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Brutal welcome for The Ocean Race

Published on May 8th, 2023

(May 8, 2023; Day 16) – As The Ocean Race leading boats get within 600 miles of the finishing line off Newport, Rhode Island, the crews are preparing for a brutal afternoon and evening at sea.

There is a weather front approaching with southwest winds forecast at 40 knots, gusting as high at 50 knots. If this weather comes through as predicted, it will be some of the strongest winds the teams have faced in the entire race.

11th Hour Racing Team and Team Malizia began to feel the impact of this system already (1400 UTC). Adding to the stress is the current the boats are starting to see as well, due to the Gulf Stream. Fortunately, the wind direction – southwest – is largely in line with the current, which should keep the sea state manageable.

“I’ve been trying to get my head around the forecast for the final couple of days… it’s hard,” said Francesca Clapcich on 11th Hour Racing Team. “Leg 4 is not over! It’s going to be pretty messy.”

“i think the whole fleet will get tested,” said on board reporter Amory Ross. “We’re making sure we’re prepared going into this and the boat is in good shape. This will be the most wind we have seen all leg. We haven’t even had a reef in since we left Brazil… It’s just one more significant obstacle between here and Newport.”

11th Hour Racing Team has eked out to a 20+ mile lead over Team Malizia heading into this weather front.

“We are going into a small low pressure, with very strong wind, probably around 50 knots at one stage. Not for very long, but quite extreme,” is the view of Nico Lunven on Team Malizia. “The sea state should not be too bad, I think, because it’s a new system so it shouldn’t have had time to develop.”

For the pair behind – Biotherm and GUYOT environnement – Team Europe, this system will also be an obstacle.

“The forecast has evolved. The low pressure is deeper and stronger than previously forecast,” was the description given by Alan Roberts on Biotherm. “There’s possibly 50 knots, gusting even higher, to the south of the low. The optimal route takes us that way but in terms of boat preservation it’s not ideal. We have to decide whether to keep heading north towards it, or to tack and invest in the west in order to pass a bit further south of the low. It’s not easy.”

His team on Biotherm has made one little hitch to the west in the past 12 hours, sacrificing a little bit of their lead over GUYOT environnement, who now trail by less than 30 miles on the leaderboard, but are in a tactically more difficult position out to the east.

“We are being welcomed to America with a big low pressure,” said skipper Ben Dutreux. “Some forecasts predict 60 knots of wind. It is not a light one. Biotherm has already set a tack. I think they probably don’t want to go into the storm.”

But this last obstacle can’t be avoided entirely. It will be a leg-defining 24 hours on the North Atlantic.

The ETA to Newport remains May 10. Following the passage through this storm, the wind fades again quite rapidly, meaning another go slow period, before more moderate reaching conditions power the fleet towards land.

Leg Four Rankings at 20:00 UTC*
1. 11th Hour Racing Team, distance to finish, 506.8 nm
2. Team Malizia, distance to lead, 21.4 nm
3. Biotherm, distance to lead, 168.0 nm
4. GUYOT environnement, distance to lead, 211.5 nm
* Holcim-PRB, retired (dismasted)

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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