As the fleet races towards the scoring gate, records are being set...
Image: Port aft wide shot of Team Holcim-PRB. © Julien Champolion | polaRYSE / Holcim - PRB
It's been a record breaking day in The Ocean Race as the four IMOCAs racing through the south are pressing hard to gain position - and points - at the leg 3 scoring gate.
Conditions have certainly been favourable for making big mileage - long hours of daylight, a near perfect wind angle and speed (around 25 knots), and relatively flat water compared to normal Roaring 40s conditions.
At the start of this leg, the fully crewed 24-hour distance record for an IMOCA (officially ratified) was 539.71 nautical miles. Earlier this leg, 11th Hour Racing Team raised the stakes with a 544.63 mile day.
But overnight Friday night and into Saturday morning, those marks have been obliterated by the entire fleet. All four boats have posted more than 572 miles in a 24-hour period.
11th Hour Racing Team set an early marker of 582 miles (and climbing), but on Saturday at 1240 UTC Team Holcim-PRB posted what appears to be the new standard at 588.71 nautical miles, although conditions are still favourable and there is a chance this could be pushed higher still.
(Note: all mileage numbers from this edition of The Ocean Race are from Race Control and subject to ratification from the World Speed Sailing Record Council)
All of this comes as the fleet closes in on the leg 3 scoring gate at 143-degrees east longitude where a full complement of scoring points are on offer and leg leader Kevin Escoffier on Team Holcim-PRB is hoping to continue his perfect mark on the points table.
His lead has diminished massively - down from over 600 miles less than a week ago to just over 130 miles this afternoon, but this number has stabilised over the past 24 hours as the team finds its pace.
"The 0400 UTC position report has just come in... We've been kind of short on speed over the last few position reports so we've been doing our best to find the next gear and match the other boats," said Abby Ehler from a loud and fast Holcim-PRB boat.
"Now we just had a really good report and we're almost 2-3 knots faster over the last hour so that's good miles gained there."
Behind the leaders, Paul Meilhat's Biotherm crew appear to be significantly less secure in second place than they were on Friday. The chasing trio, which they still lead, have compressed to the point where they are separated by just 15 miles. There won't be much sleep for those crews between now and the gate as every advantage will need to be pressed to maximise potential points.
Team Malizia has been battling to fix an issue where their J3 sail connects to the foredeck - this is important not just to utilise the sail, but as a loadbearing support for the mast. But judging from their speeds, they are not holding back.
The ETA at the scoring gate is now Sunday evening UTC