By struggling one against the other level with the equator, the two weather hemispheres are creating havoc across a large expanse of ocean.
When the two tradewinds, namely the NE for the northern hemisphere and the SE for the southern hemisphere, have similar trajectories, they can sometimes unite in a gentle, regular E'ly wind, and the Doldrums is just an invisible formality.
On the other hand, when they are drawn in a more perpendicular fashion towards the equator, they bang together, climbing vertically to create a windless zone which commonly reaches 500 kilometres wide. The only hope then lies in the massive amount of cloud activity which develops here, the largest squalls generating their own air.
July and August have another particularity in store for us however: the tradewind in the southern hemisphere, which is harsher than its colleague, especially at this time of the year, goes considerably beyond its northern perimeter and produces two effects: initially the convergence zone between the two winds shifts northwards, which is why the Atlantic Doldrums is usually located between 8° and 13° north. Following on from that, the higher the windless zone climbs, the more the SE'ly tradewind – which is diverted as it crosses the equator – clocks round to the right, transforming into a SW'ly wind as it becomes laden with moisture. This is the monsoon phenomenon which is renowned in Asian lands. It is by making use of this opportunity that we have been able over recent days to make headway northwards, not far from the African coast, prior to clawing the last miles, squall by squall, to finally cross the dreaded dividing line.
The 300 miles covered in two days and the incessant manœuvres have finally opened a relatively typical summer window across the North Atlantic: the Azores High with its glorious sunshine and its E'ly winds, which all the holidaymakers were expecting in August, is finally climbing across Europe! And the lows, synonymous with W'ly winds and rains are blocked faraway to the west or towards the north of the Atlantic. In short, a calamity for us who would prefer, nothing against those of you on land, that the rain watered the gardens and that the leaves were filling the gutters! And to hell with the E'ly winds!
As a result our climb northwards promises to be a laborious one, even though a small stormy low which is circulating around Madeira is likely to give us a bit of a boost for two or three days.
Even though it's out of the question to ease off the pace so close to the goal, the crew, despite being used to these games of chance, is grumbling in the companionways and insulting the heavens, before they have to swallow this 5,000 kilometre upwind climb imposed on them.
All of a sudden, any discomforts and irritations are exacerbated. The bunks are beginning to hop and the gnawing dampness is back. The freeze-dried meals are showing clear signs of reaching their limits too.
The stocks of clean clothes are exhausted. There is virtually nothing left to put on the slices of bread and the three remaining pots of jam aren't going to last until the first breakfast awaiting us in London. In short, every detail has an impact and you really get the sensation, at times, that it would take just one trifling matter for this fabulous human machine that is a crew, to go off the rails.
Each of us is making an effort though. Léo has hunted down an unlikely batch of little slices of toasted bread from the dark corners of his storeroom. Lionel is making us laugh by rigging up a fishing line in a bid to make life a little less ordinary… The books are changing hands. We talk of friends and, it's hard to believe, but you forget the 2,400 slow, wet miles left to go.
We're going to keep driving forward with a kind thought to you landlubbers; you who are going to benefit from this Indian summer. Indian it may be but it's a blasted summer all the same!
Mino, who is benefiting from the still smooth seas to write to you