In the very early stages of this third leg of The Ocean Race, the racing looked like a bust. Holcim PRB was flying along at the front with a dominant lead while one boat was returning to port, one was making repairs to the top of their mast, and the other two were licking their wounds at reduced speeds after a brutal start. Unless Holcim PRB faltered, it seemed a foregone conclusion that they had the speed and the early advantage to simply cruise to victory in what is the longest leg in Ocean Race history. Half a month and several thousand miles of sailing later, however, the game has changed significantly, as the entire four-boat fleet is now sailing within sight of one another on their way to Cape Horn.
After pulling out to a lead of more than 600 miles at one point, Holcim PRB ran into light air up ahead, while their rivals brought in the breeze from behind. By the time they were passing Cape Leeuwin, Australia, their lead had diminished to just north of a hundred miles, a gap they would sustain until reaching the longitude of New Zealand. First through the scoring gate just west of Tasmania, Holcim PRB would collect another five points on the scoreboard and keep their scorecard perfect thus far. Malizia, 11th Hour Racing and Biotherm would cross the scoring gate in second, third and fourth, respectively. Just over 2,500 nautical miles to Cape Horn as of this writing, the fleet of four foiling IMOCAs should round the Cape in roughly a week’s time before pointing their bows north and racing another 1,800 nautical miles to Itajai, Brazil.
In addition to earning five valuable points near Tasmania, Holcim PRB added another nice feather to their cap when they set an IMOCA class 24-hour record of 595.26 nautical miles. When the fleet encountered a 600-mile runway of brisk northerlies and relatively flat water just before the scoring gate, they barreled along eastward with the 24-hour record falling repeatedly before the final mark was set. Once east of New Zealand, the fleet of four IMOCAs has again been compressed by uncharacteristically light winds in this part of the world. With the foiling IMOCAs thriving in the relatively light and smooth conditions, however, they can still put up huge numbers and are routinely crossing the 500-mile-per-day barrier, even in suboptimal speed conditions.The forecast looks relatively benign for the next couple of days, though the fleet should see a healthy low-pressure system and its associated westerly and northwesterly winds as they approach the Cape toward the end of the week and into the weekend.
Conversely, GUYOT Environment retired from this leg to undergo repairs in Cape Town due to the discovery of delamination in the hull. The boat is currently in delivery to Brazil for the next leg.
Back in France, the equally diminished fleet of four Class 40s have concluded their doublehanded round-the-world race in the inaugural Globe 40 race. American entry AMHAS, from Portland, Maine, won the final leg from Grenada to Lorient, France. With competitors claiming to have seen their most difficult sailing conditions of the entire race — just before the finish — the fleet sailed through a North Atlantic depression with up to 60 knots of breeze. Holland’s Frans Budel and Ysbrand Endt on Sec Hayai finished second in the final leg to secure overall victory in this new race, which seems sure to pick up momentum for future editions.