Fleet’s tight in The Ocean Race

Published on April 26th, 2023

(April 26, 2023; Day 4) – The five IMOCAs in The Ocean Race fleet are short tacking up the coast of Brazil, squeezed between the land to the west and an exclusion zone to the east.

With the wind coming from the north-northeast, which is the desired direction to sail towards, it means a lot of tacking and close quarters maneuvering.

The racing remains close. Team Holcim PRB and 11th Hour Racing Team nearly appear as one boat on the tracker, separated by less than half a mile. Biotherm and Team Malizia are about 10 miles back and GUYOT environnement-Team Europe a further 15 miles behind.

“I think we’re going to go inside the exclusion zone,” said Alan Roberts on Biotherm as the teams were considering their options before needing to make that decision this morning. “There’s a big left hand shift coming, and we’re expecting a bit of a back-eddy of current at the moment so there’s a bit of a tidal gain. And it looks like the whole fleet will pass inside so it will be the low risk option.”

“We have about two more days to go of upwind sailing up the coast,” said Christopher Pratt on Team Malizia. “There’s going to be a lot of work to do. And then maybe, it looks like good sailing ahead, reaching along the Brazilian coast. But it’s long upwind ahead first, a lot of maneuvers, a lot of tacks.”

The clouds have still played a role in giving very localized winds to the teams. While Malizia was lamenting losing out to 11th Hour Racing Team and Holcim PRB, not surprisingly the leaders were happy with the result.

“Overnight we finally got a good cloud and we sailed around everybody,” said 11th Hour Racing Team skipper Charlie Enright, with a smile.

With the full fleet compressed between the exclusion zone and the coast, boat handling and local weather will be difference-makers over the next day.

This exclusion zone is one of several on leg 4 up to Newport. Race Director Phil Lawrence says the exclusion zones fall into four broad categories:

• Areas with high levels of hazards or marine traffic – the oilfields off the coast of Brazil fall into this category and are where the fleet is now;
• Areas with high levels of protected marine life – just to north of current positions on this leg, the whale breeding grounds on the Abrolhos Bank off the coast of Brazil are an example of an area the boats will be routed around;
• Areas with specific hazards – later on this leg, the exclusion zone off the northeast coast of Brazil is in place to keep the boats away from debris that comes out of the Amazon River Delta;
• Designated shipping lanes where traffic can only travel in one direction – there is a zone like this on the approach to Rhode Island

In addition to reducing the risk to the fleet and to marine life, an exclusion zone may force tactical decisions. In this case, the entire fleet stayed inside the oilfields exclusion zone, taking the lower risk – but higher work rate – option of staying together.

There is about 100 miles of racing to the northeast before the playing field opens up again, and many tacks to go between now and then.

The leg is expected to take up to 17 days, with an ETA around May 9th or 10th.

Leg Four Rankings at 14:00 UTC*
1. Holcim-PRB, distance to finish, 4593.9 nm
2. 11th Hour Racing Team, distance to lead, 0.4 nm
3. Biotherm, distance to lead, 9.9 nm
4. Team Malizia, distance to lead, 10.5 nm
5. GUYOT environnement, distance to lead, 24.1 nm
* Until the fleet uniformly aims along the course route, the ranking may be misleading.

Race detailsRouteTrackerTeamsContent from the boatsYouTube

Overall Leaderboard (after 3 of 7 legs)
1. Team Holcim-PRB — 19 points
2. Team Malizia — 14 points
3. 11th Hour Racing Team — 13 points
4. Biotherm — 10 points
5. GUYOT environnement – Team Europe — 2 points

IMOCA: Name, 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: TOR

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