Southern conditions for The Ocean Race

Published on February 28th, 2023

(February 28, 2023; Day 3) – The wind has arrived for leg 3 of The Ocean Race as the five IMOCA teams settle into higher latitudes and begin to criss-cross to the east, hooking into the first big weather system of the leg.

After light winds and adverse current yesterday, the winds will be welcome but they come with a punishing sea state with seas forecast as high as six metres the further south one dares to venture.

But the IMOCAs only need, and can handle, so much which is reflected on how the fleet appear to agree somewhere around 39-degrees south latitude is far enough and are now gybing just north of the angriest conditions.

“The idea is to find a good way, with good speed and not too much wind or waves,” said Biotherm skipper Paul Meilhat. “It will be a long few days in quite raw conditions. We are entering quickly to the south.”

“We have seen up to 32 knots of wind,” noted Robert Stanjek on GUYOT environnement – Team Europe. “We are sailing downwind with the FRO (fractional code zero headsail) and one reef in the mainsail in a little less wind but bigger waves. It is not so easy to drive.”

Looking to the weather charts, the fleet is squeezed between the ridge of high pressure they’ve just crossed and a deep low pressure system, featuring strong winds and big waves, which is pushing up ahead of them from the south and moving with them to the east.

Striking the right balance between speed and safety will be the key on leg 3. It is very unlikely any of the teams will make a winning move during these first days, but an aggressive decision that results in damage could be impossible to recover from, so prudence is likely to be the name of the game.

From Amory Ross, 11th Hour Racing Team:
Up until the moment I planned on writing this, which is about two hours ago, the biggest feature of the leg so far would have been the meandering Agulhas current. It’s warm water makes life onboard hot, especially when you’re in thermals and dressed for the cold, and uncomfortable as it tends to run opposite the wind and makes for a messy and confused sea state. We have spent more time in it then we planned and that’s largely because it’s underwater and very hard to forecast.

What hasn’t been hard to forecast is the low we’ve recently engaged, around two hours ago. Heading south we knew we’d eventually intersect it’s easterly course, and the plan was always go as far as we dare into its nucleus before gybing and riding its perimeters east.

Sure enough it got windy quickly, 25-35 knots from the west, and we collectively agreed that was more than enough wind in these big South Atlantic waves. We’ve since gybed and put in two reefs. It’s a “relatively” conservative setup but we believe the averages will be good and that’s what we’re after.

We spent a lot of time after the last leg discussing when to race the weather and when to race the fleet, and it’s pretty clear we are racing the weather at the moment. I’m sure all the other boats feel the same way. Get through this low and then figure out who is where and go from there.

The biggest priority for the next few days is making sure this boat and the five of us onboard stay in good shape, and that we maintain the ability to sail fast in whichever direction we choose. I’m sure, when the winds abate and the blinds open, scheds will matter more and positioning will again be a priority, but for now it’s acclimating to these new conditions and keeping everything under control!

Leg Three Rankings at 1600 UTC
1. Team Holcim-PRB, distance to finish, 12642.9 nm
2. GUYOT environnement – Team Europe, distance to lead, 29.2 nm
3. Team Malizia, distance to lead, 77.0 nm
4. 11th Hour Racing Team, distance to lead, 98.4 nm
5. Biotherm, distance to lead, 144.1 nm

Race detailsRouteTrackerTeamsContent from the boatsYouTube

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

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