The Ocean Race 2022-23 - 28 April 2023, Leg 4 Day 5 onboard 11th Hour Racing Team. Charlie Enright keeps tabs on the weather outside in tricky conditions. © Amory Ross / 11th Hour Racing / The Ocean Race
The Ocean Race: charging north towards the doldrums
Modeerate easterly tradewinds have provided a speedy 24 hours of racing for the four IMOCAs charging north towards the doldrums.
24 hour distance runs have nearly doubled (although are still far off a record-setting pace) as the wind has settled in around 12-14 knots.
The result is a drag race directly north, where the teams will leave the northeastern corner of Brazil to port - their current headings have them closing within about 30 miles of Recife, which is still about 120 miles to the north.
"We're just cruising north, up the Brazilian coast in moderate conditions" said Charlie Enright from the leading boat, 11th Hour Racing Team. "It doesn't look too windy until quite a bit later. Yesterday was a bit sketchy with almost doldrums like conditions. But we got out of it ok... All is well on board for now."
Some bad luck for GUYOT environnement - Team Europe who had been doing a remarkable job of keeping pace with its rivals over the past day or so. At one point on Sunday morning, the team was showing in second place, just 4 miles back.
But shortly afterwards, skipper Ben Dutreux's boat steered towards the coast and slowed. The team reported a small technical issue - later confirming a broken 'foil down' line - that would cost them nearly 50 miles before they were back on track at pace.
"There is a little bit more wind now. We're flying again," said Dutreux from on board, before the incident. "And we're heading straight to the north of Brazil, quite fast. It's nice. It's also quite close with the other boats, anything can happen."
But now the team will need to fight hard to regain the lost miles. Perhaps the doldrums, looming a day or so ahead, could offer an opportunity.
"We have come out of the high pressure ridge and we are getting more of the easterly wind," said Team Malizia's Nico Lunven. "The next challenge is to round the northeast corner of Brazil. It's a bit difficult as we don't want to be too close to the shore, there is bad wind, thunderstorms at night, etc. But to go to Newport, the shortest way is to stick to the coast. We have to find the right balance.
"Then we have the doldurms before the get the north Atlantic trade winds. After that it will be faster."
But those north Atlantic trades are still at least a couple of days away, with plenty of tricky transitions to manage before then.
Meanwhile, Team Holcim-PRB has confirmed they have a plan to rejoin the race in Newport ahead of leg 5, but this means retiring from leg 4.
Shortly after arriving in Rio on Saturday evening, skipper Kevin Escoffier said his team would put all of its efforts into being ready to race the transatlantic leg, with its double point scoring coefficient.