Ocean Race – Bursting through the tropical squalls

Tropical squalls keep teams on their toes as they leave the doldrums behind and push into the tradewinds

On the race course on Wednesday, the top three teams are clustered together within 50 miles on the leaderboard, with 11th Hour Racing Team now leading Team Malizia and Biotherm. GUYOT environnement – Team Europe is further behind.

Boat speeds are averaging near 22-24 knots and 24-hour runs are now near 500 miles. Tradewind sailing at its best.

But yesterday as the teams were contending with the last vestiges of the doldrums, 11th Hour Racing Team sent through some fascinating insight into the tropical squalls that characterise the area.


“I think if you ask any sailor in The Ocean Race about the worst thing in the doldrums they would probably say, ‘the squalls’,” said Simon Fisher. “Of course you can get these days of calm that are frustrating, but there is always plenty of action in these squalls with big changes in direction and pressure.”

In the boatfeed video, the team starts preparing for a big wind increase after seeing the speed on Team Malizia, just upwind, increase dramatically. Skipper Charlie Enright is looking out the cockpit bubble at the darkening sky, calling out the distance to the new breeze while Francesca Clapcich works the lines to prepare the sails. As the wind comes on the team makes adjustments and the boatspeed rockets up over 30 knots.

The moment passes, more adjustments are made, the race continues.

“It’s really tricky conditions,” confirms Team Malizia’s Will Harris. “The wind is up and down and we have to trim all the time… You have to stay very focussed otherwise the boat kind of jumps and loses control or you end up going very slowly.”

Now, for the most part, the teams have left the unstable conditions of the doldrums behind, coming through the crossing in good shape.

“None of the boats really stopped. It was all relatively moderate. We only had a lapse once when we did two circles under a big cloud. But apart from that, we made good time through the doldrums with 6 to 8 knots of wind,” reported GUYOT envrionnement – Team Europe co-skipper Robert Stanjek.

According to race meteorologist Christian Dumard, all the teams will be in the East-Northeast tradewinds by this evening (UTC) and those conditions will last for 48 hours or so, when the wind is forecast to rotate south and then southwest.

By the beginning of next week teams will be thinking about the final approach to the finish in Newport (ETA May 10), but long-range the weather forecast looks unsettled and complex. There are still several transitions to navigate that will give tactical opportunities.

Meanwhile, back in Brazil, the Team Holcim-PRB IMOCA was lifted onto a cargo ship on Tuesday night, which then departed Rio for the United States on Wednesday morning.

“It was a big day for the team,” said skipper Kevin Escoffier as he helped to manage the operation. “We had to work on so many details in order to load our IMOCA on this cargo ship, for it to be as in Newport as early as possible. Let’s say it is 15 days to Newport… So we will have a very short time before the start of leg 5 to get the replacement mast fitted.”

The latest positions are on the Race Tracker

The latest news is at www.theoceanrace.com

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