It’s going to be an interesting 24-hours in The Ocean Race as the leading trio find themselves in strong downwind reaching conditions and ‘relatively’ flat water – a combination that could produce a new 24-hour distance record.
11th Hour Racing Team, at the head of the fleet, is already posting a run of over 550 miles for the past 24 hours, a number that is currently going up with each hourly position report.
“We’ve got plenty of wind, there’s a bit more pressure than forecast, and it’s still a little bumpy, but we got out across the front earlier than the other guys which seems to be a gain for now,” said 11th Hour Racing Team’s skipper Charlie Enright. “And we just had 31 knots as a 10 minute average, which isn’t nothing!”
Team Holcim-PRB and Team Malizia, in second and third place respectively, are striving to match that pace.
This is a flat out drag race, with limited tactical opportunities.
“It’s a speed course, not a strategic course, at the moment,” said Yann Eliès on Team Malizia. “When we get close to Aarhus it becomes more of a coastal race with some more strategic options.”
“The three first boats are sailing around the high pressure weather system in strong southerly winds, while Biotherm couldn’t cross the front and is in upwind conditions,” explained race meteorologist Christian Dumard. “For the leaders, the wind could still be quite strong through Friday, before the it shifts to the northwest.”
He adds that the current forecast is for light winds near the finish, which could provide wholesale changes for the leaders. “Anything could happen,” Dumard says.
“It’s been tough for us, we got caught behind the fleet in the light winds leaving Newport and we’ve since had some technical issues on board – the autopilot and our electronics,” explained Alan Roberts on Biotherm. “We also had a sail lock break and we needed to recover the J3 headsail out of the water – we’ve lost a few hours dealing with these problems.”
Those lost hours and miles are now compounding as Biotherm is on the unfavourable side of the front and still pushing more upwind. “The sea state has been pretty messy so we’ve had to back off in the nasty conditions… It is what it is. All we can do is to keep going as fast as possible in the weather conditions we have.”
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