..... as they approach the most isolated place on the planet
Image: The Ocean Race onboard Team Holcim - PRB. Skipper Kevin Escoffier on deck. © Julien Champolion | polaRYSE / Holcim - PRB / The Ocean Race
The four IMOCAs charging towards Cape Horn are approaching Point Nemo on Tuesday.
Defined as the most isolated, remote place on earth, Point Nemo is a spot in south Pacific Ocean, 2,688 kilometres from the nearest land. In fact, the closest sign of civilisation is the International Space Station, orbiting just over 400 kilometres above the sailors.
But it is unlikely the crews on The Ocean Race are feeling lonely. To the contrary, the race is as close as one could imagine. After more than three weeks of racing, the spread from first to fourth is still just 10 miles on the race tracker leaderboard, but on Tuesday there is a new leader - Team Malizia.
"It's an historic day today," said skipper Boris Herrmann. "The battle of Point Nemo!! We can see all the boats here through our windows. They are just a few boatlengths away and we're all racing towards Point Nemo. It's amazing to be sailing so close to our friends!"
The crew on long time leader Team Holcim-PRB has come to terms with how the vagaries of the weather has meant a lead of nearly 600 miles has disappeared. But sailor Abby Ehler says they've been prepared to see the rest of the fleet catch them for some time now.
"The writing was on the wall a week ago that the fleet would catch us up so it was only a matter of time, that’s just how the weather systems roll," she wrote. "It’s actually nice to be back in the fleet, it intensifies things and we’re definitely more on guard. Not to say we got lazy, more that it’s harder to benchmark speed and angles when you are flying solo.
"We have another couple of days of moderate downwind conditions and then we’re in for some heavy air downwind sailing... We’ve tried to plot a route around Cape Horn that keeps us in less than 35kts but that has proved impossible so here goes!"
The forecast does get quite aggressive for the rest of the week. Westerly winds build to 35 knots and the sea state - especially further south - is predicted to be over 6 metres.
"The wind will increase - we're expecting 30-40 knots of wind and a big sea state - maybe up to 8 metres," said Paul Meilhat on board Biotherm. "We'll have to manage the routing to avoid the worst and still arrive as fast as we can."
The ETA at Cape Horn remains Sunday night UTC and at the finish in Itajaí, Brazil on April 1/2.