Leg 3 onboard Biotherm. Skipper Paul Meilhat taking down the sailThe Ocean Race 2022-23 - 21 March 2023, Leg 3 onboard Biotherm. Skipper Paul Meilhat packing the sail in the bag © Ronan Gladu
The Ocean Race: from Point Nemo towards Cape Horn
The Ocean Race fleet passed Point Nemo just after 17:30 UTC on Tuesday afternoon, leaving the most remote and isolated place on the ocean in their wake.
It likely didn't feel as isolated as it usually would. All four boats passed the waypoint within a span of 23 minutes and at the head of the fleet, Team Malizia just eked out ahead of Team Holcim PRB to claim bragging rights by a mere 30seconds.
This is not what most race fans expected to see after 23 days and 9,000 miles of racing. It's not exactly what the sailors were anticipating either.
"This morning (local time on board) we marked an important moment in the Pacific Ocean in this race as we passed Point Nemo," said Will Harris on Team Malizia.
"It's bascially the most remote point in the ocean, the furthest place from land. It's actually about 200 miles north of us (but this is the closest we get to it)...
"We're feeling kind of by ourselves, although we've decided to bring some friends with us to Point Nemo. Holcim-PRB is only a couple of miles down here and the whole rest of the fleet is within 10 miles. We expected to be a little bit more remote out here, but that's the way of the racing."
The view from Biotherm was similar but evoked strong memories from skipper Paul Meilhat.
"We just crossed Point Nemo," Meilhat said. "It reminds me of the Vendee Globe in 2016... I was in third position around here when I broke my hydraulic keel ram which meant I needed to retire from the race. It was quite difficult to reach shelter as it is the furthest point from land...But we found a solution in a French Polynesian island. It took me about 8 days to get there. So it's not the best memories for me but now we're crossing it again and we're heading for Cape Horn, about 5 days away."
At 1400 UTC on Tuesday, the fleet remained compact - the spread on the leaderboard from first to fourth was under 10 miles. The boats have now passed the northernmost point of the ice exclusion zone and unsurprisingly are beginning to gybe south again. True wind speed is currently about 20 knots, in waves up to 3-metres.
There is a balance to be struck between here and Cape Horn, measuring up risk and reward. A cold front is approaching from behind with stronger winds and bigger seas. The impact will be more severe further south. The sweet spot will be to find maximum wind with a relatively mild sea state. To the south is a shorter distance to the Horn, and stronger winds, but managing the waves could make staying north a better, faster option.
The ETA at Cape Horn is Sunday evening UTC, and the most likely arrival date in Itajaí, Brazil is 1st April.