There is a split in opinion that is playing out on the race course as the fleet races south...
Credit to GUYOT environnement - Team Europe who have regained the lead on the race tracker as well as their position as the most southerly boat in the fleet. In a race south, that's a good thing.... or is it?
Two of the three boats positioned about 120 miles to the west - Team Holcim-PRB and 11th Hour Racing - have just (as at 1200 UTC) put in a gybe to the west, consolidating position and setting up for a weather transition ahead of the eventual left turn to Cape Town. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Biotherm match them.
Tradition would say this is the right move. But that same tradition would have had GUYOT environnement stuck in the doldrums, and to this point the team keeps making miles towards the target. Can their luck hold?
"Whether the separation from the field will do us any good remains to be seen. The pronounced ridge of high pressure is forcing us all deep south, maybe even south-west. That doesn't make us happy," skipper Robert Stanjek said.
Navigator Sébastien Simon is looking for a way out of the trap: "The finish line is very far for us. So we have to stay focussed for the next part of the race. After the high pressure we have to manage all the subtropical low pressure. The game is not finished. We have to just sail our boat, sail our strategy."
The 'sail your boat' theme comes up again and again. The IMOCA fleet is not one-design, the boats have different characteristics and sweet spots. Copying an opponent's moves is a road to ruin.
This is how media man Amory Ross, on 11th Hour Racing Team, described the situation coming out of the doldrums: "Over the next (days) everyone to our east will probably want to come down to our line. Too far east going into the high and it gets really light. It’s always tempting to cut the corner so to speak, but it rarely works. So while the competition may be numerically closer to Cape Town and may be in better wind for the time being, if we can hang on out here to the west, our lane will come good eventually. We have, in essence, already done the hard work to get here and now we have to hope they either get stuck too close to the high...or spend their gains to join us. That’s when we get our turn. For now though the watch brief from (navigator) Si Fi is simple. Stick to the plan... Don’t be distracted by the short term successes of those to the east."
That will come as comfort to the sailors furthest to the west, Team Malizia. Led by Will Harris, the team remains in the hunt, chasing down the leaders, while cautiously maintaining watch on their new foils.
With the ETA in Cape Town slipping by up to 48 hours, both food and power supplies become a focus, with the teams already looking at light rationing to conserve what is on board.
"We have been working on the solar panels - we have added 50% more area so that they are not in the shadow of the boom - so we can charge all day with solar,"said Team Holcim-PRB skipper Kevin Escoffier. "We also have the hydro generator that works off the speed of the boat and today we have been able to do 24 hours off these sources of power."
ETA Cape Town is now 11 February.
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