Weather shift for The Ocean Race
Published on January 24th, 2023
Cape Verde (January 24, 2023) – As the five IMOCA teams prepare for the second leg of The Ocean Race, the forecast outlines contrasting conditions from the brutal upwind and fast downwind conditions of Leg 1.
This time patience and taking opportunities when they arise – but also not losing the plot when things go against them – is going to be the name of the game as they take on a hot, lightwind passage from Cape Verde to Cape Town.
The race literature lists this stage as 4,600 nautical miles, but it could be longer than that if the weather proves tricky on a voyage that starts in the northeast trade winds, then features a crossing of the Doldrums and then a long stint tackling the St Helena high.
Christian Dumard, the weather consultant to the race, says that after a light wind start tomorrow, the first decision for navigators and skippers will be whether to sail south through the Cape Verde archipelago or head west – and quite far west – to get out of the wind shadow of the islands.
The way the crews approach that first decision will affect where they cross the Doldrums. “If they want to cross them in the west, then they have to go west as soon as they start,” said Dumard.
He reckons there will be no need for them to head right over to the Brazilian coast at Recife and will probably cross the Pot au Noir at about 28 West, where he predicts they should make a relatively quick passage through to the southeast trade winds.
“They might get stuck for a few hours, but probably not for a long time – not for two or three days – and then, after that, they will be heading mainly south. They have to get south of the St Helena high pressure system and hopefully that will move east, so they could have – perhaps not the shortest route we have seen in the south Atlantic – but not the longest one either.”
However, Dumard warns that if the center of St Helena high moves south as the leg progresses, it will be difficult for the IMOCA teams not to end up stuck in light airs trying to get to Cape Town.
“It’s complex and this race will not be over until the finish, if the high goes a little further south – we saw this in the Ultime race in 2019 – they all got stuck in the high pressure before getting to Cape Town,” he said.
So this leg is going to be hard work for the trimmers and light-airs boatspeed specialists, but also for the navigators – men like Simon Fisher on 11th Hour Racing Team-Mãlama, Nico Lunven on Team Malizia, and Kevin Escoffier on race leader Holcim-PRB – who will have to plot their way through large areas of light and shifty winds.
In Cape Verde, the boats have been repaired, after the stresses and strains of the first leg, and we are also seeing the first evidence of the squad system the teams are using to pace themselves through this seven-stage race that does not finish until early July.
Among those joining the race at Mindelo are female sailors Justine Mettraux who is swapping places with Francesca Clapcich on Mãlama, Anne-Claire Le Berre who is taking over from Annie Lush on Guyot Environnement-Team Europe, and Susann Beucke who is taking over from Abby Ehler on Holcim-PRB.
Two skippers are also taking a rest. Benjamin Dutreux will hand over leadership duties to Robert Stanjeck on Guyot environnement-Team Europe and is being replaced by Sébastien Simon while on Team Malizia, Boris Herrmann is being replaced by Yann Eliès with Will Harris taking over the skipper role.
Herrmann suffered a serious burn injury to his foot during the final stages of Leg 1, and while he initially hoped he would be able to continue on Leg 2, medical advice has him out to ensure the wound healed properly in time for the southern oceans.
For the Swiss yachtswoman Mettraux, this will be her third appearance in The Ocean Race after being part of Team SCA in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race and then part of the Dongfeng Race Team that won the last race in 2017-18.
“It’s nice to be back in The Ocean Race,” she said. “It is my first time now in this edition of the race, so it is part of my career and history, and I am really happy to be back here, feeling really lucky to be part of this amazing race again.”
The Swiss sailor echoed Dumard’s prediction about a testing and potentially long leg ahead. “It’s not going to be easy on the navigation side, so we will be trying to avoid big mistakes in that area,” she said.
“We are going to have to be good at estimating the risks that are worth taking or not, while trying to go fast all the time. There will probably be a lot of opportunities and key moments, so it will be important to try to stay focused the whole leg.”
The word from the race organization is that they are very happy with the way the IMOCA Class has tackled the challenge of its first The Ocean Race so far. Phil Lawrence , the race director, said it was great see what he called the “super-competitive” spirit between the IMOCA crews.
“They are in it to win it, and working well with the organization (of the race) as well, which is great,” he said. “I am very happy with the way it is going. The IMOCAs had an absolutely brutal exit of the Med, with winds of over 50 knots on the nose, which are not the optimum conditions for these boats, and they’ve handled it pretty well.
“They’ve got some sail damage and bits and pieces, but they are dealing with all of that here. There’s no major structural damage that I’m aware of, so it’s all pretty good. And they were very, very fast once they got out of the Med and into favorable conditions – piling on the 500-mile days which was impressive.”
Lawrence added that he was not surprised that the crews were erring on the side of caution out on the racecourse.
“They have got to get these boats around the world and when they let them off the leash, they really are beasts. Some of the peak speeds we’ve seen on our live tracker are in the high 30s – that’s right up there! Obviously they have got load alarms on the boats, so they are managing their boats, which is great.”
While Escoffier and his team on Holcim-PRB will be looking to follow up a strong performance in Leg 1, there can be little doubt that Charlie Enright and his well-drilled crew on Mãlama will be looking to get one back on them on the way to Cape Town.
At the back of the fleet, Paul Meilhat on Biotherm (fourth in Leg 1), and the crew on Guyot environnement-Team Europe will be hoping for improved performances on the stage before the Everest peak of Leg 3 through the southern oceans to Brazil.
One element that has been striking at this first stopover is the confidence boost Herrmann and his crew on Team Malizia have taken from their competitive third place in Leg 1. No one in that team was hiding their nerves about boatspeed before they left Alicante, but the mood is definitely more upbeat now.
“Boris is the happiest he has been in so long because the boat is going so well and the team is working so well,” said team director Holly Cova. “He came back from Leg 1 honestly so happy, even with his injury. He was like ‘this couldn’t be better.’ It is the most confident he has ever been in the boat and team.”
Leg 2 from Cabo Verde to Cape Town, South Africa is scheduled to start at 1810 UTC (1710 local time) on January 25.
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
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
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
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.