After being buffeted by strong trade winds for the duration of the short stopover, the waters off Mindelo, Cabo Verde were relatively calm on Wednesday for the start of Leg 2 of The Ocean Race.
The short stopover marked the first time The Ocean Race has visited west Africa and this island chain despite it featuring in the race course for all 14 editions as a tactical consideration on the leg from Europe down to the south Atlantic Ocean.
Crowds flocked to Ocean Live Park to welcome the VO65 and IMOCA fleets or arrival this past weekend, regardless of the hour, and aided by the entertainment and concert programme that kept the OLP hopping late in the night throughout the stopover.
On shore, The Ocean Race Summit Mindelo gathered over 300 ocean advocates in Cabo Verde on Monday, including United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres; Prime Minister of Cabo Verde, Ulisses Correia e Silva; and Prime Minister of Portugal, António Costa, to discuss redoubling efforts to protect the ocean.
Out on the race course on Wednesday, teams had a short lap of a reaching course to navigate before heading out to sea, destined for Cape Town, some 4000 nautical miles -and two weeks – of racing away.
It was Robert Stank’s GUYOT environnement – Team Europe and Charlie Enright’s 11th Hour Racing Team who burst off the line with speed, just ahead of Biotherm and Holcim-PRB, with Team Malizia last across the line.
On the reach out, GUYOT environnement held off Holcomb-PRB to lead around the mark and on the return through he start line before heading out to sea, Stanjek and his crew showed good boat handling through the manoeuvres to lead the fleet out to sea.
A short time later, it was Holcim-PRB with 11th Hour Racing Team to windward and in better wind, leading GUYOT einvironnement – Team Europe, Biotherm and Team Malizia. But the racing is extremely close and the deck will surely be shuffled a few more times overnight.
The wind was in the 7-10 knot range from the northeast throughout the start period, but is forecast to ease overnight, a far cry from the 25 knot trades that have been a feature since arrival.
The light winds mean it will be tactically difficult race over the first days, something already playing out with teams deciding how far south to position themselves compared to making miles to the west.
“It’s a big challenge. We have to manage the wind shadow from the islands, which means we need to get south, but then the doldrums are very big and normally being further west would be safer,” said Sebastien Simon, who is joining GUYOT environnement – Team Europe for this leg.
“It is a big doldrums at the moment. We’re not sure where to cross yet. It will be shifty and interesting for sure.”
For the winner of the opening leg, Team Holcim-PRB, the interest is in seeing the boats and sailors in different conditions from leg one.
“I’m sure we will see different characteristics of the boats and the sailors too,” said skipper Kevin Escoffier. “But the mindset for us is the same – pushing hard, always!!”
Leg Two Rankings following the start:
1. Team Holcim-PRB
2. 11th Hour Racing Team
3. GUYOT environnement – Team Europe
5. Team Malizia
Update from Team Holcim-PRB
“I’m very focused on leg 2, very motivated to lead the fleet and be first again. Our victory here in Mindelo makes me even more eager to show that we have the level to win again as we did on the first leg. I can’t wait to start!” said skipper Kevin Escoffier.
“The particularity of this new leg is that it is three times longer than the first one, and we will be passing through the Southern Hemisphere, with higher temperatures. On board we will be warm ! We will have to be tactical for the start as there will be little wind. Moving from one hemisphere to another means changing weather conditions. We are expecting very light winds and then very changeable winds, with rain, for the first 3-4 days” explains Tom Laperche, in charge of the navigation on board Holcim-PRB.
For this second leg to Cape Town, Kevin Escoffier has chosen to make two changes in his crew. The objective is to preserve the sailors on this round-the-world race, which will not end until next June. For the reigning winner of the event, the freshness of the crew can be a factor of success. But there are other elements to consider… The skipper will therefore constantly adjust the cursor between renewal of the women and men, knowledge of the boat, endurance and performance throughout The Ocean Race… On the way to South Africa, Susann Beucke, silver medallist in 49erFX at the Tokyo Olympics, will replace Abby Ehler. This will be a big first for the German sailor on board the IMOCA Holcim-PRB. “It will be like a first for me. TI was told that this leg will probably be one of the most beautiful. I’m looking forward to sailing on Holcim-PRB. I’ve loved team sports since I was a child so I’m really excited to join the team and work together to get the best out of us on this leg. I am not scared, I take it as a dream come true. I also think that I have nothing to lose. This is a fantastic opportunity for me.” The onboard reporter is also swiping. New Zealander Georgia Schofield is replacing Julien Champolion for the photos and videos.
Sam Goodchild will be the watch leader as he was on the first leg and he analyzes this change of crew as: “This rotation implies a change of dynamics because Sanni and Abby don’t have the same way of working nor the same skills. As we are all, apart from the skipper, young when it comes to handling the boat, our progress curve is very steep. In this case it is crucial to communicate well, and to be well rested, with arms and legs ready for the maneuvers. The challenge is to find the right balance together so that everything runs smoothly!”
In Mindelo, the sailors did not really have time to rest. On this particular stopover, they were the only ones able to work on the boat to prepare it for the second leg. The technical team was not allowed to come aboard. So it was the sailors who went through Holcim-PRB with an intense scrute. “We did a lot of odd job to get things back in order, but nothing major. This is a stopover without technical assistance. That’s why we left Alicante with all the food and spare equipment we needed to make it to Cape Town” explains Tom Laperche.
“We made some small adjustments but what I will remember from this is that the boat is in very good condition, despite the intensity of the weather we experienced at sea on the first leg” adds Kevin Escoffier, who will try to install the right dynamics within his team from the start.
