe lies downwind, "at the end" of the north-east Trade Winds and is a relative easy goal. Salvador de Bahia, however, is across the equator and that fact will cause a lot of uncertainties. The main issue is that they'll have to deal with the doldrums.

The doldrums (or ITCZ = Inter Tropical Convergence Zone) is a name for the equatorial oceanic regions of calms and light variable winds, accompanied by heavy rains, thunderstorms and squalls. This belts is variable in position and extent and as a whole moves north and south with the annual changes of the sun's declination, although its movement is considerably less than that of the sun and lags behind it.

Statistically the ideal route between the Canaries and Salvador de Bahia passes just west of the Arquipélago de Cabo Verde during October. To the west of the islands the winds are stronger and steadier than east of them. The point where to cross the equator is a mix of extra sailing distance and favourable winds, or better, the least unfavourable winds.

The doldrums are located between 4°N and 11°N during this month. Still a distance to cover of more than 400 miles. North of this area the winds are predominantly from directions between east and north-east, while to the south the southerly and south-easterly winds prevail. The first southerly winds may be met south of 8°N. As soon as you encounter the southerly winds, steer to cross the parallel of 5°N somewhere between 20°W and 23°W. Tack to the best heading, that gives you the best angle to go south and cross the equator between 24°W and 28°W, well east of Penedos de São Pedro e São Paulo.

Near Penedos de São Pedro e São Paulo the current sets to the west. Passing these rocks to the east means extra caution should be given to stay well clear of them. The rocks are low and difficult to distinguish. The same is valid for the Atol das Rocas when passing Ilha Fernando de Noroña to the west.

In October the wind direction along the Brazilian coast becomes more north-easterly. The current flows with that wind direction to the south-west. If, however, the prevailing winds are still from the south-east, caution should be given to the current, which then flows to the north, towards the shore.

Towards Salvador de Bahia the winds are predominantly from directions between east and south-east and have force 4 on the Beaufort scale on average. Near Salvador de Bahia the wind has a tendency to back towards northerly directions. Near the Brazilian coast the wind may occasionally reach 30 knots or more. The coastal area between 8°S and 12°S is renowned for that and this situation especially occurs when the local seabreeze combines with a synoptical onshore wind.

The route described above gives, statistically, the best angle and speed to cross the doldrums. The actual situation, however, may differ completely. No guarantees are given, whatsoever.

Written and copyright by Frits Koek