The Ocean Race, Leg 4 onboard Team Holcim - PRB. Fabien Delahaye has taken on the role of navigator for this leg. © Georgia Schofield | polaRYSE / Holcim - PRB
The Ocean Race: hunting the breeze
It hasn't been a straightforward start to leg 4 of The Ocean Race as the IMOCA teams zig-zag away from the coast of Brazil, seeking favourable conditions to the east, whilst keeping an eye on the overall goal of making miles north.
There's also big picture weather that dictates overall strategy to consider versus the very localised impact of clouds and squalls that must be deal with.
"There's just a lot of random 'cloudage' going on here," said 11th Hour Racing Team's Charlie Enright. "And at the moment it's not going our way."
That moment may have passed however as the 1400 UTC tracker update has the American team at the top of the table, furthest north, and just bow forward on Team Holcim-PRB and Biotherm as they race east.
"Things are tricky," said navigator Simon Fisher. "It's pretty messy. The game is to find our way offshore and find better pressure but it's a little challenging, with the windshifts."
"The shifts are up to 50-degrees," said Kevin Escoffier, on Holcim-PRB. "So even a small tack, maybe half an hour, we need to do something like that (or we lose a lot)."
These shifts are what account for the tracks behind the boats on the race tracker as the fleet takes it in turn to weave up to the north and then to the right towards the more favourable winds offshore to the east.
"There are clouds in front - a dark zone - and the wind is very shifty," said Seb Simon on Guyot environnement - Team Europe. "Sometimes it's a big lift, sometimes a header, sometimes lots of pressure, so it's hard to keep the speed. But the fleet is close and it's a huge speed test."
As of 1400 UTC on Tuesday there is a small split in the fleet, with 11th Hour Racing Team, Team Holcim-PRB and Biotherm now 30 miles to the north of Team Malizia and Guyot environnement.
The teams will be yearning for more stable, stronger conditions as the fleet is yet to make a 200 mile day towards the finish in Newport.