The fleet of 5 IMOCA 60s are all set for the second leg of The Ocean Race to Cape Town, with light winds expected to frustrate the fleet over the first few days
With the first leg of the much-delayed The Ocean Race now concluded, teams are readying themselves to set off on the second leg of of the race, which starts today, Wednesday 25 January. The leg will see teams racing from the Cape Verde islands to Cape Town.
Per the recent changes to the event, the VO65s which raced alongside the IMOCA 60 fleet on the opening leg of The Ocean Race 2023 from Alicante to the Cape Verde islands will not set off on Leg 2 and will now return to Europe where their competition for The Ocean Race Sprint Cup will continue for the final two legs of the course later in the year.
After a week of solid trade wind action in Cape Verde, the forecast for the start of Leg 2 is much more benign with light northeasterly winds of 5 to 8 knots due for the opening hours of the second leg of the race.
In fact, the weakening trade winds are likely to impact the fleet all the way down to the doldrums, which should make for a fascinating, if slow, start to the leg.
“First we’ll have to manage the windshadow from the islands as they are so tall and the wind is light,” said Robert Stanjek, the skipper of GUYOT environment – Team Europe.
“It looks like we need to get west to be efficient for passing through the doldrums. That’s the conservative option. So that’s the first days.”
“With the trade winds sort of breaking down, the doldrums get a bit bigger,” said 11th Hour Racing Team’s Simon Fisher. “It’s three or four days to get down there and the trades should be rebuilding again. Getting out of here and picking up the beginning of the rebuild efficiently is quite important.”
Start time for Leg 2 is 1710 local time (1810 UTC) which is about 90-minutes before sunset, so the crews will be into that first night watch nearly immediately.
While the teams have been in Cape Verde, for this short stopover, there have been significant limits place on them in terms of boat maintenance, with no new material allowed on or off the boat and only the crew who sailed on the Leg 1 allowed to perform maintenance tasks onboard, with no technical team help allowed.
However, the teams do have the option of mixing up their crew for the next leg of the race and four of the five competing IMOCA 60 teams have chosen to do that. For some these are planned changes and for others these have been enforced.
Boris Herrmann (Team Malizia) and Benjamin Dutreux (GUYOT environnement – Team Europe) will both hand over their skipper roles for Leg 2. Boris was injured when he burned his foot with boiling water during a mishap on Leg 1.
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“The pot fell over and splashed boiling water on my foot. I wiped it off quickly but once we got here and went to the hospital we realised this is a severe burn we need to care of so therefore I can’t do [Leg 2],” he said. “But I will be in good shape for Leg 3.”
Will Harris will step up to the role of skipper for Leg 2, while Yann Elies will join the team as a substitute sailor. A three time winner of the Solitaire du Figaro and a fifth place finisher in the Vendée Globe, Elies is an accomplished addition to the team.
Also stepping away for Leg 2 is Benjamin Dutreux from GUYOT environnement – Team Europe. He will be replaced by Sebastien Simon in a scheduled rotation. Robert Stanjek will take over as skipper on the leg.
There is another crew rotation on the European boat: Annie Lush steps off with Anne-Clair le Berre in as replacement.
On 11th Hour Racing Team, it will be Justine Mettraux coming in for Francesca Clapcich in another scheduled crew rotation.
Both Malizia and Guyot will see new crew members on board for leg 2. Photo: Sailing Energy / The Ocean Race
And in a similar move, the Leg 1 winning team, Holcim-PRB, will have Susann Beucke in for Abby Ehler.
Paul Meilhat’s Biotherm is therefore the only team planning to start with the same lineup. “I think it’s important for us to have the same crew because we have so many things to learn,” Meilhat said. “If we change the minimum of settings, in this case that includes the people, it is easier to see the impacts and to learn.”
For leg one winner Kevin Escoffier on Holcim-PRB, it is a matter of continuing to do the things that pushed his team to get the most out of the boat en route to a victory.
“We’ve known for a while that the boat is quite fast, or at least competitive with the other boats,” Escoffier said. “The main thing is that I am really happy with the crew. For us it was the first time we were sailing offshore together. We had a lot of fun on board. It was a very good mood. At the same time we had a good result. But it was the first one. It doesn’t mean anything. There is plenty still to come and we are focussing on the next one.”