The Ocean Race | Wednesday 25th January 2023.


Today, at 6:10pm, Malizia – Seaexplorer skippered by Will Harris took the start of stage two of The Ocean Race, which will see the IMOCA fleet sail about 4,000 nautical miles from Mindelo, Cabo Verde, to Cape Town, South Africa. With unusually light wind conditions at the start, the crews can expect difficult strategic choices and a leg duration of about two weeks.

This time patience and taking opportunities when they arise – but also not losing the plot when things go against them – is going to be the name of the game as they take on a hot, lightwind passage from Cape Verde to Cape Town.

The race literature lists this stage as 4,600 nautical miles, but it could be longer than that if the weather proves tricky on a voyage that starts in the northeast trade winds, then features a crossing of the Doldrums and then a long stint tackling the St Helena high.

Christian Dumard, the weather consultant to the race, says that after a light wind start on Wednesday, the first decision for navigators and skippers will be whether to sail south through the Cape Verde archipelago or head west – and quite far west – to get out of the wind shadow of the islands.

The way the crews approach that first decision will affect where they cross the Doldrums. “If they want to cross them in the west, then they have to go west as soon as they start,” said Dumard. He reckons there will be no need for them to head right over to the Brazilian coast at Recife and will probably cross the Pot au Noir at about 28 West, where he predicts they should make a relatively quick passage through to the southeast trade winds.

“They might get stuck for a few hours, but probably not for a long time – not for two or three days – and then, after that, they will be heading mainly south. They have to get south of the St Helena high pressure system and hopefully that will move east, so they could have – perhaps not the shortest route we have seen in the south Atlantic – but not the longest one either.”




However, Dumard warns that if the centre of St Helena high moves south as the leg progresses, it will be difficult for the IMOCA teams not to end up stuck in light airs trying to get to Cape Town. “It’s complex and this race will not be over until the finish, if the high goes a little further south – we saw this in the Ultime race in 2019 – they all got stuck in the high pressure before getting to Cape Town,” he said.

So this leg is going to be hard work for the trimmers and light-airs boatspeed specialists, but also for the navigators – men like Simon Fisher on 11th Hour Racing Team-Mãlama, Nico Lunven on Team Malizia and Kevin Escoffier on race leader, Holcim-PRB – who will have to plot their way through large areas of light and shifty winds.

In Cape Verde, the boats have been repaired, after the stresses and strains of the first leg, and we are also seeing the first evidence of the squad system the teams are using to pace themselves through this seven-stage race that does not finish until early July.

Two skippers are taking a rest. Benjamin Dutreux will hand over leadership duties to Robert Stanjeck on Guyot environnement-Team Europe and is being replaced by Sébastien Simon while, on Team Malizia, Boris Herrmann is being replaced by Yann Eliès with Will Harris taking over the skipper role.

The German team revealed today that Herrmann suffered a serious burn injury to his foot during the final stages of Leg 1, when he was making either a hot drink or some food.

I’m lucky to be part of a team that managed the first leg very well”, explained Yann.

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. “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.

One element that has been striking at this first stopover is the confidence boost Herrmann and his crew on Team Malizia have taken from their competitive third place in Leg 1. No one in that team was hiding their nerves about boatspeed before they left Alicante, but the mood is definitely more upbeat now.

“Boris is the happiest he has been in so long because the boat is going so well and the team is working so well,” said team director Holly Cova. “He came back from Leg 1 honestly so happy, even with his injury. He was like ‘this couldn’t be better.’ It is the most confident he has ever been in the boat and team,” she added.


© Jimmy Horel /  ©Sailing Energy / The Ocean Race