Ocean Race 2023

The third stage of The Ocean Race, considered the queen stage of this edition

There are good reasons to both love and hate the Southern Ocean at the same time. Even during the southern hemisphere spring, in such deep latitudes, it can be relentlessly cold. Cold enough for icebergs to pose a threat and need to be monitored on radar. During long stretches of the journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Cape Horn, crew members are over a thousand miles from any other human being. Except for astronauts flying in space, about 250 miles above, aboard the International Space Station.

But the Southern Ocean is also a dream for any sailor. The ultimate journey where fun surfing huge waves for weeks is guaranteed. "The south can be amazing," adds Enright. "There are strong westerly winds, and you can sail downwind all the time, which is every sailor's dream. But it's also a quite treacherous part of the world. In the two previous editions of the race, we've experienced both situations. In 2014-15, we were a group of young sailors and finding ourselves leading the fleet near Cape Horn was a magical moment. But in the next edition of the race, our rigging collapsed about 50 miles after rounding Cape Horn. The Southern Ocean can give, and it can also take away."

Paul Meilhat, skipper of the Biotherm, entered The Ocean Race late. The French skipper thought he didn't have much time to gather the kind of experience he wanted on board, but Stage 3 made it easier to convince his IMOCA teammates to join the crew. "When I announced the project and said I was looking for a team, everyone asked to come on board for the third stage. It's the one everyone, the public and journalists, talk about because it's almost half of the race in terms of miles and the longest in the history of this race."

"But we must not forget that we will have 10 scoring legs. This is a big part of the race, but we should not focus only on this stage but also on The Ocean Race as a whole. That's why the most important goal is to reach Itajaí to be able to finish the race."

Two other French skippers are also very aware of its importance in determining the outcome of The Ocean Race in four months. Neither Kevin Escoffier nor Benjamin Dutreux want to take the results of the first two stages for granted. Escoffier and Team Holcim-PRB have a perfect score with victories in two Atlantic legs but don't take their early successes for granted, while Dutreux and GUYOT environnement - Team Europe have finished last in the initial two stages.

Dutreux insists that the ranking does not reflect the level of evenly matched performance across the fleet. After all, GUYOT maintained the lead for much of Stage 2. "I am very happy with the start of the race, although the ranking doesn't show it," said Dutreux, who did not sail in the second stage until Cape Verde. "The ranking is just numbers, and what I feel is that the level of the fleet is very high and very even. We have a great fight with the other boats, and our score is not the best, but I am very happy with the fight and effort we put in, and that is the most important thing. I feel we are making good progress, and I am looking forward to getting back on board and fighting for the 20 percent of the race in this tremendous stage."

Boris Herrmann doesn't hide that his boat has been built with the Southern Ocean in mind. "You can't build a boat that is good for all wind and wave conditions," said the skipper of Team Malizia. "But downwind in strong conditions is what we and (our designers) VPLP designed this boat for. I hope we can take advantage of it in Stage 3 and show that the boat is good for such conditions in the Southern Ocean."

Herrmann also points out that there must be a change of mindset when leaving the Atlantic and heading south. "What we are about to do, I think, is really the most important thing in this edition of The Ocean Race, and it is very different from the other stages. It's almost a different type of navigation or race. In the Atlantic, we may be used to sailing very evenly, to be very focused on performance all the time. But venturing into the Southern Ocean is also a great adventure."

"If we need a rescue, a warship can take 10 days to reach these regions to help us. We are thousands of kilometers from the nearest land. We really are alone."


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