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Fleet Crossing Equator Fight for Every Mile in Leg 4 of the McIntyre Ocean Globe Race

by Ocean Globe Race 26 Mar 15:04 PDT 26 March 2024
Skipper Jean d'Arthuys and First Mate Sébastien Audigane talk tactics under the scorching sun © OGR2023 / Triana / Margault Demasles

It proved another 'challenging' week for the McIntyre Ocean Globe crews as they navigated their way through the potholed doldrums, crossing the Equator and sailing back to the NE trade winds of the Northern Hemisphere.

The 13-strong fleet slipped lines from Punta del Este, Uruguay three weeks ago and are only now waving goodbye to the coast of Brazil. It's been a slow slog north, with patchy winds proving problematic since the start. But, for the two leaders Pen Duick VI FR (14) and L'Esprit d'équipe FR (85), the trade winds have finally filled in and they're forging forward! ETAs for crossing the Royal Squadron finish line in Cowes, UK, looking like as early as April 11th - but all could change.

The mighty Pen Duick VI, skippered by Marie Tabarly, who continues to hold first-in-line honours has now passed through the worst of the doldrums. The 73 ft Bermudan Ketch should be in a position to extend that lead as the rest of the fleet wallow in lighter unpredictable localised winds. Pen Duick VI's closest rival is former Whitbread winner and fellow French yacht L'Esprit d'équipe. They're holding onto first in IRC for leg 4 and are not intending to surrender that coveted position easily. Just 78 nm separates the two former Whitbread yachts so competition is fierce.

"The NE trade winds are established, so we are coming out of 3 days of doldrums. No more flat calms, storms, and gusts at 30 knots." tweeted the three-time Whitbread entrant L'Esprit d'équipe.

But the Finns onboard Spirit of Helsinki FI (71) and the Maiden UK (03) crew are hot on the sterns of the two leaders and can smell blood. They too should be out of the worst of the wind holes. Just 60 nm separates these two rivals who are undoubtedly involved in a race within a race - which could well rival the Pen Duick VI versus Translated 9 love/hate relationship!

Translated 9 ITL (09) and Neptune FR (56), both sitting west of the leaders are sticking very much with the lead pack and keeping a close eye on each other. Translated 9 is just two hours behind Pen Duick VI in IRC rankings so this is something to watch for sure!

Most of the fleet are either across or about to cross the Equator. Visits from Neptune and an initiation ceremony for first-time crossers is a long-held sailing tradition. An offering to Neptune to ensure a continued safe passage is usually the norm, while the sailor is 'transformed' from a 'Pollywog' into a 'Shellback'. Keep an eye out for photos during the week of the 'ceremonies' onboard.

Despite most of the fleet having appeased Neptune at the time of writing, the fleet still has some tricky winds to contend with. Outlaw AU (08), Evrika FR (07) who are now leading in Sayula Class and Galiana WithSecure FI (06) leading in Adventure Class are not out of the windless woods yet.

Meanwhile, the Swan 57 White Shadow ESP (17) and the Swan 53 Triana FR (66) have been in a too-close-to-call tussle since the start of Leg 4. What is interesting is despite not excelling in Leg 4, Triana FR (66), skippered by Jean d'Arthuys, continues to lead in combined overall IRC results - over 3.5 days ahead of the nearest rival Maiden. The overall IRC results table will get increasingly interesting to watch the closer the fleet gets to the race finish in Cowes.

The tailenders Sterna SA (14) and Explorer AU (28) are yet to face the worst of the doldrums which may well put them further behind - but the doldrums have not been their predictable selves so the next few days will tell all!!

And while the doldrums oppressive heat and lack of wind may prove draining it does have some benefits - squalls. Most of the crews have taken advantage of the downpours to have 'natural' showers, something no doubt crew mates appreciate as things get hot and sweaty and no doubt smelly onboard.

"Burning and sweating under the sun like BBQed chorizos. In the tropical heat the top pleasures are sleeping in the shade and showering in a good rain shower." tweeted White Shadow.

And when they're not showering the downpours are an excellent way of replenishing dwindling water supplies. After the first week of racing, Maiden reported concerns about their water supply as their generator had stopped working affecting their watermaker. This has since been resolved - and with the constant downpour, water is no longer a concern. The crew are not only delighted to have full tanks but to have crossed the equator and are heading home!

"As per the song-its raining men! Halleluiah! just kidding, this is a female boat so it's actually raining water. Now we have 2 full tanks, kachow. Neptune has visited Maiden! Cookie dough and ice cream were offered in exchange for favorable wind conditions." tweeted Maiden.

For the crew of Spirit of Helsinki, it's starting to sound like the novelty of the rain is beginning to wear off a little despite earlier in the week explaining during their satellite call that they felt like lobsters being poached due to the sea water being so hot!

"Rain rain and more rain, wind, no wind and wind, stop, start and stop again! so not out of the doldrums yet. Ahhhh." tweeted Spirit of Helsinki.

Meanwhile, the crew of Evrika don't wait for the downpours to cool off - and take to the sea for a mid-afternoon bath. Although on the stunning Swan 65, cool fresh water showers are not an issue!

Sterna, Evrika, Outlaw, Neptune, White Shadow and Triana have been passing the long hot days and supplementing their diets by fishing. There has been no shortage of photos of impressive displays of tuna and marlin being hosted by proud crew happy to show off their catch.

Wildlife spotting has also become a popular pastime onboard the yachts with most yachts being visited by both large pods of dolphins and birds.

"Magic Mike has a new nickname. The Bird Whisperer. He had the same bird land on his head 4 times during the night watch. in last 24hrs had a pod of 50ish dolphins & 2 birds land on Outlaw." tweeted Outlaw.

While Triana sounds more like a bird sanctuary than a racing yacht at the moment!

"Bird festival since the beginning of the night. Triana currently offering shelter for 3 tired ravers at the back of the boat." tweeted Triana.

Those keeping a close eye on the tracker might well be a little bemused by the rather 'different' route taken by the Swan 57 Explorer AU (28). They opted for the coastal tour of Brazil which certainly hasn't paid off. But it has given them the lack of wind needed to repair their head sail foil, furler and drum which has been badly damaged.

Today when approx. 50 miles north of Recife in Brazil the captain had to make the decision to drop one crew member onshore so Explorer has now reversed their course bound for Recife and should arrive early morning on 27th March. They will stop for only a few minutes and drop the crew member without receiving any outside assistance and then continue back on course for Cowes without receiving any penalty.

With the leaders of the fleet through the doldrums and picking up speed it won't be long before the OGR sadly comes to an end!! ETAs for first yacht arrivals are approximately April 11th onwards. For those wanting to come and cheer the crews back from their round-the-world adventure here are all the details!

Finish Line information

The finish line is at Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes, UK. Once crossing the line, the yachts will be berthed at Trinity Landing in West Cowes for 48 hours.

The only direct ferries to Cowes leave from Southampton. The Ferry terminal is Town Quay in Southampton SO14 2AL, UK. The Red Funnel High Speed Ferry takes 20 minutes to reach Cowes and is a foot passenger ferry only. There is a short 10 min walk to Trinity Landing. The Red Funnel Car Ferry takes 50 minutes and runs less regularly. This will take you to East Cowes and you cannot walk from East Cowes to West Cowes without taking the chain ferry across the Medina River.

Find out more at oceangloberace.com

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