It’s been a busy 24 hours in The Ocean Race, with the fleet pushing east at pace, trying to hold on to the strong winds of a southern latitude low pressure system.
Team Holcim PRB is making the best of it, but the news of the day centres around GUYOT environnement – Team Europe who have elected to turn back towards Cape Town after suffering what the team and its technicians are calling a ‘hull sandwich failure’ – essentially a structural problem with the boat.
“I was just coming off watch and I was just about to get into my bed and I could see on the opposite side of the boat there was a pelican case tied to the floor and it was moving,” said Annie Lush. “I didn’t think I’d seen it move like that before and when I went to check I could hear the noise of delamination… We could hear it and see it moving up and down… We spoke to the architects and there is no way we can fix this out here, so we have to return to Cape Town.”
GUYOT environnement had been sailing a good start to this leg, sitting in second place at the time of the discovery and subsequent suspension of racing on leg 3.
“It’s not a nice feeling. This is a big leg and we were in a strong position. We were enjoying the race. But there’s nothing we can do now but try to get back as quickly and safely as possible and assess what happens next. We’ll be back. We’ll let you know when as soon as we can.”
Cape Town is nearly 600 miles to the northwest of the GUYOT crew’s current position. An ETA over the weekend seems possible, but could shift depending on conditions.
Earlier, on Tuesday evening, Team Malizia saw a failure on the locking mechanism for its headsail result in the sail falling into the water. The crew had to work quickly to cut it away to avoid damage to the foils and keel.
See video of the incident on Team Malizia
“Our downwind sail came off the hook (on the mast) and fell into the water,” said skipper Boris Herrmann. “Now, we are on a different downwind sail but this issue gave us a good hour of work and left us drifting backwards and losing maybe 20 nautical miles at least as well as the sail! However, everyone is safe and did a great job in sorting this out and no other damages as far as we know.”
Meanwhile, out on the race course, it is Kevin Escoffier and his Team Holcim PRB who continue to lead the charge out to the east.
The Holcim PRB boat is now just over 100 miles further east than 11th Hour Racing Team and Team Malizia as all three try to maintain contact with the stronger winds in the low pressure system spinning relentlessly ahead of them. Biotherm is just slightly further back.
Amory Ross, the on board media crew member on 11th Hour Racing Team gives a nice explanation of how his team – and the fleet in fact – balanced the risk/reward equation of navigating towards the gale force winds and heavy sea state of the low pressure system over the past 36 hours:
“For the time being at least our southing has come to an end. We exercised an abundance of caution with the low that has now passed to our east and have spent the better part of the last 36 hours gybing back and forth between a corridor of ‘safe latitudes’ where conditions felt manageable. We’d go south towards the depression’s center until the winds or the sea state (or both) became a bit too much, and we’d gybe back north. Whenever it felt like conditions were getting too light, we’d gybe and go back south and the process would restart.”
Take a look at the tracker going back to Monday evening and you can see what he means.
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