The Ocean Race: a long reach east towards Tasmania

The Ocean Race: a long reach east towards Tasmania

The Ocean Race: a long reach east towards Tasmania

Sport

08/03/2023 - 17:13

With all four teams sailing deep into the Roaring 40s, the full fleet is finally in what the sailors would consider to be more typical Southern Ocean conditions, with strong winds from a series of low pressure systems propelling them relentlessly east. 

The leader, Team Holcim-PRB, has made a dive to become the boat furthest to the south. This is because the team keeps nosing into lighter conditions ahead, something that has been a concern for skipper Kevin Escoffier for some days now. He has seen Biotherm slice nearly 100 miles off his lead over the past three days, and this is his best defence. 

Escoffier and his crew have also struggled to find the right sail set-up for the conditions, with vibrant discussions taking place (in French) about how to proceed.

On Biotherm, the mood is lighter, as Sam Davies updates: "The wind has shifted to the north and we've gybed overnight and now we're running just ahead of a front and the wind is going to build.

"We've been checking the boat and doing the little jobs that are impossible to do in stronger winds. We're making the most of the smooth running conditions, where life on board is much easier to sleep and eat and make sure all the systems are working for the next week, because we're going to be sending it on port all the way to Tasmania. The mood on board is as good as ever - I'm using my headphones to cancel out the sound of laughter from the cockpit... !"

If you want to understand what 'smooth running conditions' look like, hop on board 'Air Malizia' - a drone video that has great visuals from the 'champagne conditions'. 

"It's pretty nice to cross the ocean like this - it's one of the best days of Leg 3. Smooth seas, not too much wind, no stress..."

In contrast, it's been a stressful time on 11th Hour Racing Team. After making repairs to two headsails, the team discovered damage to its rudders during a routine inspection.

Amory Ross takes up the story: "Jack (Bouttell) looked at the windward rudder – the one that’s out of the water – and found a crack. It was decent, from front to back, midway down on the outboard side. Then another nearer the top, much smaller, but also closer to the 'root', where the rudder meets the boat; a point of importance because losing the tip of a rudder is one thing but the whole rudder is another. Juju (Justine Mettraux) was quick to suggest checking the port rudder so down went the starboard rudder and up came the port. No long crack midway down, but a bigger one at the top in the same place as the starboard rudder.

"It’s been a bit of a whirlwind since then, but here’s the summary. After taking our own onboard observations and conferring with our shore team plus the rudders’ designers in France, it was determined that the starboard rudder was the worse off of the two because of its second, longer crack. We chose to put our spare rudder in its place. So the starboard rudder came out, and the spare went in, all quite seamlessly..."

The team has been powering along at pace all day Wednesday, a good sign that things on board are back to normal. 

Look for the miles to melt away over the coming days, as the breeze comes on and the fleet charges east. 

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