The Ocean Race leaderboard is beginning to take shape after two teams crossed the finishing line in Itajaí on Sunday morning.
The leg 3 winner is Team Malizia. Led by skipper Boris Herrmann, the Malizia crew fought hard for the win, which was in play until the final 24 hours.
It’s a remarkable achievement for a team that considered turning back to the start port of Cape Town just days after the leg began after they suffered significant damage to their mast. But the team managed an inspiring repair at sea and went on to not only catch the early leaders, but make a pass to lead around Cape Horn.
As skipper, Boris Herrmann was bubbling with enthusiasm when he reached the dock in Brazil.
“Dreaming of doing The Ocean Race, and this amazing leg through the Southern Ocean, finishing it after all the trouble we had early on, and winning is amazing,” Herrmann said. “Four weeks ago, if I had been told ‘Repair your mast because you might win this leg’ I would have not believed it and said that’s not possible, we are too far behind and can’t push the boat anymore. But it worked out beyond our expectations.”
In fact, on the first days of leg 3, it appeared as if the early race dominance of Kevin Escoffier’s Team Holcim PRB was going to be repeated over the longest leg in the history of The Ocean Race.
Escoffier and his team were aggressive from the start gun for leg 3 and eased away in tricky conditions to build a lead that would put them a full weather system and nearly 600 miles ahead.
But in doing so, they bumped up against a ridge of high pressure and very light winds that wouldn’t let them pass. The trailing boats made back nearly all the miles.
“We saw quite early this was likely to happen,” Escoffier said dockside after securing second place. “But we kept pushing and pushing because we knew that getting out early could be important, especially for the scoring gate.”
As it turned out Holcim-PRB would score the maximum points – again! – at the gate, to remain perfect. But the rest of the fleet was back in touch and the lead would change often on the race to Cape Horn, where Malizia led, and again up into the south Atlantic.
On Friday night, the leading pair experienced some of the toughest conditions of the leg, with winds gusts near 50 knots and a violent sea state. Team Holcim-PRB had trouble with the autopilot leading to a crash gybe and damage to their mainsail. After racing in lockstep with Malizia for days towards what was gearing up to be a photo finish, Escoffier and the Holcim-PRB crew dropped back by 50 miles in a matter of hours and the leg win would go to Malizia.
“It is a dream come true to win this leg of The Ocean Race, after everything we went through on this leg, I am so happy,” said Malizia’s Will Harris. “We really did this as a team, not just the sailing team but the whole team. Our boat was built for this leg and I think we really showed what the boat and this team can do.
“Not only that but we had a good time doing it, we worked hard but we also enjoyed this race so much! Of course, Cape Horn was a highlight for me but also just the times of being on the deck and feeling the waves hit me, it really made me feel what it was to be in the Southern Ocean.”
For Escoffier, the points gained on this leg solidify his position at the top of the leaderboard.
“We always said at the start of this leg that the first job is to get to Itajaí with the crew and the boat in good shape and we have done this,” he said. “To also get 9 out of 10 points for the leg is very good of course and sets us up well for the rest of the race.”
The mutual respect between the teams was evident, with both skippers paying tribute to the other. Boris Herrmann postponed any sleep options to be dockside to greet the Holcim PRB team on arrival.
Two boats are still at sea and racing up the Atlantic towards Itajaí. 11th Hour Racing Team is now 525 miles away while Biotherm has 650 miles to go. Their ETAs stretch into Wednesday.