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Gentler Conditions Prevail on Med as Intense Racing Continues for The Ocean Race Europe Fleet

8th June 2021
On board Ambersail-2 during Leg 2 of The Ocean Race Europe from Cascais to Alicante
On board Ambersail-2 during Leg 2 from Cascais to Alicante Credit: Aiste Ridikaite/Ambersail-2/The Ocean Race

Weather conditions for The Ocean Race Europe fleet have moderated considerably from yesterday’s fierce headwinds winds that funnelled against them through the Strait of Gibraltar.

However, despite the Mediterranean’s gentler breezes and flatter seas, the high intensity of the racing remains undiminished as the closely packed fleet closes in on the Leg Two finish in Alicante, Spain — now expected tomorrow morning, Wednesday 9 June, a day ahead of schedule.

The screaming winds that pounded the yachts for most of the day in the strait eventually gave way to ultra-light Mediterranean zephyrs yesterday evening, offering a chance for the sailors to rest a little and take stock of any damage to their boats.

While some faced a more difficult passage than others, the fleet appears to have made it through the notorious strait relatively unscathed — a testimony to the sailors’ seamanship and the resilience of the IMOCA and VO65 classes, which are both designed to race around the world.

“You do all this tacking with 35-plus knots of wind in Gibraltar to gain zero-point-something of a mile, and then at the end you're all floating in the Med within a mile of each other,” lamented Jolbert van Dijk, the Dutch navigator aboard The Austrian Ocean Race Project VO65.

The crew of Louis Burton’s IMOCA 60 Bureau Vallée (FRA) had a torrid time yesterday as they passed the Cap Spartel lighthouse close to Tangiers on their way into the strait. The tackline on their J2 headsail suddenly exploded, and in the ensuing chaos the mainsail was damaged, costing the crew a lot of time to get the boat back in full racing mode.

CORUM L’Épargne racing in Leg 2 | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceCORUM L’Épargne racing in Leg 2 | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

Meanwhile, the crew of the American 11th Hour Racing Team IMOCA 60 has continued to make impressive progress on their quest to close down the rest of fleet since restarting several hours late yesterday due to damage to their port foil incurred in a collision with the anchor line of a moored boat.

They closed to within 35 nautical miles/67km on the approach to the Strait of Gibraltar yesterday. Today (Tuesday 8 June), having made quick work of the strait, the team managed to overhaul the non-foiling Offshore Team Germany, are are sitting in fourth place, 17nm off the lead.

“I think we did a pretty picture-perfect job carving it up with 30 to 40 knots and two reefs and the J3, crossing the channel a couple times,” said skipper Charlie Enright (USA). “Eventually we went north of the TSS [traffic separation zone] and snuck in kind of under Tarifa.

Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team currently lead the VO65 class to Alicante | Credit: Martin Keruzore/Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team/The Ocean RaceMirpuri Foundation Racing Team currently lead the VO65 class to Alicante | Credit: Martin Keruzore/Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team/The Ocean Race

“We seemed to get back up to speed after Gibraltar quite well. Just shaking reefs, sail changes, stuff like that. So, closing the gap, I don't know if it's going to be enough, but we're pushing hard. It's all we can do and, you know, if we make it close and hopefully we can make it exciting at the end.”

At the front of the VO65 class, there is a familiar scene with the two front-running teams for most of the first leg from Lorient to Cascais — Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team (POR) and AkzoNobel Ocean Racing (NED) — once again match-racing for the lead.

At 1400 UTC/1600 CEST this afternoon, the Portuguese crew — led by French solo racing skipper Yoann Richomme — had edged ahead of the Dutch boat skippered my multiple world champion and round-the-world sailor Chris Nicholson from Australia.

Just seven nautical miles (11km) behind lies Sailing Team Poland, skippered by serial round-the-world racer Bouwe Bekking (NED).

In the IMOCA 60s, Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut (FRA) crew continue to hold on to the lead as they have for almost the entirety of the second leg. Sixteen nautical miles (30km) behind them, the pack has compressed with a fraction of a nautical mile separating second-placed Bureau Vallée from Nicolas Troussel’s CORUM L’Épargne (FRA) in second and, with the hard chasing 11th Hour Racing Team (USA) a further only one nautical mile adrift.

On board Bureau Vallée at twilight | Credit: Bureau Vallée/The Ocean RaceOn board Bureau Vallée at twilight | Credit: Bureau Vallée/The Ocean Race

With a little over 100nm/185km still to race to Alicante, there is the very real prospect of an ultra-close finish to the leg, perhaps even a repeat of what was seen at the end of leg one in Cascais.

Current weather routing estimates suggest the leaders could now reach Alicante as early as 0700 UTC/0900 CEST tomorrow. Track the latest fleet positions on The Ocean Race website HERE.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race
Afloat.ie Team

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