Leg 3, Day 4 onboard Biotherm. © Ronan Gladu / Biotherm
Imoca sailors facing up to tough challenges in The Ocean Race
In this edition of The Ocean Race, Kevin Escoffier's Team Holcim-PRB has selected Sia's "Unstoppable" as its team song for dockout and stage ceremonies, and early into Leg 3 it has never seemed more appropriate.
After winning Legs 1 and 2 of The Ocean Race, the Holcim-PRB crew have now built a solid lead just four days into the Leg, escaping with a low pressure, high wind system that has left the rest of the fleet behind.
As at 1500 UTC on Thursday, Team Holcim-PRB has a 300+ nautical mile lead over 11th Hour Racing Team, and it is growing hour by hour with Escoffier and his crew sailing up to 10 knots more quickly than the pursuing boats. But it hasn't been easy.
"The sea state has been horrible. It is not easy to find the right balance between speed and not breaking the boat," Escoffier said. "Now we still have to deal with this huge low pressure system in front of us. So far we have been pretty good, first at the start, and with our position after and we have been able to gain and gain a bit more."
11th Hour Racing Team has moved into second place, but hasn't managed to hold on to the same weather system and are mired in lighter winds. But nevertheless, a second place position on the leaderboard after suspending racing for two hours following the start is a good position to be in and on board media man Amory Ross says the mood on the boat is good.
It's a similar story for Biotherm, nearly 200 miles further back, but also experiencing unusually light conditions for a boat that has dipped its bow into the 'Roaring 40s'. For these teams, the roar of the south is yet to come. "Unusual," was the way Sam Davies described it.
However two other teams will be much happier in the lighter conditions: Guyot environnement - Team Europe, now en route to Cape Town to make structural repairs to its boat; and Team Malizia, who have had sailors up the mast today working on reinforcing the mast which suffered damage when a headsail came off the lock, allowing the halyard to tear a fissure through the carbon fibre.
"We have tried to repair the floor a little bit - to glue some battens to strengthen the area - so we can push harder to come back to Cape Town more quickly and fix the boat properly and rejoin the fleet in Itajai," said Guyot environnement - Team Europe skipper Ben Dutreux.
"I don't know yet whether that will be via the Southern Ocean or direct across the Atlantic. We will see after we get to Cape Town."
The Team Malizia crew has had a grueling Thursday, taking turns up the mast with reinforcing sheets of carbon fibre that need to be glued and cured to make the repair. While the lighter winds and warmer temperatures provided welcome conditions for the repair, a mixed sea state meant the spar was swinging like a pendulum in the air, making for treacherous work.
As of 1500 UTC, the team was still putting the work in up the rig, but skipper Boris Herrmann says the plan is to push forward as soon as possible.
"I feel a bit shattered emotionally. Disappointed," he wrote in a message earlier on Thursday. "But the great people around me show me the right attitude. Keep face and remain strong to achieve the dream of this round the world race. We thought about going back to Cape Town. This would be an easy reaction. The race could be continued from Itajaí.
"But we now all agree to try and continue. It takes of course even more mental strength than such an endeavour takes anyhow. The day we stand on the dock in Itajaí I will be super proud. These long races are incredibly challenging."
All five teams are facing their own challenges in the early days of this mammoth Leg 3. Each is proving unstoppable.