The Ocean Race: a last hard kick on the way to Itajaí

The Ocean Race: a last hard kick on the way to Itajaí

The Ocean Race: a last hard kick on the way to Itajaí


01/04/2023 - 16:13

It was the last thing they needed.

A quick, deepening low pressure system bringing winds in excess of 40 knots, a sickening sea state, and another massive challenge for sailors operating on the 34th day of racing.

But that was the state of play overnight on Friday night. It was no April fools joke.

It meant an exhausting, pressure-filled night, trying to compete for points while making sure the boat and crew could make it to the finish line. 

"This is the final push - push, push, push!!!" said Malizia's skipper Boris Herrmann. "I'm trying to keep the boat upright and balanced under the sails... I have to confess, I'm a bit tense. You don't want to make a mistake now, here."

With the competition so close, teams are being circumspect about how much damage they have suffered. It's a competive advantage to hide your vulnerabilities from the competition, but nobody has raced 15,000 hard miles unscathed.

There is no doubt that every boat is operating at less than 100%. And every crew member is being asked to give more, well past their comfort level. 

For example, Team Holcim-PRB dropped miles to Team Malizia on Friday evening. After the boats had raced in lockstep since Cape Horn, it was unusual to see Malizia quickly stretch out to 30-plus miles. 

It's not hard to imagine some level of damage on board as a contributing factor. The distance seems to have stabilised this morning (local time), but what happened on Friday could already be the leg-winning difference for Boris Herrmann's team.

Both teams pushed close to the shore to escape the worst of the weather, but still experienced gale force winds and a punishing sea state.

Further back, in the fight for third place, we know Biotherm hit an object Friday evening and damaged their port foil. The fact that 11th Hour Racing Team hasn't added to its lead in a meaningful way would indicate Charlie Enright's squad is probably operating at a level less than 100% as well.  

It would be impossible to overstate how challenging this last run up the coast has been. Since Cape Horn the teams have been in a constant battle. Normally the turn to the north provides a respite from the southern ocean and a return to a week of tactical racing to the finish.

This year, it has been a continuous series of new challenges to be met by crews and boats who have been pushed long past their operational limits. 

The finish line off the Ocean Live Park in Itajai can't come soon enough. 

The ETA for the winning boat is between 0200 and 0800 local time Sunday morning in Itajaï - 0600 to noon UTC on Sunday. Regardless of final arrival time, a very warm welcome is awaiting in Itajaí.

A vital Olympic season about to start in Palma
Transat Jacques Vabre: four classes, four courses, four winners