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Shifting Gears: Leg 2 of The Ocean Race Presents Challenges to IMOCA Sailors

24th January 2023
Robert Stanjek of GUYOT environnement - Team Europe speaks to the media alongside his fellow IMOCA skippers ahead of Leg 2
Robert Stanjek of GUYOT environnement - Team Europe speaks to the media alongside his fellow IMOCA skippers ahead of Leg 2 Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

After a week of solid trade wind action in Cabo Verde, the forecast for the start of Leg 2 of The Ocean Race 2022-23 on Wednesday 25 January is much more benign: light northeasterly winds of five to eight knots.

In fact, the weakening trade winds are likely to impact the IMOCA fleet all the way down to the doldrums — the area of notorious light winds and thunder cells around the equator — making 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 environnement - 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.”

From left: Kevin Escoffier (Team Holcim-PRB), Charlie Enright (11th Hour Racing Team), Will Harris (Team Malizia), Paul Meilhat (Biotherm) and Robert Stanjek (GUYOT environnement - Team Europe) at the skippers’ press conference in Cabo Verde on Tuesday 24 January | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceFrom left: Kevin Escoffier (Team Holcim-PRB), Charlie Enright (11th Hour Racing Team), Will Harris (Team Malizia), Paul Meilhat (Biotherm) and Robert Stanjek (GUYOT environnement - Team Europe) at the skippers’ press conference in Cabo Verde on Tuesday 24 January | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

“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.

But with all of the transitions involved over the first days, there are likely to be many manoeuvres and rest will be hard to find.

“The first part of the race is going to be super tactical and there will be a lot of opportunities so we’ll all need to be very switched on right from the word go,” said Will Harris, who will be skipper on Team Malizai for leg two.

Four of the five teams have made crew substitutions, with Paul Meilhat’s Biotherm 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 1 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.”

Viewers in Ireland can watch the start live on Eurosport beginning at 5.30pm, and live or on demand on the Eurosport Player or discovery+.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres gives his keynote address at The Ocean Race Summit Mindelo on Monday 23 January | Credit: Sailing Energy The Ocean RaceUN Secretary-General António Guterres gives his keynote address at The Ocean Race Summit Mindelo on Monday 23 January | Credit: Sailing Energy The Ocean Race

In other news from Cabo Verde, on Monday (23 January) The Ocean Race Summit Mindelo brought together over 300 ocean advocates, including United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres; the Prime Minister of Cabo Verde, Ulisses Correia e Silva; and Prime Minister of Portugal, António Costa, among many others — all of them united in their ambition to redouble efforts to protect the ocean.

In his keynote address, Guterres said: “Ending the ocean emergency is a race we must win, and working as one, it is a race we can win.”

Also at the event, Team Malizia’s Boris Herrmann handed Nature’s Baton to Prime Minister Silva who in turn handed it to the UN Secretary-General.

Drawing parallels between the extreme and difficult conditions experienced in the first leg of the race and the fight to protect the ocean, Herrmann said: “It demands everything from us. We have to change our sails and our cause and navigate the winds to accelerate our path.”

Published in Ocean Race
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