Leg 5 onboard Team Holcim - PRB. Drone view under 25-35 knots of boat speed in 30 knots of wind. © Yann Riou | polaRYSE
The Ocean Race: dancing around the low
It's been a bumpy ride for the past two days of The Ocean Race as winds in the 25-30 knot range interact with the currents of the gulf stream to make an uncomfortable and unpredictable sea state.
Despite that, the leading trio have been racing north at a 500-mile per day pace, ticking down the miles towards Aarhus, Denmark.
But on Wednesday afternoon, they are pushing towards the centre of the low pressure system that has been the dominant weather feature of this leg, and are seeing the wind back around from the northwest to the southwest. This will require a gybe and at least a few hours on a east-southeast heading that isn't particularly favourable in terms of getting to Aarhus.
11th Hour Racing Team, leading the fleet, was the first to see this shift and the first to gybe. It's been an exhausting run since the start, and skipper Charlie Enright is exhausted.
"There hasn't been a lot of sleep at all because of the weather. I'm pretty tired," he said. "We're trying to manage the situation as best we can, rotating through people. But there's been a lot of manouevres - some expected, most unexpected - so it's been tough to plan around."
There's no opportunity to let up. As the first boat to gybe, 11th Hour Racing Team has seen its lead of 15 miles over Team Holcim-PRB drop to a closs cross of less than one mile, with Malizia also finding its form and staying in touch just 16 miles back. If the others don't gybe, there will be a new leader in the next hours, even if 11th Hour Racing Team retains a tactically strong position.
"We had a good day today. We managed to find our speed again and kind of match pace with Team Holcim-PRB and 11th Hour Racing Team," said Will Harris on Malizia. "They managed to get away from us a bit yesterday but we're trying to find our legs, find our speed in these conditions. But we're still in touch, a long way to go and we just have to keep going."
Paul Meilhat's Biotherm team has dropped back a little more over the past 24 hours, not showing the pace required to stay with the leading trio.
The ETA in Aarhus remains 30 May, but there is still a degree of uncertainty around this, which should work out over the next couple of days.