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Pen Duick VI takes off! McIntyre Ocean Globe Race

by Ocean Globe Race 2 Apr 10:29 PDT 2 April 2024
Pen Duick VI skipper Marie Tabarly soaking up every moment of the magical ride! © OGR2023 / Pen Duick VI

Continuing the theme of crazy, unusual weather all around the world during the 2023 McIntyre Ocean Globe Race - a weak convoluted Azores High is handing out unique challenges for the fleet, but in the past few hours it is clear that Pen Duick VI has potentially hooked into a fast free ride all the way to the finish that may see the rest of the fleet languishing behind in her wake!

She is first to reach a large low-pressure system above the fleet - Leg 4 Line honours is looking good, but can she grab the double and take IRC as well - only time can tell and it is never over till the fat lady sings!

The Italian Swan 65, Translated 9 ITL (09), has taken the lead in provisional IRC rankings for Leg 4 of the Ocean Globe Race. It now begs the question: will it be a hat trick for the determined crew who've triumphed in the first two legs? The 1977 Whitbread entrant formerly known as ADC Accutrac when skippered by the first female Whitbread skipper Clare Francis, claimed the coveted IRC ranking from the 1985 Whitbread winner L'Esprit d'équipe earlier in the week. The Azores High forced the two lead boats, Pen Duick VI and L'Esprit d'équipe to forfeit precious miles allowing Translated 9 to gain ground, but at the time of writing the lead was slim - just 4hr ahead of line honours leader Pen Duick VI.

Translated 9 are never far from the headlines - not least during Leg 3, Auckland to Punta del Este when they were forced to return to the Falkland Islands to repair cracks discovered in their hull. This disqualified them from leg three. But they are by no means giving up - quite the opposite. They're now battling to take first-in-line honours as well as IRC for Leg 4.

"T9 crew survived onboard April Fool antics and now hunting a route through a light wind zone to stronger winds around the Azores." tweeted Translated 9.

But, they have a serious fight on their hands. Pen Duick VI FR (14) continues to hold onto first-in-line honours and has just extended that lead thanks to jumping into a huge low pressure ahead and avoiding a tricky high slowing those in his wake. Major pressure is being exerted by the talented crew onboard L'Esprit d'équipe FR (85) while Spirit of Helsinki FI (71) is stalled behind them, desperately attempting to claw back the distance surrendered. Neptune FR (56), Maiden UK (03) and Outlaw AU (08) are also within spitting distance of the lead pack, are ready for battle but the winds are not helping. With only 2000 nm until the finish line at the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes, tactical options are disappearing so it has never been more intense.

Skipper of Pen Duick VI, Marie Tabarly, who is no doubt relishing the nautical battle is well aware just one tactical error can change things dramatically. But she has taken the time to reflect on this adventure which is drawing to a close in the next couple of weeks.

"Perhaps what I'll miss most when I get ashore is living at the rhythm of the Earth. If only we could show you realistically what our eyes are lucky enough to see. Despite the development of cameras, reality is a long way from the reported image. No lens can faithfully reproduce the light, the immensity, the smells, the atmosphere." Marie Tabarly, Skipper of Pen Duick VI.

The middle pack, including Galiana WithSecure FI (06), Evrika FR (07), Triana FR (66) and White Shadow ESP (17), have picked up the tradewinds and are averaging six to seven knots. They're moving, but they'd like to be moving faster. They've been busy reporting rivers of Sargassa weed, visiting birds and frustration at the challenging upwind conditions.

There are few crew more frustrated than the current overall race IRC leaders, Triana who are struggling to gain the pace they have been used to in previous legs. Skipper Jean d'Arthuys detailed again the frustration of Leg 4. The Swan 53 currently sits at 10th in line honours and 9th in IRC for this leg, but, in overall rankings is leading the fleet and still maintains a two-day lead on Maiden.

"We have wind these days, so the humour on board is OK and we're going north, but we know we are not in a good position. But what a leg! It's very difficult for the nerves! I guess it's the same on other boats. It's hard for everybody." Jean D'Arthuys, skipper of Triana.

It's one month since the race started in Punta del Este, Uruguay. It has not been a fast, or an easy final leg for the Round-The-World race, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Whitbread race. Fickle winds, no wind, headwinds, stifling heat and squalls have tested the crews who are now not only grappling for positions but juggling tired minds and bodies.

With so 'few' miles until the race finishes pushing the yachts as hard as possible is no doubt at the forefront of most of the sailors' minds. Despite this, they still find the time to relax. Reading, puzzles, celestial navigation and star gazing proving the popular pass times.

"Upwind, great reading weather! Plenty of book swaps, all are glad we refreshed our collection in Punta trading with other boats. After clawing for info about the various high/low pressures of the North Atlantic, it's now up to the nav team to put the jigsaw puzzle together. High pressures are good 4 quality sleep and looking at stars, different hemisphere and a new month means there r always more stars 2 learn:)!" tweeted Maiden.

The crew of Galiana WithSecure FI (06) are also enjoying some intellectual challenges.

"While nine others are comparing notes of their celestial navigation, I can safely enjoy James Joyce's Ulysses. We have never known our position as precisely:)." tweeted Galiana WithSecure. But let's be honest, learning celestial navigation would be light relief after half an hour of Ulysses!

Meanwhile, the Sterna SA (42) crew have not only been making friends with passing sharks and birds but passing sailors too.

"Had a good VHF chat with Global Solo Challenge's David Linger earlier after he heard us call a passing ship. Truly a small world." tweeted Sterna.

And yes, racing may be intense and every mile counts but that is no reason not to celebrate those special days.

"Beautiful Easter weekend on board, wind, sun, gentle seas and evening and aperitif - thanks to the Bourhis for the delicious cheeses on board." tweeted Neptune - whose Easter celebrations sound nicer than most land-based Easter celebrations.

And it would appear from their later tweet that they carried on with those aperitifs!

"Today Neptune came across a magnificent school of mermaids, who sang to her sailors the story of the stars in the sky, guiding them towards...." tweeted the clearly very happy crew of Neptune.

While L'Esprit d'équipe found the time for an Easter egg hunt despite battling to regain No 1 spot in IRC.

"Did you know? Even at sea the Easter bells come to hide the chocolate eggs. But be careful to find them quickly, it's 35 degrees." tweeted L'Esprit d'équipe.

White Shadow also took the time to celebrate Easter.

"Easter under tropical sun, flying fishes escaping from the bow. No sacrificed lamb or melting choc eggs, but a sense of being blessed." tweeted White Shadow.

With all the boats now across the equator and under 2000 nautical miles until the finish line in Cowes's thoughts are naturally turning to the prize-giving. It was announced during the Punta del Este stopover that the final McIntyre Ocean Globe Race prize-giving is to take place on June 21st in Rome, hosted by Translated 9.

Events will commence on the evening of the 21st at the Translated 9 PI Campus in Rome, where the final awards of the OGR will be presented. Celebrations will continue the following day with a beach party at the Tognazzi Marine Village in Ostia Lido.

Co-skipper of Translated 9, Marco Trombetti admits he is very much looking forward to the weekend. Marco's wife Isabelle is sailing on Leg 4 onboard Translated 9 and was one of the 'lucky' sailors to experience the equator crossing ceremonies during the week.

"We won Legs 1 and 2 and then damage to our hull forced us to retire from Leg 3. We are giving it our all in this final leg, and even if we win Leg 4, we can't win the race overall. So, I think the best thing we can do for this incredible race and this fleet is to honor all the other crews we love. And the best way to honor them is to sponsor the prize-giving and have a big party at the end of this race." Marco Trombetti, co-skipper of Translated 9.

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