The second leg of the new-look The Ocean Race has come to a thrilling conclusion in Cape Town, South Africa. With the fleet of five foiling IMOCA 60s departing the Cape Verde Islands on January 25, and sailing 4,600 miles down the Atlantic to South Africa, the top three boats were separated by less than half an hour after nearly 18 days of racing. Any concerns that the transition to foiling IMOCA 60s would create less close racing than the one-design Volvo 65s that they replaced has been quelled as the small but very deep fleet battled for position and sailed within sight of one another, virtually all the way to the finish. Kevin Escoffier and Team Holcim PRB made it two for two in this edition of the race by pipping a resurgent Paul Meilhat-led Biotherm team that finished just 16 minutes astern of the leaders. The American 11th Hour Racing team led by Charlie Enright slipped to third place at the finish, another nine minutes astern of Biotherm.
Departing the Cape Verde Islands in relatively light air, the fleet jibed their way down the northeast trades toward the equator before GUYOT environnement – Team Europe cut the corner on the four leaders and appeared to move into the lead while crossing the doldrums. As the fleet negotiated more light air in the Southern Hemisphere, GUYOT encountered light winds, while the four new-generation boats that were positioned farther to the west picked up better breeze and romped along south to establish a pecking order that has more or less been present since the race start in Alicante, a month ago.
Hooking into the strong westerlies of the Southern Ocean, the fleet of five foiling IMOCAs put up some huge numbers en route to Cape Town before abruptly slamming into a light-air transition zone. Again, reshuffling the fleet and effectively creating another re-start just before the finish, the top three boats sailed within sight of one another, while Team Malizia tried a hero-or-zero move down south, which didn’t quite pan out. Team Malizia finished fourth with GUYOT environnement – Team Europe again in fifth.
Biotherm made an impressive comeback and showed great light-air speed, which allowed them to slip by 11th Hour Racing and challenge Holcim PRB all the way to the finish.
“Biotherm had a huge night last night but for us [on Holcim PRB], we knew we had to find the leeward (northern position) before the Cape Town coast,” skipper Kevin Escoffier said. “We did a lot of sail changes and work to get this position. It took until about 40 miles from the finish line to get where we wanted to be and hold it to the end.”
11th Hour Racing sailed a phenomenal race and battled hard for the lead the entire time, which has to make third place sting a little bit, after Biotherm’s slick light-air speed and routing. “We are a little disappointed with a third place after 17 days, but the bigger picture to take home is that we sailed the boat fast and well, and I think that bodes well for the future. This race is a marathon and not a sprint, and we have a big double-pointer coming up with Leg 3 through the Southern Ocean,” said 11th Hour Racing‘s skipper, Charlie Enright.
Now in Cape Town, South Africa, until February 26, the fleet will be preparing for a monster leg to Itajai, Brazil, that will take them 12,750 miles through the entirety of the Southern Ocean in one long leg. As referenced by Charlie Enright above, this will be a double-points leg that could drastically shake up the scoreboard, which now sees Holcim-PRB open up a three point lead over 11th Hour Racing with Biotherm a further point behind, in third.