Leg 3, Day 11 onboard Biotherm crossing the Southern Ocean. © Ronan Gladu / Biotherm
The Ocean Race: big moves on the race course
It's been a fantastic 48 hours on the race track for the trio of boats chasing down the current Leg 3 leader, Team Holcim-PRB.
Since 1500 UTC on Tuesday, second-placed Biotherm have gained nearly 250 nautical miles. The lead is still significant - at 170 miles - but certainly far less secure than earlier in the week.
The reason the gap is shriking so signifcantly and quickly is certainly largely due to the weather patterns in the southern latitudes of the Roaring 40s.
Kevin Escoffier's Holcim-PRB has essentially out run the favourable weather system it had been enjoying and is now nosing against a ridge of high pressure with much lighter wind conditions. There is nothing to do, and no other option, but to watch the rest of the fleet - still in stronger conditions - bring the wind forward with them. It should get closer yet as the boats approach the scoring gate, likely on Monday.
"This light spot has been perfect to check through the boat and sleep well, so it's not bad," said Kevin Escoffier. "We are used to it (the fleet getting closer). It's all part of the game. We are used to racing in contact with the other boats from Leg 1 and 2 and we've been able to stay in front and I hope we can do the same here."
On Biotherm, spirits are high, as you would imagine. But Paul Meilhat's team has also been experiencing slightly lighter conditions, while Team Malizia and 11th Hour Racing Team continue to make the best mileage, closing the gap and compressing the fleet with each hourly tracker update. It's making for good, hard racing.
"Conditions are a bit variable and unpredictable today and just an extra two or three knots of windspeed can make a big difference," Boris Herrmann told the international media on Thursday during a conference call. "Being so close to 11th Hour Racing Team and Biotherm is a huge motivation. We're trying to sail the boat at its best at all times and taking a lot of pleasure in the close racing."
The current ETA for the Leg 3 scoring gate - a north/south line along 143-degrees east longitude - is noon UTC on Monday 13 March.
"It will be very close with Biotherm and 11th Hour Racing Team. Of course we would love to get there in second place but it really depends on the wind and weather," Herrmann said. "But it should be close and very exciting."
"Being the trailing boat we have a little more pressure than the boats ahead," said Simon Fisher from onboard 11th Hour Racing Team. "But basically the next few days is just reaching. The routing will want to take us down to the ice exclusion zone and there will be some windshifts to manage, but it should be straightforward sailing for the next few days with flat water."