Three horse sprint in The Ocean Race

Day 14 – It’s been a long, exhausting but also thrilling second leg of The Ocean Race and the pattern is not going to change in the final stages, with the five IMOCA crews bracing themselves for one last push to Cape Town.

But the routing is far from straightforward, with the boats having to sail a long way south to get round the St Helena high before climbing northeast to the finish, where an area of light winds is likely to block their route to Table Bay.

With 11th Hour Racing having led the fleet south, it was Team Holcim-PRB and Team Malizia that initiated the gybe east, and by the time the US-flagged team reacted, the three IMOCAs were near bow even as they aimed toward the finish. The trio widened the gap to Biotherm which had torn its spinnaker

“The last part of this leg won’t be easy,” said Kevin Escoffier, skipper of Team Holcim-PRB. “We had a cold front during all last night and we are going for another one tonight. That front – the low pressure – will bring us up to the southern limit of the course at the ice limit, so we can’t go further south than that.

“Then, when we are along the ice limit, we will wait for a third low pressure that will bring us northeast to Cape Town. But, but, but, but… it is not finished because, before arriving in Cape Town, there will be a very light spot.

“It means that the day before we finish we could have all the fleet coming back together in order to have a great finish for you, but not for us! Because we don’t like that. But, for sure, it could be a tight finish in Cape Town, with all the boats together under Table Mountain.”

Christian Dumard, weather consultant to The Ocean Race, says the ridge before the finish could give the crew on GUYOT environnement – Team Europe a chance to catch up again. “The wind will come back from the west first, so it will be good for GUYOT – they should be able to come pretty close to the first boats,” summarized Dumard.

Despite what Escoffier is saying, Dumard is not sure that it will be necessary to drop down as far south as the northern limit of the ice exclusion zone at 45°S.

“It is difficult to know what they will do because there are many different routings that all arrive in Cape Town more or less at the same time,” he explained. “Some of them go very close to the ice limit. It could be that one or two boats – thinking they are slower or something like that – could take a risk of going close to the limit. But it is difficult to know what they will do. I would not do it if I was on the boat, but maybe one boat will try it.”

Dumard says, in the meantime, the crews will continue to sail south and east on a northwesterly and westerly airflow, but wind conditions will gradually ease. “The wind will decrease. They are not going to go to Cape Town at the current speed (15-20 knots) – they will slow down probably in two days from now.

“The front is going to become less and less active as it gets closer to South Africa, with less and less wind. So it will move east over the fleet and then they will have to wait for the next one to get to the finish, probably on the 12th.”

This leg is showing the latest generation IMOCAs pushed to new limits in foiling mode by crews working round the clock, and has seen two big developments in the past five days.

First the loss of position for GUYOT environnement – Team Europe after her spectacular gains on the eastern flank of the fleet after the Doldrums, that put her in the lead on the tracker, and genuinely so for some time. The former Hugo Boss, whose crew includes Sébastien Simon as navigator and tactician, got trapped in patchy winds and paid a heavy price, made worse by the loss of their spinnaker.

But Dumard says it would be wrong to criticize them. “They stayed in the east. They could have probably accepted to lose some of their lead and go further west and they decided to stay in the east,” he said. “It is easy to say now, but if you go back four or five days, it wasn’t so clear that there would be much more wind in the west, so it is always easy to say afterwards.”

The other big development has been the big step forward by Team Malizia skippered on Leg 2 by Will Harris. The German boat had been lagging far behind for the entire leg from Cape Verde, after losing out in light and medium conditions in the early stages, when Harris said they were struggling to find the right set-up to be competitive.

For several days Harris and fellow crew Yann Eliès, Rosalin Kuiper and navigator Nico Lunven, were stuck on the western edge of the fleet before finally it came good for them as the boat showed her paces in fresher conditions. Now that she is in the same part of the ocean as her main rivals, she has not struggled to match them.

Back on Team Holcim-PRB, Escoffier says he has been enjoying every moment of this brand new race on the IMOCA calendar, (even if he knows it well from his days on board Dongfeng Race Team).

“I think it is very important to enjoy what we do,” he said. “We love ocean racing and we’ve got a nice fleet, we’ve got a nice crew and so there is no reason not to enjoy it. I definitely enjoy fully-crewed racing – it is less stressful than single-handed. It’s also definitely a great crew on the performance side, but also on the human side. So yes, I am very happy about where we are and very happy about how we came here and I hope it will continue like that.”

The Holcim-PRB skipper says he and his fellow sailors on board – Sam Goodchild, Tom Laperche, Susann Beucke and OBR Georgia Schofield – are ready for their first taste of the southern oceans. “We don’t have the heaviest wet weather gear, but we’ve got the sleeping bags, we’ve got gloves, we’ve got hats, so it should be OK and we have plenty to eat, even though the leg is longer than expected,” he said.

“So everything is okay on board,” he continued. “It will be a bit colder than expected, but I think it will definitely be a great practice before leg three and the huge southern leg of the race.”

