HomeNEWSThevOcean Race : Wild start to leg 3 from Cape Town

ThevOcean Race : Wild start to leg 3 from Cape Town

Five IMOCAs are set to take on the toughest and longest leg in race history

Racing starts in up to 25 knots, but two boats suspend racing…

UPDATE — 1507 UTC — 11th Hour Racing Team has resumed racing following mandatory two hour period.

It was an extraordinary ‘stop-go’ type of start to Leg 3 of The Ocean Race in Table Bay as the five-boat IMOCA fleet set out on their 12,750 nautical mile adventure towards Itajaí in Brazil.

The race started with two and a half laps of an inshore course to give the crowds lining the Cape Town shore an opportunity to marvel at these hydrofoiling boats before they headed out in to the big blue yonder of the Southern Ocean.

A pod of three whales sighted in the original starting area meant the race committee had to make a late change to setting up the race course. With the start line now impacted by the wind shadow of Table Mountain, there was very little wind for the fleet as the seconds counted down to start time.

The skippers must have been wondering why they had all put in two reefs to reduce mainsail area. As the start gun fired, the closest boat to the start was Biotherm. The other four boats were stranded, just over a hundred metres away.

It wasn’t long before Paul Meilhat’s team found 25 knots of wind gusting around the edge of Table Mountain and his Biotherm team shot away into an impressive lead as the rest of the fleet drifted across the start line well after the start had opened.

Biotherm continued to stretch away to what was almost a 600 metre advantage over the rest of the fleet who eventually hooked into the 25-knot wind and accelerated up to speeds of 30 knots or more.

Team Malizia had crossed the start line in second, followed by GUYOT environnement Team Europe, with 11th Hour Racing Team narrowly leading Team Holcim PRB over the start line.

However, as Biotherm completed the first lap of the course, Meilhat saw his boatspeed drop from 20-plus knots down to less than 2 knots as the shadow of Table Mountain reasserted its influence. The whole fleet compressed and Biotherm’s seemingly unassailable lead vanished into thin air.

Team Malizia was first to rediscover the breeze for the start of the second inshore lap, closely followed by 11th Hour Racing Team. Meanwhile Biotherm dropped from first to last as Meilhat’s team were overtaken in the light airs patch by Holcim-PRB and GUYOT environnement Team Europe.

Once the fleet was back into the breeze, it was another gusty, edge-of-the-seat downwind ride to the bottom of the course, the boats just maintaining control in the strong, gusty conditions. At some moments, two reefs didn’t look like enough with the boats nearly overpowered.

Biotherm then had a problem and it was clear the team was struggling to control its sails. A radio call to the Race Committee saw the team suspend racing to return to port to make repairs.

“We broke the strop on one end of the mainsheet,” said Paul Meilhat at the dock. “Then the mainsheet went too far on the gybe and pulled off the end of the track and we lost all the bearings in the system. So we needed to come in to make this repair and replacement. We shouldn’t lose a lot of time if we do this now. It’s not a big issue, but we need to fix it.”

Then it was 11th Hour Racing Team who were the next suspend racing with damage to a batten. But the American team elected to stay out at sea to make repairs and serve the minimum two-hour period.

“We have broken two wing tips on the mainsail,” said team CEO Mark Towill. “We actually have two spares on board, so we could make the repair, but that would leave us with no spares for the southern ocean. So we’ll get the spares on board to be prepared for the long leg… This is the prudent thing to do.”

Biotherm can resume racing at 1505 UTC, 11th Hour Racing Team at 1507 UTC.

Meanwhile, out at sea, Team Malizia was the first to find the wind around the headlands off Cape Town and started to make their way on leg 3, along with Team Holcim PRB and GUYOT environnement Team Europe.

The forecast is for winds in the 25-30 knot range with 2-3 metre swells. Leg 3 is proving to be a challenge in the very first hours.

Follow the racing at www.theoceanrace.com and www.eurosport.com/sailing/


Start blog is below 

1345 UTC – 1545 local — Team Malizia and Team Holcim PRB have found a little more wind now and are leading out of Cape Town, with GUYOT environnement Team Europe just behind. 11th Hour Racing Team and Biotherm have suspended racing or at least the mandatory two hour period.

1325 UTC – 1525 local — Two boats have suspended racing – 11th Hour Racing Team and Biotherm. Three boats are still racing, but in extremely light winds, barely moving, and looking for a new breeze line that is ahead of them, but just out of reach.

1315 UTC – 1515 local — Biotherm should be at the dock at the V&A Waterfront in about 15 minutes.

1310 UTC – 1510 local — 11th Hour Racing Team suspends racing to get extra wingtips / battens on board. Taking advantage of the very light and slow conditions and hoping they don’t lose much on the leaders.

