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Holcim-PRB will reach Cape Horn in 3 days!

by Team HOLCIM - PRB 24 Mar 2023 07:04 PDT
The Ocean Race 2022-23 Leg 3 day 25 onboard Team Holcim - PRB. Abby Ehler working on the sails on deck © Julien Champolion | polaRYSE / Holcim - PRB / The Ocean Race

In the heart of the Pacific Ocean, an incredible scenario has kept us on the edge for several days now. After more than three weeks of racing, about 10 000 miles covered, the four IMOCA boats still racing in The Ocean Race are within 62 miles of each other.

It has been 25 days precisely since the start in Cape Town and the passage of Point Nemo, the furthest point from land two days ago, has sounded like a new kick-off for an intense third leg that is not leaving any respite for Kevin Escoffier and his crew. The weather conditions have indeed favored the return of the opponents on Holcim-PRB, which was leading the race since the beginning. Abby Ehler, aboard the blue and green monohull, sums up the situation perfectly: "It's almost like the race has restarted. It's like we were players on a game board and they've just picked us all up, shuffled us round and just thrown it down and it's all started again, which we knew was going to happen because of the way the weather was weather systems were rolling.".

Finally out of the ridge of high pressure and its light winds that led to the fleet tightening, Holcim-PRB and its competitors found a stronger flow yesterday and were able to accelerate again. They are now on their way thanks to the train of southern lows that will take them to the Horn. It is now time for strategy for the sailors who will have to tack towards the famous Cape of Storms. The challenge of this route to the tip of South America is to successfully play with the wind shifts in order to get the best possible position against their rivals. Holcim-PRB, like the new leader Team Malizia, is following a slightly more northerly route than its competitors 11th Hour Racing Team and Biotherm. The two monohulls are progressing on starboard tack at an average of just over 20 knots and should encounter slightly stronger conditions during the day.

Tired but focused, Kevin Escoffier, Abby Ehler, Sam Goodchild and Tom Laperche are now moving forward to finish the Pacific Ocean. It's no time to rest, they know that the conditions ahead will intensify. The files are forecasting very strong winds as they approach the southern tip of Latin America, with gusts of over 40 knots and huge waves: "We're attacking the last long downwind leg towards Cape Horn, with the last low pressure system that will take us as far as the Horn in four days time. We're going to gradually climb into conditions that are more like the South, with about 30-35 knots of wind and seas that will reach seven meters. Solid conditions, as you would expect from coming this far. The important thing now is to take care of the boat, take care of the crew and stay in touch with the competitors. Fast, but not furious" reminds us wisely Kevin Escoffier.

Once again, it will be necessary to stay focused to find the right balance between speed and the preservation of the boat and the crew. Passing Cape Horn, the third cape of this leg after Good Hope and Leeuwin, means the end of the southern conditions for the sailors of Holcim-PRB. This will be the highlight of this third leg, and will probably be a form of liberation, even if the climb back to Brazil will give the four boats involved in the round-the-world race a hard time. Numerous lows are active along the South American coast and strategy will take over. The challenge will be to sail as best as possible in a rapidly changing weather system. The skipper of Holcim-PRB is well aware of this: "We will focus on the climb back to Itajai later on, but it doesn't look easy. Even if on the scale of the regatta, we can have the impression that we are on the last straight line, it is far from being the case. We have to stay focused even after the Horn, do the maneuvers as best as we can and sail as good as we know how. "

First at the Good Hope Passage and at Cape Leeuwin, Kevin and the crew of Holcim-PRB hope to be the first also to reach the southern tip of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. Even if this Friday morning, Holcim-PRB is in 2nd position in the 09:00 UTC ranking.

The Words of Kevin Escoffier

"We are now on the last long downwind sailing part, heading to Cape Horn, with the last low pressure system that will take us to the Horn Passage in a few days. We are still in contact with Malizia, which is a little faster than us in these conditions. We knew that we had a versatile boat, and that they have a sailboat that is suited to this kind of conditions. Our strategy is to take it easy without trying to do something you can't do with the boat. My objective at the start of Cape Town was to get to Itajai, and that is still the case, especially with the five points we managed to take at the scoring gate. The boat is in very good condition, as is the crew. The advantage of these very northern ice limits is that we didn't even get cold. It's even warmer than winter in Brittany. We're going to work on the boat's settings to try to learn more, and find solutions to manage to have a stable speed in these conditions without forcing the boat too much.

Then, we'll gradually move into conditions that are more like the South, with about 30-35 knots of wind and seas that will reach seven meters. Solid conditions, as you would expect from coming this far. The important thing now is to take care of the boat, take care of the crew and stay in touch with the competitors. Fast, but not furious!

We will concentrate on the climb back to Itajai later, but it doesn't look easy. Even if on the scale of the regatta, we can have the impression that we are on the last straight line, it is far from being the case. It's more than a last lap. You have to stay focused even after passing the Horn, do the maneuvers as you know how and sail as you know how."

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