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Marine Resources 2022 Salary Survey

The Ocean Race sailors round The Horn

by David Schmidt 28 Mar 08:00 PDT March 28, 2023
The Ocean Race 2022-23 -Leg 3, Day 26 onboard 11th Hour Racing Team. Big waves greet Malama on the way south towards Cape Horn © Amory Ross / 11th Hour Racing / The Ocean Race

For armchair pundits, few offshore adventures are more fun to watch from afar than the Southern Ocean legs of storied events such as the singlehanded Vendée Globe or the fully crewed The Ocean Race (nee, the Whitbread Race and The Volvo Ocean Race). While conditions down south are the stuff of legend, for us armchair observers, the horizon is always level and the coffee is always hot.

Impressively, up until last week, the same could mostly be said for the four boats that are competing in Leg Three of 2023 edition of The Ocean Race, as conditions had been fairly moderate (relatively speaking).

Note my careful use of the past tense.

A fast rewind. Five boats left Cape Town, South Africa, on February 26, bound, some 12,750 nautical miles later, for Itajaí, Brazil. But first, all teams had to leave the world's three great capes to port.

One team, GUYOT environment - Team Europe, experienced a hull delamination failure and had to turn back. Two others, Biotherm and 11th Hour Racing, both required smaller repairs, with the former returning to port for a small while, while the latter team made their repairs at sea.

During this time, skipper Kevin Escoffier and his Team Holcim - PRB team created a massive leaderboard advantage that, at times, was measured in hundreds of miles. This lead evaporated due to wind holes and effective restarts (Long Island Sound and Puget Sound sailors can relate), with skipper Boris Herrmann and his Team Malizia squad taking the lead several days ago despite suffering mast damage earlier in the leg that required a heroic effort to fix.

Right around that time, the weather turned nasty.

While the four competing teams experienced relatively benign weather from New Zealand most of the way across the Pacific, things turned snotty at the end of last week, with several serious weather systems appearing to the west of the fleet. These systems proceeded roll the fleet, creating downright sporty sailing and, unfortunately, leading to a head injury aboard Team Malizia over the weekend when off-watch crewmember Rosalin Kuiper was thrown from her bunk while the team was still west of Cape Horn.

"I will get over it, I look like Pirate Rosie now," Kuiper told Team Director Holly Cova in a phone call, as reported in an official race communication. "The slamming is quite bad though and goes through my head but I think I will be OK. I am sleeping a lot and the boys are looking after me really well."

Conditions were tough, to say the least. "It is hard to stop the boat from wiping out at the moment, we are doing what we can to keep it stable but the conditions are incredibly hard," reported team co-skipper Will Harris, in the same communication. "We are keeping a close eye on Rosie and will do all we can to make sure she is OK. She has been really brave and is trying to rest."

The team was the first to clear Cape Horn, followed some 20 nautical miles astern by Holcim-PRB. As of this writing (Monday morning), 11th Hour Racing and Biotherm were some 250 nautical miles astern of the leader.

"It's a huge achievement for the whole team to be here," said Harris in an official communication. "And especially to be here in the lead. If we think back to the start of the leg - the issues with the mast, and then the big winds the last few days - I think we've done an amazing job to be here. So, we are proud of the full team to make it this far and also grateful to everyone back on land who has made this possible."

As for conditions, odds are good that your armchair is sounding pretty appealing.

"It's really cold down here at the moment," reported Harris in the same communication. "It's slightly lighter winds, which is a relief after the last few days of pretty brutal conditions."

All told, it took Team Malizia 27 days, 17 hours and 31 minutes to clear Cape Horn after Leg Three's starting gun sounded.

"Cape Horn holds many memories for me, and crossing this line in first almost means more than winning the leg, not in terms of points but in terms of what it means," said Herrmann in an official race communication. "I am proud of the team and this boat! The boat has really proved itself in the Southern Ocean and shown how tough she is."

While this is a huge relief for Team Malizia, the team is well aware of the fact that Escoffier and his Team Holcim-PRB squad are only a couple wind shifts astern.

Harris again: "It will be a fight all the way up to the finish in Itajaí. Team Holcim-PRB is only a few miles behind us. They're doing an amazing job of pushing us as well. We'll need our best game. It's a long way to go - 2,000 miles - and we're looking forward to it."

For most of us, a 2,000 nautical mile passage would be a pretty serious piece of sailing, but, for teams that have now sailed almost 11,000 nautical miles — including rounding the world's three great capes — since last employing their dock lines, this distance probably feels reasonably manageable.

Especially given the promise of real food and cold beer once they reach Brazil.

Sail-World wishes all teams competing in Leg Three of The Ocean Race fair winds as they clear Cape Horn and aim their bows towards Itajaí, and we certainly wish Kuiper a fast recovery.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt North American Editor

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