No lead too safe in The Ocean Race

Day 9 – Waking up this morning with a 470+ nautical mile lead on Leg 3 of The Ocean Race, this would appear to be an enviable position for Kevin Escoffier and his Team Holcim PRB.

But the challenge of a big lead is in how best to cover your opposition, who are sailing in an entirely different weather system and have the benefit of seeing where you are. Looking at the forecast, there is reason for optimism for the chasing trio of Biotherm, 11th Hour Racing Team, and Team Malizia.

And Escoffier, for one, isn’t too happy about it.

“If we don’t manage to catch the system ahead we’ll have to wait for the next one, which they will be coming with and we’ll have a restart,” he said. “In what other sport can you get such a big lead and lose everything in a few days and have to start all over again?!”

Team Holcim PRB successfully consolidated their northerly position, and now are on the same gybe and dead ahead. In the process, Biotherm gained nearly 50 miles in the last 24 hours, which feels impressive. Still, Paul Meilhat and his team would need to do that for 9 more days just to draw level, so perhaps the situation isn’t as bad as Escoffier makes out.

A ridge is following the fleet. If the chasing pack manage to stay in front of it, then they can likely close the gap considerably with Holcim PRB. But should they fall off the back, and into the light airs, the lead will open up again.

11th Hour Racing Team’s Amory Ross remarks, “… this low that’s just passed over us will eventually slide underneath another a big high in our path, and we’ll meet that high head on. It should bring another fleet compression…”

The American team is treading a careful path, exercising patience, with two headsails under repair and unavailable in the short term.

As the teams skirt the ice exclusion zone, the weather of the southern latitudes is starting to bite. “It’s really cold,” said Biotherm’s Meilhat. “When you go outside to adjust lines, the water is now very cold. It’s quite windy and the sea state is big.”

For video on board Biotherm, click here.

“It’s uncomfortable, not very easy to sleep,” said Will Harris on Team Malizia. “The wind goes from 15 to 25 in a few seconds so you have to be right there, ready to adjust sheets… We’re trying not to break the boat. I thought it would be more stable down here, but this is probably what I should have expected – it’s hard!”

Leg Three Rankings at 2200 UTC
1. Team Holcim-PRB, distance to finish, 10118.9 nm
2. Biotherm, distance to lead, 467.2 nm
3. 11th Hour Racing Team, distance to lead, 519.8 nm
4. Team Malizia, distance to lead, 538.9 nm
GUYOT environnement – Suspended racing

Race details – Route – Tracker – Teams – Content from the boats – YouTube

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 (1900 nm) start: January 15, 2023
Cabo Verde – ETA: January 22; Leg 2 (4600 nm) start: January 25
Cape Town, South Africa – ETA: February 9; Leg 3 (12750 nm) start: February 26
Itajaí, Brazil – ETA: April 1; Leg 4 (5500 nm) start: April 23
Newport, RI, USA – ETA: May 10; Leg 5 (3500 nm) start: May 21
Aarhus, Denmark – ETA: May 30; Leg 6 (800 nm) start: June 8
Kiel, Germany (Fly-By) – June 9
The Hague, The Netherlands – ETA: June 11; Leg 7 (2200 nm) 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: The Ocean Race

Published on March 6th, 2023


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