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The Cape Town Stopover | The Ocean Race

by Simone Balman
Leg 3 start

The Cape Town stopover of The Ocean Race provided much rest and reprieve for the sailors, and a chance to attend to a lengthy job list after a busy two legs. It also provided us with action-filled racing leading up to the start of Leg 3, the longest leg in the history of The Ocean Race.

An in-port race with pace

The second of the In-Port Race series was won by Kevin Escoffier’s Holcim PRB in perfect fifteen to eighteen knot winds.  The Swiss flagged boat was second across the start line behind GUYOT environnement – Team Europe, but Team Holcim-PRB were first up onto the foils and powered away from the fleet to hold the lead for the entire race.

On the run into the start, Biotherm skippered by Paul Meilhat, became entangled with a course mark after their starboard foil hit the floating course buoy. Fearful of damage to the foil or hull just two days before the Leg 3 start, Biotherm retired from the race to assess the boat for damage. None was found.

However, the real battle was for second place as 11th Hour Racing Team overtook GUYOT environnement – Team Europe to move into second early on. Boris Herrmann’s Team Malizia made the most of a big gust to relegate GUYOT environnement- Team Europe still further behind. Final results saw Team Holcim-PRB take the win ahead of 11th Hour Racing Team in second, and Team Malizia in third. GUYOT environnement – Team Europe finished fourth and Biotherm received a DNS.

The teams had less than 48 hours to prepare for the start of Leg 3, which takes the teams into the gruelling southern ocean.

The Leg 3 route

History was made as the fleet crossed the start line to embark on a 12 750 nautical mile marathon that will end in five weeks in Itajaí. The longest leg in race history will see them pass all three of the planet’s Great Capes, the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa, Cape Leeuwin on the south western tip of Australia and the infamous Cape Horn, on the southern most tip of South America.

The route will take the fleet south, as they race into the roaring forties, south of forty degrees south, and then into the furious fifties, south of fifty degrees south. The route is home to fierce, fast moving southern storms and giant, unforgiving swells and will be a test of endurance and sailing for the crews. The Race Committee have set a southern exclusion zone to stop the fleet from racing too far south towards Antarctica to avoid floating icebergs.

An eventful beginning

The fleet struggled across the start line in a big wind lull, before experiencing a mix of strong twenty five knot winds and frustrating wind shadows on the inshore section of the course. After leading the fleet at the start, Paul Meilhat’s Biotherm sustained some minor mechanical damage in a strong gust during a gybe, and shortly afterwards Charlie Enright’s 11th Hour Racing Team sustained damage to a mainsail batten that needed repair. Both teams suspended racing and had to take a mandatory two hour stop before resuming racing. But they are now catching up to the fleet quickly. They are expected to arrive in Itajaí, Brazil in around five weeks (early April).

Renowned IMOCA solo-sailor, Sam Davies has joined Paul Meilhat’s team on Biotherm for this leg.

11th Hour Team’s Charlie Enright said before the start, “There’s going to be highs and lows, ebbs and flows, yings and yangs….”
“And lefts and rights!” interjected navigator Si Fi.
“Haha, yes! Lefts and rights indeed,” continued Charlie. “Anyway, we’re here now and the only way to do this, is to do this. It’s time to go.”
Follow the teams on the race tracker.

Leading the pack

The first two legs, from Alicante to Cabo Verde, and then from Cabo Verde to Cape Town, were both won by Team Holcim-PRB, skippered by French offshore sailor Kevin Escoffier. Second in the rankings is 11th Hour Racing Team skippered by Charlie Enright, and third is Biotherm skippered by Paul Meilhat. The leaderboard could see a complete change with the  double points on offer for Leg 3. A virtual finish line extending south from the western tip of New Zealand (166° 25’ E) will determine the award of a full set of points, followed by a further award of points at the actual Leg 3 finish in the Brazilian city of Itajaí.


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