HomeThe Ocean RaceThe Ocean Race Leg 2 Replay - a battle to the very...

The Ocean Race Leg 2 Replay – a battle to the very end

Watch the leg 2 review video and relive an epic stage in The Ocean Race

Billed as a leg on which managing the numerous transitions between weather systems would be a key factor, the second stage of The Ocean Race 2022-23 from Cabo Verde to Cape Town got off to a slow start with light 5 – 8 knot NE winds replacing the normal breezy trade wind conditions in the region.

That meant the crews in the five-boat IMOCA fleet had to first pick their way carefully away from the Cabo Verde archipelago, avoiding the gigantic wind shadows cast by the mountainous islands, before trying to connect with the re-establishing trade winds on the way to the equator.

 

Biotherm made the best of the start to grab an early lead, with themselves, Team Holcim-PRB and 11th Hour Racing Team all gybing west away from Sao Filipe. Behind this leading pack GUYOT environnement – Team Europe and Team Malizia were matching each other gybe for gybe in a cat and mouse battle.

Three days after the start, and with the potentially windless and unpredictable Doldrums (aka Intertropical Convergence Zone) looming large, the crews each had to choose what they believed would be the optimum route across the equator and into the southern hemisphere trade winds. Traditionally, a more westerly crossing is favoured.

The fleet entered the Doldrums almost line abreast but with a 200 nm spread between Team Malizia in the west and GUYOT environnement – Team Europe in the east. Ultimately it was the European crew on GUYOT environnement – Team Europe who were first across the equator shortly after 0200 UTC on January 31, albeit with the rest of the fleet hot on their heels.

The crew´s choice, led on Leg 2 by German skipper Robert Stanjek, was on a more direct easterly route and it began to pay dividends as the fleet quickly transitioned to 12 – 18 knot trade wind sailing as they charged their way south. In the end, though, their eastern gamble did not pay off, as they ran out of wind after getting too close to the notorious St. Helena High – a persistent weather system with light winds – and quickly dropped to the bottom of the rankings.

Meanwhile, a little further west, leg one winner Team Holcim-PRB had made the best progress south and now looked well positioned to capitalise further on stronger winds away from the high as the pack began to step their way south and east.

However, by the time the fleet gybed to the east and finally turned their bows towards Cape Town the Team Holcim – PRB, Team Malizia, and 11th Hour Racing Team crews were consistently trading the lead back and forth between them as they closed down the miles towards the leg two finish.

The foiling IMOCAs were, at times, setting a furious pace as they tore through the Roaring Forties each clocking up 24 hour runs of more than 500 nm. But, it was the American entry 11th Hour Racing Team who won the leg two 24-Hour Distance Challenge by Ulysse Nardin with a run of 542.68 nm (624.50 mi / 1005.04 km) at a top speed of 22.6 knots on February 8.

The final 48 hours of the leg saw Biotherm join the still-raging three-way battle for the lead after a high pressure ridge south west of Cape Town slowed the leading trio to a crawl.

At 0900 UTC on the final day less than five nautical miles separated the top four teams as they crawled their way towards the South African coast in drifting conditions with fewer than 30 nm left to race.

At this stage, Team Malizia’s more southerly positioning had enabled the German-flagged yacht to hold on to the breeze significantly longer and ease their way into a two nautical mile lead on the advantage line to Cape Town, but as the wind reached the rest of the fleet, their southerly position proved to be too slow an angle and they dropped off the fight for a podium position.

This left the Biotherm, 11th Hour Racing Team, and the Holcim – PRB crews to fight it out over the final miles to the finish, sailing within clear sight of each other in light and changeable downwind conditions.

Finally, around 10:30 UTC (11:30 CET / 12:30 in Cape Town) the Team Holcim – PRB crew began to sail a faster lower angle than their rivals to secure the controlling leeward position they had been gunning for since early morning.

That positioning enabled them to sail tactically over the final 20 miles by keeping themselves between the finish line and Biotherm and 11th Hour Racing Team in second and third respectively, to earn their second leg win out of two so far in this edition of The Ocean Race around the world

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