Nobody can break free on final push towards a Sunday finish
Tension, exhaustion, and extreme emotional swings through elation and despair.
That’s likely to be the mood on board Team Holcim-PRB and Team Malizia all the way to the finish now.
Despite racing hard for over 33 days and over 14,000 miles sailed over ground, neither Boris Herrmann’s Malizia, nor Kevin Escoffier’s Holcim-PRB crew have managed to find a winning advantage.
To the contrary, they are often sailing within plain sight of each other, and have been exchanging the lead back and forth over the past 48 hours.
“We can see them on the computer, but we can also just see them out the window,” said a very tired Sam Goodchild, speaking about a Malizia team that is staying close like a shadow.
It’s no better on Team Malizia where Boris Herrmann’s team was hoping to take advantage of unexpectedly strong conditions after Cape Horn to gain some separation in conditions that tend to favour the German boat. It hasn’t happened and they are locked in a duel that appears destined to go all the way to the finish line.
“Holcim-PRB is just here,” Herrmann says at one point, pointing slightly behind. “I’m happy to see them there, and not there,” he adds, moving his arm slightly forward.
“We can see a 10 minute average speed on the computer and see if we are faster – green – or slower – red. For the moment we are faster.”
This is close quarters, short-handed racing of the kind rarely seen on these boats. It will take every ounce of fighting spirit on board these boats to muster the 24/7 energy required to make gains. It is now a question of who can hold on the longest between now and the finishing line.
Further back, things are slightly better for 11th Hour Racing Team who have eked out a 60 mile advantage over Biotherm. Still absurdly close after nearly 14,000 miles of racing, but a measure of breathing room nonetheless.
The ETA is starting to take shape: for the leading pair, the most likely scenario is near sunrise in Itajaí on Sunday 2 April (near noon UTC).
The second pair is approximately one day behind, and looking at a Monday finish.
The latest positions are on the Race Tracker
The latest news is at www.theoceanrace.com
Meanwhile, GUYOT environnement – Team Europe’s IMOCA arrived in the Brazilian city of Itajaí after a two-week, 3,500-nautical mile (nm) / 4,000-mile / 6,500-kilometre (km) delivery trip across the South Atlantic Ocean from Cape Town, South Africa.
The European team – led by Benjamin Dutreux (FRA) and Robert Stanjek (GER) – was forced out of the third leg of The Ocean Race 2022-23 after discovering delamination to the bottom of the hull of the 2015-built yacht, three days after the start of the double points 12,750-nm (14,672-mi / 23,613-km) Southern Ocean passage.
After arriving back in Cape Town four days later the team made a full assessment of the damage before embarking on a painstaking repair operation to put the boat back in full racing trim.
On March 16, an all-French delivery crew – led by GUYOT environnement – Team Europe crewmember Sébastien Simon, with shore team members Phillip Kasüske, Jimmy Le Baut, Clovis Gautier, as well as the team’s onboard reporter Charles Drapeau – set off from Cape Town to deliver the boat across the South Atlantic to Itajaí.
Despite the setback of missing Leg 3, the team is in good spirits and committed to rejoining the race for the fourth leg from Itajaí to the United States city of Newport, Rhode Island – which starts on April 23.
French skipper Benjamin Dutreux was on hand to greet the delivery crew as they sailed into the mouth of the Itajaí-Açu river at 18:30 local time / 21:30 UTC, after 14 days at sea.
“It’s exciting to welcome the boat here in Itajaí, a stopover that delivers in terms of a public warm welcome. We had to retire from the last leg but not from the race. We now have a long list of tasks to do for the last half of the race. I know we’re rejoining the competition in good shape and I’m happy because we are here at the same time as the other boats arrive. We have time to do a good job on board and also to look into details we never have time to do and hope this will put us back in the game. We’re very proud of the team and our sponsors for the support,” said Benjamin Dutreux.