1305 UTC – 1505 local — GUYOT envrionnement Team Europe has been watching the leaders and are sailing further offshore, holding their speed longer and have now nearly completely caught up.

1300 UTC – 1500 local — 11th Hour Racing Team are dropping their mainsail to replace their batten. The leaders are in very light conidtions at the moment, in the windshadow of the geography of Cape Town.

1255 UTC – 1455 local — Waiting for confirmation on the status of Biotherm. At the moment they are potentially returning to port.

On the race course, it’s Team Malizia just ahead of Team Holcim PRB and 11th Hour Racing Team as they pass through the leaving gate for leg 3 and sail away from Cape Town.

11th Hour Racing Team appear to have a broken batten in their mainsail.

GUYOT environnement Team Europe are in fourth.

1250 UTC – 1450 local — Meanwhile on the race course, it’s Team Malizia absolutely belting around the race course with 11th Hour Racing Team in close pursuit. Team Holcim PRB and GUYOT are a little further back.

1248 UTC – 1448 local — Biotherm are asking the Race Committee about coming back to Cape Town to solve a technical problem. Not good news for Paul Meilhat.

1238 UTC – 1438 local — Tough moments for Biotherm as a wind shift allows the fleet to make a pass. It’s Team Malizia now in the lead with 11th Hour Racing Team charging close behind!

1230 UTC – 1430 local — This race course is allowing for leads and compression as the wind coming off the shore is very fickle. At its best, it is up to 20-25 knots, but as they get closer to shore, light patches bring the fleet together again.

1225 UTC – 1425 local — It’s still Biotherm with a big lead over Team Malizia with 11th Hour Racing Team and Team Holcim PRB just ahead of GUYOT environnement Team Europe.

1215 UTC – 1415 local — Leg 3 is underway!!! Paul Meilhat’s Biotherm team is away with the lead as a light patch puts most of the fleet too far from the starting line. Team Malizia second across the line and Team Holcim PRB at the back.

1210 UTC – 1410 local – Glorious conditions for the start. Wind over 20 knots. Bright sunshine. And a 12,750 nautical mile leg ahead.

1155 UTC – 1355 local — The view from the Biotherm team: “The key will be to sail a smart race and make the most of the experience of those aboard to know when to go fast and when to be careful,” explains skipper Paul Meilhat.
“The question is: if we attack hard, how long will that last? muses Damien Seguin. “We’ve discussed it amongst ourselves. We know that if we don’t break anything on the boat, we’ll be well placed. We need to remain honest with our goal. It’s going to be a case of survival of the fittest.”
Sam Davies drives the point home: “Our boats have their limits, as do we. I don’t know which of them will be the first to crack. We’ve never sailed in the South with the latest-generation IMOCAs. The winner will be the team that’s most in tune with their boat and the crew.”

1150 UTC – 1350 local — “Our first goal is to arrive in Itajaí with a boat in good condition because the race is not over yet, there will be other legs. We will have to be very cautious with the boat, to care about the slightest noise, we have to feel things. Holcim-PRB can go fast, very fast, but we have to make sure not to damage her. But when the sea is very rough and waves are high, the big shocks on the waves can damage the structure. In these moments, you have to set limit rapidly, and slow down. If you feel that you are hitting the waves hard, it is worth slowing down. We already did it on the first legs at certain moments,” said Tom Laperche on Team Holcim PRB, who will be racing in the southern latitudes for the first time.

1145 UTC – 1345 local —  It’s windy out there!!! A solid 25 knots of wind in the start area from the south-southeast.

1135 UTC – 1335 local —  Charlie Enright, 11th Hour Racing Team skipper: “The Southern Ocean can give you a lot, but it can also take everything away in a flash. This is where we, as professional offshore sailors, experience the most exhilarating and exciting sailing we’ll ever do in our lifetimes. It can be extraordinary.

“You have to brace yourself for this part of the world. We do this race for the competition and also for the adventure, and never is the adventure more omnipresent than it is in this leg. Out there, your competitors are your lifeline, and 40-foot waves and 60-mph winds are a regular occurrence in the depths of the Southern Ocean. It’s time to leave the nice weather behind here in Cape Town – I’m looking forward to getting going!” he concluded.

1130 UTC – 1330 UTC — The Race Committee is moving the start area a few miles as a pod of whales has been spotted in the posted start area. No delay to the start is expected.

1120 UTC – 1320 local — This is what leg 3 – and the Roaring 40s – is all about

1100 UTC – 1300 local — The fleet is leaving the dock in the V&A Waterfront after nearly three weeks in Cape Town. Ahead is the longest leg in race history.

1045 UTC – 1245 local — Big decisions ahead for the fleet in the opening hours of the leg.

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