04 March 2023
For The Ocean Race fleet, it is still a far cry from traditional Roaring 40s weather, but at least one critical element has returned – the wind.
Biotherm, 11th Hour Racing Team and Team Malizia are all finally on the move after a frustrating period of unusually light, warm, and calm conditions.
While the unusual weather suited Team Malizia as they worked through the day and into the night on Wednesday to repair their damaged mast, it was received far less well by the sailors on Biotherm and 11th Hour Racing Team who could only watch as Leg leading Team Holcim – PRB raced away from them, one full weather system ahead.
“We are moving again, after 24 hours in the high pressure system,” said Biotherm skipper Paul Meilhat.
“Now, it’s ‘let’s go’. It’s still not very windy, but much better than before. We are happy to be going faster with the boat and not listening to the flapping of the sails. It’s good!!”
It has turned out relatively well for Biotherm, who have converted a trailing position to the south into a second place on the leaderboard, by virtue of getting into the new wind ahead of 11th Hour Racing Team.
In fact, the American team has found misfortune over the past couple of days. Ensnared in a high pressure bubble of near calm winds, Charlie Enright’s team has even made miles to the west – away from finish – in an effort to get into the new breeze.
As of Friday afternoon UTC, they are back, moving at 20 knots through the water, but still struggling to turn in a more favourable direction as the calms remain in their path. But media crewman Amory Ross writes the team is just happy to be moving again:
“With one final gybe to the south this morning it feels like we’ve finally escaped the clutches of the high. We have 10 knots on the water and 15 knots at the top of the rig and while we may be heading southwest, at least we’re making progress towards the new wind.
“In the end the high did roll us and we did drift around for the better part of 12 hours; all somewhat foreseeable after we fell off the back of the low. What’s also foreseeable, and you can already see happening, is the new wind filling from the west will first aid Biotherm and then Malizia before it finally reaches us. C’est la vie…”
All in all, a tough opening week for the American team, but with 30+ days of racing remaining, plenty of time to turn things around.
For Team Malizia, the news is positive. Repairs appear to have gone as well as they could have hoped and the team is moving at speed again, if still a little bit cautiously as they allow as much time as possible for the resins to ‘cook’ or cure in the repair at the top of the mast. But the prognosis is positive.
“I am so happy, we are back sailing, the workshop is cleaned away and most things are fixed on board,” was the message from skipper Boris Herrmann on Friday afternoon.
“I feel so ready for the next part of this race, it fills me with energy to think about what we have just achieved across the whole team and I am ready to go for the rest of this Leg! The race is still on, we aren’t far from 11th Hour and Biotherm and the race is still long!”
At the head of the fleet, it’s also all positive for Team Holcim – PRB. The opening five days could hardly have gone better, as skipper Kevin Escoffier sits nearly 600 miles ahead of his closest competitor.
“We will stay in this low pressure system – like four or five days – and afterwards it will be different and we will have some gybes to do and not a straight line, like today,” Tom Laperche said from on board the leader.
“And yes, behind us they have fallen into the high pressure and they have a lot of light wind over the next two days, but our routing is not very clear for the next week, so I don’t know if they can come back or not.”
That is the flip side of such a commanding lead – it can be difficult to cover your opponents from 600 miles away. But this is a good problem to have.
Racing back to Cape Town, GUYOT environnement – Team Europe is about 250 miles from a weekend arrival at the V&A Waterfront, where everything is prepared and ready for a significant repair operation.
Thomas Cardrin is the head of the Tech Team of GUYOT environnement – Team Europe said, “Workshop and storage containers were brought back and the work area prepared.
“The cradles are back, the RIB has to be back in the water, the big fenders are ready. We have made a lot of phone calls to order all the equipment we need to repair the damaged area – carbon fibre, resins, etc. To do this, we need to check how to reinforce the starboard side, which has not been affected so far, for the next Legs. We need to prevent the damage from occurring on the other side as well.
“The expected arrival of the yacht is on Saturday afternoon, maybe in the evening. We will prep the mast for Sunday. Sunday midday we should be able to take off the mast, put the boat on the cradle out of the water, wash it and inspect it. By Monday morning the plan for the repairs will be in place and we will start working.”
Looking at the continuation of the race, Thomas Cardrin sees a range of possibilities: “The best option is that we repair very quickly and the yacht can start again, so that it goes to Itajaí on the normal track, finishes the Leg around Cape Horn.
“The other option is to go directly to Itajaí to be there in time to get everything ready for the start of the fourth leg.”
The latest position are on the Race Tracker