31 January 2023, Leg 2, Day 7. First Equator cross ritual onboard Biotherm. © Anne Beauge / Biotherm
Leg 2 of The Ocean Race, racing into the south
As January comes to a close, so does one chapter of leg 2 of The Ocean Race. The fleet has burst into the southern hemisphere, crossing the equator overnight and escaping the calms of the doldrums.
Guyot environnement - Team Europe was the first to break through just after 2am UTC and five and a half hours later, Team Malizia nudged into the south, and the five deep IMOCA fleet are now pushing towards the new southeast tradewinds.
"This is always dangerous to write, so I do so with trepidation, but it seems like we are out of the doldrums and back into the trades," came the message from 11th Hour Racing Team media man Amory Ross. "I’m writing this under clear skies and 14 knots of wind, 20 knots on the speedo, bow in the sky, reaching at great haste due south. Life, for the moment, is good!!"
For the Guyot environnement crew the lead was built on a winning gamble - sailing a shorter distance by staying further east. Traditionally, the faster passage through the doldrums has come by sailing extra miles to the west.
"We were always aiming for as much of a straight line to the south as we could and it seems to have paid off," said skipper Robert Stanjek on a live call back to race headquarters on Tuesday afternoon. "For sure we had a little bit of luck but that was the call of our navigator (Sebastien Simon) and I'm pretty happy of course that we've come out in the lead."
While the fleet enjoys the building southeast tradewinds, there is still about 160 nautical miles of leverage between east and west, meaning the boats will be sailing different angles and in different conditions for the immediate future. More ups and downs on the leaderboard can be expected.
"We follow the positions of the other boats in the fleet every hour and it's a big separation between the boats - it's ocean racing! We're not sailing the fastest angle at the moment but we don't want to give away the height (position to the east) we've invested in," Stanjek concluded.
Timings at the equator:
Guyot environnement - Team Europe - 31/01/2023 02:05:11 UTC - 5d 07h 55min 11s - 1 269.4 nm - 9.9 kts
Biotherm - 31/01/2023 02:26:35 UTC - 5d 08h 16min 35s - 1 275.8 nm - 9.9 kts
Team Holcim - PRB - 31/01/2023 03:13:44 UTC - 5d 09h 03min 44s - 1 404.0 nm - 10.9 kts
11th Hour Racing Team - 31/01/2023 05:12:26 UTC - 5d 11h 02min 26s - 1413.3 nm - 10.8 kts
Team Malizia - 31/01/2023 07:32:13 UTC - 5d 13h 22min 13s - 1 500.3 nm - 11.2 kts
A first equator crossing is always a rite of passage in the career of a sailor and is celebrated by a visit from "King Neptune" with initiation ceremonies to be completed. This time was no different for the equatorial rookies.
Life on board at these latitudes can be uncomfortable due to the extreme heat, but there is a benefit to all that sunshine - solar power!
"We're basically running the boat 100 per cent off solar energy. The watermaker, all the instruments can be powered by the sun, so that's very nice," said Rosalin Kuiper, on board Team Malizia.
Leg Two Rankings at 1400 UTC - 31 January 2023
1. GUYOT environnement - Team Europe, distance to finish, 3662.0 miles
2. Biotherm, distance to leader, 35.1 miles
3. Team Holcim-PRB, distance to leader, 50.3 miles
4. 11th Hour Racing Team, distance to leader, 65.0 miles
5. Team Malizia, distance to leader, 105.1 miles