Update from 11th Hour Racing Team
Skipper, Charlie Enright (USA), commented on the conditions facing the crew in the second leg. “It looks very light getting out of Cabo Verde, but the trade winds will reestablish before spitting us into the Doldrums, where I will expect a compression of the fleet again. Getting through the Doldrums will be key to success in the second half of this leg. The South Atlantic feels a long way away right now, but we are confident going into this leg.”
Cabo Verde is considered a ‘short stop’ on The Ocean Race route. This means within race rules, there can be no amendments or improvements to the boat, and any necessary repairs must be conducted by the sailing crew during the five-day stopover.
“It has been a pretty hectic stopover from the moment we got here,” commented Enright. “In fact, it’s been full-on since we left Alicante on January 15th! Whether it was the 40 knots that we faced right from the off in the Mediterranean, or the day spent gluing the J3 [sail] back together here in Cabo Verde, the first ten days of this race have thrown a lot at us!
“Luckily for us, we were able to put the tools down yesterday at midday and have 24 hours of rest and decompression. Switching off before we go racing again is always important, and now we are focused on what lies ahead,” he concluded.
The first leg of The Ocean Race from Alicante, Spain to Mindelo, Cabo Verde was completed in five days, as the fleet raced through winds of up to 50 knots in the Alboran Sea. When asked about whether the team onboard Malama will sail more conservatively this leg, Enright said, “There is a fine line with these boats in terms of reward vs risk. As a team, we must make sure we know where that line is at any given moment, so we don’t cross it. The first leg of this race was like a baptism of fire, and everyone in the fleet was held back by breakages. Breakages will continue to be on our minds and ever-present, so we will be keeping a balance between pushing and preserving the assets – our sailors and our boat – on every leg.
“In the last leg, we were in the mix to win, and today we are leaving the dock with that mentality,” he concluded.
Joining Skipper Charlie Enright (USA) for Leg 2 to Cape Town, South Africa, is Navigator Simon Fisher (GBR), Trimmers Jack Bouttell (AUS/GBR) and Justine Mettraux (SUI), along with Media Crew Member, Amory Ross (USA).
Update from GUYOT environnement – Team Europe
After the European campaign had suffered many setbacks caused by some damages on the first leg and only reached the first stage town of Mindelo in fifth place, it now got off to a good start. The crew with skipper Robert Stanjek, navigator Sébastien Simon, pit Anne-Claire Le Berre, bowman Phillip Kasüske and onboard reporter Charles Drapeau are aware that this start has no significance whatsoever for the further course of the leg. But it was a moment to savour for the crew on board, the team ashore and the fans on the screens.
Over the next two weeks, many hurdles await on the way down the Atlantic. Through the trade winds, the Doldrums and past the St Helena High, the teams have to find the wind. And the weather forecast suggests plenty of excitement. “It looks like the wind will be unusually light during the leg. So it seems that it will be a bit slower and take longer than expected. Let’s see what it will bring. It’s a tough, long leg,” said Robert Stanjek, who took over as skipper of GUYOT environnement – Team Europe from Benjamin Dutreux for this leg as planned.
Update from Team Malizia
Will Harris stepped in as the skipper for Leg 2. “It had always been planned that I would take over the role as skipper from Boris for one or two legs, it’s just happening a bit earlier than expected”, said the young British sailor before jumping on Malizia – Seaexplorer this Wednesday afternoon. “I have sailed so much with the team and with the boat, I am just feeling ready for it. It was a bit of a shock to find out that Boris couldn’t do this next leg, and we are obviously gutted. We really found our rhythm and pace during Leg 1, also always making sure we were having fun as a team doing this race. We have a great replacement in Yann Eliès, he brings with him a lot of experience. It will be my first time sailing in the tricky waters of the Southern Ocean, so it is really exciting to have both Yann and Nico Lunven onboard. I want to bring the team together and make sure we get every bit of expertise out of these guys to push the boat and get the best result possible.”
“I’m lucky to be part of a team that managed the first leg very well”, explained French sailor Yann Eliès. “Now, I have to learn what they learned during Leg 1 as fast as I can to be as close as possible to their level for the start of this leg. As for suddenly learning that I was going offshore a few days later, it is always difficult to leave people behind on land, so I want to jump on the boat and race as soon as possible. I know the way to Cape Town and through the Southern Ocean very well, this won’t be a new experience for me, it’s another one.”
A laughing Nico Lunven added: “Yann and I just found out that our fathers competed against each other in the 1970s in the Figaro circuit, and then did the very first Whitbread Round The World Race together on the same boat in 1973. Now, 50 years later, Yann and I – who have been competing against each other for 10 years on Figaros – are doing The Ocean Race together! We had no idea!”
After the start gun, the fleet of five IMOCAs performed a short mandatory course consisting of various reaching marks right before heading to sea. Team Malizia had a late start, crossing the line in fifth position shortly behind the rest of the fleet. As the fleet navigated the inconsistent winds approaching the lee of São Vicente, Team Malizia managed to reclaim the lost ground and find themselves in the mix. At the time of this release, Team Malizia is fighting for 3rd and 4th positions with Holcim-PRB.
“The wind situation is looking super light and tricky to get down to the doldrums, which brings with it even more light wind”, described Will Harris. “The first part of the race is going to be very tactical, and there are a lot of opportunities to make a jump on the fleet, so we will all have to be very switched on right from the word “Go”. When we get further into the race there might be opportunities to come back depending on what the South Atlantic holds in store for us.” This leg is particularly interesting as it will bring the crews through many different weather conditions, from the light and hot doldrums to the cold and stormy southern ocean, they will need to have their wits about them to ensure they arrive in Cape Town in good shape.