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The Ocean Race into the unknown

The Ocean Race

The leading boats are in an expanding doldrums and Malizia is making up miles

Paul Meilhat’s Biotherm was the first boat to feel the impact of the doldrums overnight as his crew saw their speed plummet from 14 to 4 knots just after midnight UTC.

It wasn’t long before Team Holcim-PRB, 11th Hour Racing Team and then GUYOT environnement – Team Europe found themseves in similar circumstances.

In fact, at 1200 UTC today, the only boat moving with pace towards Cape Town is Team Malizia, still charging in from behind at about 14 knots. The distance to leader has been halved from over 230 nautical miles at 1800 UTC last night to just over 100 miles at 1200 UTC on Sunday as the fleet compresses.

“The others are already in the doldrums. We are much further west than them and we still have wind,” said Nico Lunven from Malizia. “We will see for how long it lasts.”

It could be a while yet, as still positioned furthest to the west, Malizia skipper Will Harris has the potential for an easier crossing, while nearly 200 miles to the east, GUYOT skipper Robert Stanjek and his team might be in for a painful couple of days, if the forecasts are to be believed.

And grouped in the middle of the east-west spread, and furthest to the south, are Biotherm, Team Holcim-PRB and 11th Hour Racing Team, each hoping that the next cloud and storm cell will bring the momentum they need to transition out the other side.

“The last day has been that old question between strategy and tactics,” said Kevin Escoffier on Saturday afternoon as he balanced the risk of a final gybe to get further west against staying close to Biotherm and 11th Hour Racing Team. “Strategically, I think we should gybe further west. but tactially we are in a good position with these other boats.”

Watch the strategy / tactics debate on Team Holcim PRB

“Looking at the fleet I think we’re in a pretty good place,” said Jack Bouttell on 11th Hour Racing Team. “We’re the most western boat (of the leading trio). We’re happy with that, but it’s going to be a bit of a restart in the doldrums anyway. Just need to stay in touch and manage it well.”

As mentally taxing as the doldrums can be, they are equally a physical challenge. With the different wind shifts, storms and ‘cloud hopping’ strategy of connecting small patches of breeze, the crews can expect a lot of sail changes and manoeuvres between here and the re-establishment of the trade winds.

Leg Two Rankings at 1200 UTC – 29 January 2023

1. Biotherm, distance to finish, 3990.9 miles
2. Team Holcim-PRB, distance to leader, 19.0 miles
3. 11th Hour Racing Team, distance to leader, 25.6 miles
4. GUYOT environnement – Team Europe, distance to leader, 36.7 miles
5. Team Malizia, distance to leader, 102.9 miles

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