The doldrums dangers were even worse in centuries past, when sailors could find themselves becalmed for weeks because their heavy ships were not easily propelled.
Volvo Ocean Race sailors wont face such dire straits, but they do have plenty to fear. If the doldrums effects were uniform, they would have little impact on the raceeveryone would be in the same boat, so to speak. But their maddening unpredictability makes them critical.
When racers do encounter calms its especially frustrating, says skipper Kevin Shoebridge, because they know their opponents may have found a track with better wind. If you can get through it smoothly without losing too much time and someone [else] gets trapped in there, he says, it can be a big break.
To balance the doldrum threat, most of the racers will have King Neptunes feast to look forward to. The rest will dread it.
The ceremony is an initiation for sailors crossing the Equator for the first time. More experienced teammatesone typically in the guise of the god of the seadouse them with rotten food and otherwise humiliate them.
Its always a nice bit of fun to pick on the young guy, says Shoebridge. Even in a full-on race we try and do something.