Leg Two Rankings at 1100 UTC
1. 11th Hour Racing Team, distance to finish, 1718.4 miles
2. Team Malizia, distance to lead, 1.1 miles
3. Team Holcim-PRB, distance to lead, 5.0 miles
4. Biotherm, distance to lead, 58.1 miles
5. GUYOT environnement – Team Europe, distance to lead, 342.7 miles

Initially, race management predicted a 14-15-day passage time for Leg 2, with the leading boats expected to arrive in Cape Town on or around February 8 or 9. Now the ETA is February 12.

IMOCA LEG 2 CREW LIST

11TH HOUR RACING TEAM (USA)
Charlie ENRIGHT (USA) Skipper
Simon FISHER (GBR)
Jack BOUTTELL (AUS/ GBR)
Justine METTRAUX (SUI)
Amory ROSS (USA) – OBR

BIOTHERM (FRA)
Paul MEILHAT (FRA) – Skipper
Anthony MARCHAND (FRA)
Amélie GRASSI (FRA)
Damien SEGUIN (FRA)
Annne BEUGÉ (FRA)

TEAM HOLCIM-PRB (SUI)
Kevin ESCOFFIER (FRA) – Skipper
Sam GOODCHILD (GBR)
Tom LAPERCHE (FRA)
Susann BEUCKE (GER)
Georgia SCHOFIELD (NZL) – OBR

GUYOT ENVIRONNEMENT-TEAM EUROPE (FRA/ GER)
Robert STANJEK (GER) – skipper
Sébastien SIMON (FRA)
Anne-Claire LE BERRE (FRA)
Phillip KASÜSKE (GER)
Charles DRAPEAU (FRA) – OBR

TEAM MALIZIA (GER)
Will HARRIS (GBR) – skipper
Yann ELIES (FRA)
Rosalin KUIPER (NED)
Nicolas LUNVEN (FRA)
Antoine AURIOL (FRA) – OBR

Leg One Results

IMOCA
1. Team Holcim-PRB, winner leg one, finished – 5d 11h 01m 59s
2. 11th Hour Racing Team, finished – 5d 13h 50m 45s
3. Team Malizia, finished – 5d 16h 35m 21s
4. Biotherm, finished – 6d 8h 47m
5. GUYOT environnement-Team Europe, finished – 6d 12h 20m 37s

VO65
1. WindWhisper Racing, finished – 5d 16h 35m 21s
2. Team JAJO, finished – 6d 4h 52m 52s
3. Austrian Ocean Racing-Team Genova, finished – 6d 19h 13m 54s
4. Ambersail 2, finished – 6d 21h 49m 04s
5. Viva Mexico, finished – 8d 13h 50m 25s
6. Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team – Retired from leg

IMOCA: Boat, Design, Skipper, Launch date
• Guyot Environnement – Team Europe (VPLP Verdier); Benjamin Dutreux (FRA)/Robert Stanjek (GER); September 1, 2015
• 11th Hour Racing Team (Guillaume Verdier); Charlie Enright (USA); August 24, 2021
• Holcim-PRB (Guillaume Verdier); Kevin Escoffier (FRA); May 8, 2022
• Team Malizia (VPLP); Boris Herrmann (GER); July 19, 2022
• Biotherm (Guillaume Verdier); Paul Meilhat (FRA); August 31 2022

The Ocean Race 2022-23 Race Schedule:
Alicante, Spain – Leg 1 start: January 15, 2023
Cabo Verde – ETA: January 22; Leg 2 start: January 25
Cape Town, South Africa – ETA: February 9; Leg 3 start: February 26 or 27 (TBC)
Itajaí, Brazil – ETA: April 1; Leg 4 start: April 23
Newport, RI, USA – ETA: May 10; Leg 5 start: May 21
Aarhus, Denmark – ETA: May 30; Leg 6 start: June 8
Kiel, Germany (Fly-By) – June 9
The Hague, The Netherlands – ETA: June 11; Leg 7 start: June 15
Genova, Italy – The Grand Finale – ETA: June 25, 2023; Final In-Port Race: July 1, 2023

The Ocean Race (formerly Volvo Ocean Race and Whitbread Round the World Race) was initially to be raced in two classes of boats: the high-performance, foiling, IMOCA 60 class and the one-design VO65 class which has been used for the last two editions of the race.

However, only the IMOCAs will be racing round the world while the VO65s will race in The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint which competes in Legs 1, 6, and 7 of The Ocean Race course.

Additionally, The Ocean Race also features the In-Port Series with races at seven of the course’s stopover cities around the world which allow local fans to get up close and personal to the teams as they battle it out around a short inshore course.

Although in-port races do not count towards a team’s overall points score, they do play an important part in the overall rankings as the In-Port Race Series standings are used to break any points ties that occur during the race around the world.

The 14th edition of The Ocean Race was originally planned for 2021-22 but was postponed one year due to the pandemic, with the first leg starting on January 15, 2023.

Source: IMOCA

Published on February 7th, 2023

SOURCE: https://www.sailingscuttlebutt.com/2023/02/07/three-horse-sprint-in-the-ocean-race/

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