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The Ocean Race Leg 7 Day 5: Roadblocks on the way to the Med

by The Ocean Race 19 Jun 2023 14:42 BST 19 June 2023
The Ocean Race 2022-23 - 17 June 2023, Leg 7 Day 2 onboard Team Holcim - PRB. Skipper Benjamin Schwartz looking the pressure coming © Julien Champolion | polaRYSE / Holcim - PRB / The Ocean Race

The VO65s are still leading the charge south, towards Cape Finisterre and the coast of Portugal. But at the moment, 'charge' should be considered a generous description.

Boat speeds are often under 10 knots and the choice for the decision-makers on board is bleak - push south into lighter winds, or further west, away from the target.

"It's looking very quiet, not so much wind... very slow," was the succint summary from Nico Lunven on Team Maliza.

While Yoann Richomme, leading the navigation duties on the IMOCA furthest to the south - Team Holcim-PRB - offered up a more vivid description, even if the ultimate conclusion is the same.

"We are in the middle of the Bay of Biscay, going west - west!! - to get away from some light winds between France and Spain," he explained on today's boat feed. "Then we are going to try to go down south along the coast of Portugal. it will be light this afternoon, then a little bit windier as we turn south to go down but then Portugal looks very, very light.

"Right now we're slow. It's not looking good. Biotherm, is about 55 miles north but we could lose quite a bit today I reckon. We have a bit of an advantage but I think the next hours and days will be very tricky."

As Richomme predicted, that hard won early advantage is now being eroded by both Biotherm and Team Malizia, as both boats are further west and holding onto the light winds a little bit longer.

The story is similar no matter which of the 5 VO65s or 3 IMOCAs you are racing on. It's a challenge to pick a route south that has enough wind to keep the boat moving consistently. Today, gambling on a spot further west seems to be paying.

"We chose to go quite far west to chase the remains of a low pressure system," said Aksel Magdahl, navigator on WindWhisper Racing Team, the leading team in the VO65 Sprint. "Fortunately, the fleet has more or less followed us which makes it more straighforward."

As the boats press further south, they will eventually come to the southwestern tip of Portugal before making a left turn and heading towards Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea.

Extending off the tip of Portugal, along 37 degress of north latitude, is the scoring line for the Vasco da Gama Mirpuri Foundation Prize, which will be awarded to the first navigator in either class to cross this latitude. No scoring points are assigned here, but a prize will be presented in Genova during the Grand Finale awards night.

Meanwhile, 11th Hour Racing Team is making good progress on its 'race within a race' to Genova. After leaving The Hague on Sunday evening, the team is determined to arrive to Italy in time to participate in the In Port Race.

"We are very tight on time but we will do everything we can to get to Genova to join the rest of the fleet for the Grand Finale of The Ocean Race," said skipper Charlie Enright as his team left the dock on Sunday. "We want to be there in time for the start of the In-Port Race on July 1, to give us the opportunity to compete in, and win, the In-Port Race Series. It's a race-within-a-race, and the countdown is now on."

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