OGR – Fickle First Week for Leg 4

Crews Facing Reality of Long Hard Slog North

  • After the dramatic start to Leg 4 of the McIntyre OGR, the sailors faced fickle headwinds spreading the fleet and making slow progress up the Brazilian Coast.
  • Very differing routing options on display – next few days will reveal the right call!
  • Evrika FR (07), Maiden UK (03), Sterna SFA (42) and Spirit of Helsinki FI (71) suffered damage and breakages onboard.

After what could only be described as a hectic start to Leg 4 of the McIntyre Ocean Globe in Punta del Este on March 5th, things haven’t gotten any easier for the OGR fleet. The 13 classic yachts racing around the world to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Whitbread Race was brought back to reality with a windward bang after their long sunny stopover in Punta del Este, Uruguay.

Within minutes of the start in 15, gusting to 25 knots South Westerly headwinds and lumpy 3 – 4 meters swell, Pen Duick VI experienced a man overboard – the crew member recovered within a couple of minutes. Evrika FR (07) and Triana FR (66) collided resulting in Evrika’s bowsprit spearing a navigation buoy, Explorer AU (28) got way too close and personal with a port control marker – All that before some crews succumbed to dreaded seasickness thanks to a lumpy messy sea state while others suffered from flu symptoms.

The situation hasn’t gotten easier for the 137 sailors racing towards the Cowes Royal Yacht Squadron finish line, over 6500 nm north. After the first five days racing, the fleet was only 560 miles up the rhumb line, but spread out 560 miles line abreast across the rhumb line. 110 MILES A DAY TOWARD THE FINISH IS NOT A FAST START. With no strong South Easterly Trade Winds on the horizon, it looks like frustrating calm headwinds and highly local sailing conditions will continue for the coming week, creating winners and losers for sure. The fleet might well be in for a rude awakening on this final leg. Not because of big seas or storms, but for the clever tactics and sheer patience required to keep moving forward in these upwind, shifty, unpredictable conditions.

What these conditions have already created are some very interesting routing decisions. Pen Duick VI FR (14), Translated 9 ITL (09), Neptune FR (56) and Outlaw AU (08) have all taken an easterly route, while a second group led by Maiden UK (03) and Triana FR (66) opting to stick inland and closer to the rhumb line. The coming days will tell who has made the right call. There is no dominant wind system making the choice obvious and it looks like an upwind beat in the short term, meaning water over the decks and down below for tired crew readjusting to living at 30 degrees.

Reports have been coming in of damage and maintenance required across the fleet. The most serious was sustained by the beautiful 65 ft Swan Evrika at race start after a collision with the IRC leader Triana FR (66), resulting in her spearing a buoy.

Skipper Dominique Dubois reported:

“The pulpit and the bowsprit are “off” and we have to cut them in order to secure the bow. Last night (8th) at 3h30UTC, the tube of the furler (on which we have also detected a crack) broke suddenly in 25 knots of wind! We have to put the Yankee down on the deck and we are now sailing only with the foresail. We try to find a solution to fix the problem but these kinds of jobs can only be done during the next period of calm. Everybody is safe on board.”DOMINIQUE DUBOIS, SKIPPER OF EVRIKA.

Impressively, they have since reported that they have fixed the Yankee furler and are keeping up with the fleet!

“Victory: Yankee furler repaired! Sent back promptly. It finally glides at over 7 knots. Now to find a solution for the asymmetric….”MESSAGE RECEIVED FROM TEAM EVRIKA  ON MAR 10, 2024.

Maiden has been leading the fleet from race start, but has just slipped a place to their arch rivals Spirit of Helsinki and has reported some onboard issues.

“New record for this leg! How quickly the inverter broke, no more hot water, oven, or stove! Birthday protein bar instead of cake, anyone?” reported Maiden. Let’s hope they packed the camping stove as freeze dried food requiring boiling water is their main menu.

The Finnish Swan 651, Spirit of Helsinki, who opted for a middle-of-the-pack route also detailed that they had some onboard issues, including losing their Windex – which appeared far less important than the fact they’d caught a Dorado! The lack of Windex isn’t affecting their performance and they are first on the leaderboard at the time of writing.

IRC leader Triana FR (66), has clearly not enjoyed the start of Leg 4 despite their healthy position – although like many in the fleet, things seem to be looking up.

“After 56 hours in hell we are now in heaven – spinnaker sailing in 15 knots.” tweeted Triana – let’s hope things stay that way!

And despite it being the skipper of White Shadow ESP (17) Jean-Christophe Petit‘s 60th birthday onboard it was obvious that not all the crew were enjoying the first few days back at sea.

“Wind against, wave against, constant rain, 20 deg inclination… fuck.” tweeted White Shadow.

But this is not a crew you can keep down for long…… the following days things were looking better.

“Sun is back! The deck is covered with drying wet equipment. Bad weather zombies automatisms eradicated by heartwarming humanity. Good vibes`.” tweeted White Shadow – clearly after some of JC’s birthday cake.

The South African Swan 53 Sterna (42) also relayed their fridge is out of action – then later tweeted.

“Currently sailing under Stay Sail only. Genoa luff started pulling out of track so had 2 furl. Vang and Backstay now release & pressurise simultaneously.” tweeted Sterna. But this is a crew used to having to deal with adversity at sea so issues with a Genoa luff should not be a problem!

The coming week will prove a test for the fleet not only physically but mentally. With over 6000 nm miles to go, it is NEVER OVER TILL THE FAT LADY SINGS!  – they face weeks of tough frustrating sailing ahead – but they also know it’s the last leg of their adventure. There will be mixed feelings onboard hot yachts as the temperature climbs into the 30’s. Tired boats and emotional crews in tricky conditions – it’s certainly not going to be dull.

The first yachts are expected across the Royal Yacht Squadron finish line approx. April 9th/10th. Once crossing the finish line, the fleet will dock at Trinity Landing, West Cowes, for the traditional Champagne reception and welcome by family and friends.

To follow all the action, check out www.oceangloberace.com

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www.oceangloberace.com/livetracker/

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