Leg 4 Day 12 onboard Guyot environnement - Team Europe. Waves cover the deck as we are sailing up North to Newport. © Gauthier Lebec
The Ocean Race: strange days at sea
While the Imoca fleet is making progress towards the finishing line at Newport, Rhode Island on Saturday, it hasn't all been smooth sailing.
11th Hour Racing Team has now grabbed the lead back from Team Malizia as Charlie Enright's squad squeezed ahead by about 5 miles on the leaderboard as they continue to tick down the miles towards their home port, still some four-plus days away.
But the transitions between weather systems have been neither straighforward, nor as per the forecast, making for challenging times.
"The wind is supposed to come from the south-southwest, but we actually are sailing in wind from the northeast - so it's 180-degrees different," said Chris Pratt on Malizia. "We have huge clouds and thunderstorms... It was supposed to be a cool night in the bunk doing 20 knots reaching. Instead it's a tough night under the clouds going 15 knots on the other tack!"
Perhaps the team that has had it the worst is Biotherm.
"It's been very difficult. There was no wind and what little there was would shift around all directions," said Alan Roberts, looking back at the past 24 hours. "It was really hard. We sailed into a bank of clouds with very little wind from random directions. We did a few 360s trying to keep the boat moving. It was pretty emotional!! But we finally found with wind again and now we're trucking along in the right direction."
"We were unlucky. It wasn't on the model," added skipper Paul Meilhat. "We lost probably 150 miles on the leaders and maybe 100 miles to Guyot as well. It's hard to accept but it's done and now we have to keep fighting. It's not finished. There are a lot tricks to come still."
Guyot environnement - Team Europe were able to close up to Biotherm on Friday but find themselves slipping back again now.
The forecast has the leading pair pushing into northwesterlies, but squalls and thunderstorms should feature heavily today and into Sunday. The challenge continues.
"We just have to try to sail the right direction with the wind we have... even if it's opposite to the forecast," concluded Nico Lunven. Wise words from a navigator who has seen it all before.
The ETA for the leaders in Newport is beginning to firm up around May 10. But with the conditions on the water being so different from the models, this should still be considered with a little bit of wiggle room.