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The building storm as Team Malizia approach Cape Horn

by Team Malizia 22 Mar 2023 12:58 PDT
Impressions from the Ocean as Rosalin Kuiper is hit by waves at the bow of the boat © Antoine Auriol / Team Malizia

There is some excitement and tension in the air at the moment. The wind is picking up and so is the sea state, as the fleet is approaching increasing winds this afternoon. There is a strong depression centred almost 1000 nm to their south which starts to move east and they have just started feeling the effects of this weather system.

We see at the moment that Malizia and the other three boats have been switching between first and fourth over the last two days, with Malizia and Holcim PRB holding the lead over this period for the longest time. However, Malizia is currently 18 nm behind Holcim PRB who seem to have a better setup in VMG downwind, likely Malizia is missing the C0 they damaged early on in the race. With the increasing wind and waves (where Maizia performs the best) it is likely that we will be able to catch up soon.

Rosalin Kuiper messaged to land saying: "I want the storm to come now, we can see it coming on the data and sometimes the anticipation is worse". Skipper Boris Herrmann added in his podcast End of Watch "we know the storm is coming but I trust the boat and I know how strong she is."

The teams will likely all settle onto a starboard gybe by tomorrow morning (all time references in UTC). As the depression progresses, we will see Malizia start to sail in a stronger SW wind. Then by midday tomorrow, the wind will have built into the high 20 knots range and the sea state will start to build with this stronger SW flow coming off of the west side of a depression rolling along deep in the Southern Ocean. This will create conditions that normally favour our boat.

Over the course of Friday day, the wind shifts more to the NW and continues to build as the fleet is mercilessly caught up by the next depression. With Friday evening approaching and through the long dark Saturday night, we expect the boats to see sustained winds of 40kts and violent gusts well above that, this combined with a wave height in the range of 5-6m. This is an intense combination of conditions for any sailor, however, when you combine this with the fact that the team is also approaching Cape Horn, one of the most formidable Ocean areas, renowned for producing huge waves and big ocean storms, there is reason to be wary and focus will also be on protecting the boats. This is not an area where any sailor wants to have a major issue, although problems have been encountered in both the past Ocean Races and Vendée Globes in this location.

At the height of the storm it seems to be the exact time the boats should be quickly diving SE towards Cape Horn so it will be a tricky balance of staying north out of the strongest wind and still making good progress towards the horn. These strong weather conditions will stay with the fleet until later on Sunday when they start approaching the coast of Chile at which point the GFS model shows things moderating to closer to a more manageable 30kts of sustained winds. The sea state will still be quite big around 5m as the fleet should be rounding Cape Horn over Sunday night.

Technical advisor Jesse Naimark commented: "They should initially make some quick progress north after Cape Horn according to the GFS model but by Monday afternoon they will likely start sailing upwind. As they approach the Falkland Islands (this is 5 days out so here the forecast starts getting less reliable and we are speculating about what happens here), we are estimating a finish anywhere between 1st to 4th April but throughout these very strong conditions it is hard to know so until they get around the horn it is hard to say a precise arrival day."

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