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Brutal Hours Ahead for The Ocean Race Fleet as Leg 4 Finish Nears

8th May 2023
Leg 4 Day 14 (Sunday 7 May) onboard 11th Hour Racing Team’s Malama going upwind at sunrise in a messy sea state
Leg 4 Day 14 (Sunday 7 May) onboard 11th Hour Racing Team’s Malama going upwind at sunrise in a messy sea state Credit: Amory Ross/11th Hour Racing/The Ocean Race

As the leading boats get within 600 miles of the Leg 4 finishing line off Newport, Rhode Island, the IMOCA crews are preparing for a brutal afternoon and evening at sea on Monday (8 May).

There is a weather front approaching with southwest winds forecast at 40 knots, gusting as high at 50 knots. If this weather comes through as predicted, it will be some of the strongest winds the teams have faced thus far in The Ocean Race 2022-23.

11th Hour Racing Team and Team Malizia were beginning to feel the impact of this system already as of 1400 UTC this afternoon. Adding to the stress is the current the boats are starting to see as well, due to the Gulf Stream. Fortunately, the wind direction — southwest — is largely in line with the current, which should keep the sea state manageable.

“I’ve been trying to get my head around the forecast for the final couple of days…it’s hard,” said Francesca Clapcich on 11th Hour Racing Team. “Leg 4 is not over! It’s going to be pretty messy.”

“I think the whole fleet will get tested,” said onboard reporter Amory Ross. “We’re making sure we’re prepared going into this and the boat is in good shape. This will be the most wind we have seen all leg. We haven’t even had a reef in since we left Brazil… It’s just one more significant obstacle between here and Newport.”

11th Hour Racing Team has eked out to an 18-mile lead over Team Malizia (as at 1800 UTC) heading into this weather front.

“We are going into a small low pressure, with very strong wind, probably around 50 knots at one stage. Not for very long, but quite extreme,” said Nico Lunven on Team Malizia. “The sea state should not be too bad, I think, because it’s a new system so it shouldn’t have had time to develop.”

For the pair behind, Biotherm and GUYOT environnement - Team Europe, this system will also be an obstacle.

“The forecast has evolved. The low pressure is deeper and stronger than previously forecast” — that was the description given by Alan Roberts on Biotherm. “There’s possibly 50 knots, gusting even higher, to the south of the low. The optimal route takes us that way but in terms of boat preservation it’s not ideal. We have to decide whether to keep heading north towards it, or to tack and invest in the west in order to pass a bit further south of the low. It’s not easy.”

Roberts’ team on Biotherm have made one little hitch to the west in the past 12 hours, sacrificing a little bit of their lead over GUYOT environnement, who now trail by a little over 30 miles on the leaderboard but are in a tactically more difficult position out to the east.

“We are being welcomed to America with a big low pressure,” said skipper Ben Dutreux. “Some forecasts predict 60 knots of wind. It is not a light one. Biotherm has already set a tack. I think they probably don’t want to go into the storm.”

But this last obstacle can’t be avoided entirely. It will be a leg-defining 24 hours on the North Atlantic.

The ETA to Newport remains this Wednesday 10 May. Following the passage through this storm, the wind fades again quite rapidly, meaning another go-slow period before more moderate reaching conditions power the fleet towards land.

Leg Four Rankings at 1800 UTC, 8 May

  1. 11th Hour Racing Team, distance to finish, 534.2 miles
  2. Team Malizia, distance to lead, 18.6 miles
  3. Biotherm, distance to lead, 180.1 miles
  4. GUYOT enironnement - Team Europe, distance to lead, 213.8 miles

Find the latest fleet positions on the race tracker at

Published in Ocean Race Team

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