Leg 1 onboard GUYOT environnement - Team Europe © Charles Drapeau
The Ocean Race: the highway south
The leading IMOCAs are expected to arrive in Cabo Verde overnight Friday night and into Saturday morning as the fleet eats up the miles on ‘the highway’ south. Sailing fast, and pointing at the finish - it’s a great feeling.
Both IMOCA and VO65 fleets have been winding their way past the Canary Islands. Now, it’s just a matter of heading to the finish.
“We are going past the Canary Islands,” said skipper Kevin Escoffier early on Thursday. “11th Hour Racing Team is the closest boat and they are following us so I think we are safe (in the lead).
“The crew is very good. We have caught up on the watch system about 36 hours, which was difficult to get into right after the start with the hard conditions. We are happy with where are even if it is definitely not finished yet.”
Chasing the leading pair is Team Malizia.
“All the boat is working. We had a few issues earlier,” said Will Harris, from what appeared to be a fast charging boat. “Now it’s manageable so it’s pretty perfect. Enjoying the highway south. It’s pretty nice.”
That said, domestic duties are still a challenge at these speeds.
“We just went 33 knots,” said Annie Lush from on board GUYOT environnement -Team Europe. “But sometimes we suddenly decelerate down to about 20 knots, which makes using the stove and hot water on board tricky!”
In the VO65 fleet, the top three teams are within 40 miles, with WindWhisper leading Team JAJO and Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team.
“We placed our bet, gybing south before Tenerife,” wrote WindWhisper navigator Asked Magdahl. “Weather models changed a lot to allow for a more easterly routing down the African coast, suggesting a gybe south amongst the western Canary Islands… I expect strong breeze between Tenerife and Gran Canaria, and with the shipping lane preventing us from making long gybes and possibly forcing sail changes, it will be everyone on deck for 6-8 hours.”
WindWhisper was followed by Team JAJO winding through the islands, while Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team elected to chase the leading IMOCAs to the west of the islands, looking for fast downwind sailing.
Get on board with WindWhisper Racing
“We are in the perfect conditions for this boat, 20-25 knots downwind, big waves and going fast in the direction we want to go - to Cabo Verde,” said an exuberant Federico Melo from on board Mirpuri Foundation Race Team.
The leading trio is due to arrive in Cabo Verde on Saturday, with Austrian Ocean Racing powered by Team Genova and Ambersail 2 several hours back. Viva Mexico is now in the Atlantic, but over 750 miles behind.