The second half of The Ocean Race has opened and GUYOT environnement – Team Europe rushed impatiently into the restart of the world regatta – a little too impatiently. By one second too early, the black yacht of skipper Benjamin Dutreux, who had handed over the tiller to his co-skipper Robert Stanjek for the start, crossed the line. Together with 11th Hour Racing (Charlie Enright, USA), the European team of Dutreux, Stanjek, Annie Lush, Sébastien Simon and onboard reporter Gauthier Lebec had to turn around once more to take up the chase of France’s Biotherm (Paul Meilhat), Germany’s Team Malizia (Will Harris) and Switzerland’s Holcim (Kevin Escoffier).
However, as the Inport part of this leg progressed, GUYOT environnement – Team Europe fought for every metre and eventually left the buoy gate to the open sea in fourth place with contact with Team Malizia in third. “I thought we were top in time but got called back with 11th Hours. That’s very unfortunate. But after that we sailed very well here,” said Robert Stanjek. Benjamin Dutreux agreed: “We had a good comeback after the early start, made good manoeuvres.”
With the start of the fourth leg off the Brazilian port city of Itajaí, the five Imoca teams set course for the northern hemisphere again. And the 5500 nautical miles until the next stopover in Newport/USA offer many obstacles and thus strategic options to shake up the current results tableau with the clear leader Team Holcim (Switzerland) at least a little.
While the previous leg around Antarctica was characterised by low-pressure systems in which the teams raced from west to east at top speed far away from the land masses, there will now be many transitions in the different weather systems on the way north, plus influences from the South and North American continents and different ocean currents that can sometimes be used for support.
At the start in Itajaí, light winds around ten knots prevailed from southern directions. In the coming days, too, light winds are initially expected on the Brazilian coast, which will make it difficult to find the course around the Brazilian capes if there is a counter-current. The Doldrums around the equator can already provide large gaps between the teams before the northern trade winds take over. Then along the coastlines of South and North America, the currents can also be used as support.
Benjamin Dutreux made it clear before the start how attack-minded his team is on this leg: “The strategy is to arrive first in Newport.” However, the 33-year-old made it clear: “There will be many changes on the course. The key will be to stay focused at all times.” A stage duration of 17 to 18 days is expected with an arrival in Newport around 10 May.