The wind has arrived for leg 3 of The Ocean Race as the five IMOCA teams settle into higher latitudes and begin to criss-cross to the east, hooking into the first big weather system of the leg.
After a day of light winds and adverse current on Monday, the winds will be welcome. But they come with a punishing sea state with seas forecast as high as six metres the further south one dares to venture.
The fleet appear to agree somewhere around latitude 39-degrees south is far enough - you'll see the boats gybing back to the north and then again to the south on the tracker, straddling this parallel of latitude.
"The idea is to find a good way, with good speed and not too much wind or waves," said Biotherm skipper Paul Meilhat. "It will be a long few days in quite raw conditions. We are entering quickly to the south."
"The wind has picked up a lot," is how Robert Stanjek described the conditions on board GUYOT environnement - Team Europe on Tuesday. "We have seen up to 32 knots of wind. We are sailing downwind with the FRO (fractional code zero headsail) and one reef in the mainsail in a little less wind but bigger waves. It is not so easy to drive."
Looking to the weather charts, the fleet is squeezed between the ridge of high pressure they've just crossed and a deep low pressure system, featuring strong winds and big waves, which is pushing up ahead of them from the south and moving with them to the east.
"We have a big low pressure to cross. This system doesn't move very fast, it's almost the same as our speed so we might be with this almost to Australia," said Tom Laperche from on board Team Holcim-PRB. "The wind conditions and the sea state will be hard. We have an option to stay north. If we go south, we will have many hours with wind over 40 knots - a bit too much."
Striking the right balance between speed and safety will be the key on leg 3. It is very unlikely any of the teams will make a winning move during these first days, but an aggressive decision that results in damage could be impossible to recover from, so prudence is likely to be the name of the game.
Image: nboard GUYOT environnement - Team Europe.
© Charles Drapeau / GUYOT environnement - Team Europe