The Ocean Race 2022-23 - 23 April 2023. Start of Leg 4 in Itajaí. Biotherm. © Sailing Energy / The Ocean Race
Early advantage to Biotherm as Leg 4 kicks off on Super Sunday in Itajaí
Nearly 350,000 fans visited the Ocean Live Park in Itajaí, Brazil this month to celebrate The Ocean Race stopover.
And on Sunday, Leg 4 of The Ocean Race got underway, as the five-boat IMOCA fleet set out from Itajaí, on their 5,000+ nautical mile adventure towards Newport, Rhode Island, in the USA.
It was a close fought battle at the start of the two-lap inshore section of the race course, with no one wanting to concede an inch to a rival crew.
What appeared to be great starts by 11th Hour Racing Team and GUYOT environnement-Team Europe - with the two boats right on the starting line at full speed as the starting gun fired - turned out be a little too good.
The two IMOCAs were judged to have crossed the starting line a fraction too early and were forced to turn back and restart. It was an expensive mistake which left the way clear for Biotherm to take the early lead ahead of Team Malizia and Team Holcim-PRB.
With around 10 knots of breeze, there wasn’t quite enough for full foiling, but the fleet was still making good progress at up to 18 knots of boatspeed.
Biotherm continued to extend its lead, helped in part by a duel for second between the next two boats. By the start of the second lap, Holcim-PRB finally managed to overhaul Malizia for second place, with the two premature starters - GUYOT and 11th Hour Racing - trailing some way behind.
By the end of the inshore section, Biotherm held a very healthy advantage over the fleet, while GUYOT had done a good job of closing the gap to Malizia in front.
Earlier, the sailors were farewelled off the dock in Itajaí by a large and enthusiastic crowd. The Brazilian stopover embraces The Ocean Race family fully and completely and the passion of the people here set a warm tone for the day. Over 315,000 people had visited the stopover heading into Sunday. When the last crowd is accounted for later this afternoon, the final number will be near 350,000.
A further 250 boats were on the water to witness the start and while Paul Meilhat's Biotherm team led the way, he was excited by the prospect of close racing all the way to Newport.
"I think it will be a close race again on this Leg," he said just before docking out. "I mean, when we were at Point Nemo [the most remote place in the world] we had four boats within a mile of each other! That means that it could happen every time. If it happens again this leg I will be happy because we are here for that, we’re in this race for close competition."
The Leg from Itajaí to Newport, Rhode Island is just over 5,000 nautical miles and is expected to take up to 17 days, with an ETA around May 9th or 10th.