Holcim-PRB, the dominant leader of The Ocean Race, has set a new 24-hour IMOCA record of 595.26 nautical miles

Kevin Escoffier’s Holcim-PRB, the dominant leader of The Ocean Race, has set a new 24-hour IMOCA record by covering a breath-taking 595.26 nautical miles (1102 kms) over Saturday 11-Sunday 12 March. 

This means the crew of Holcim-PRB maintained an average pace of 24.8 knots racing at near 50°S in this long Southern Ocean stage. (The IMOCA record is subject to validation by the World Speed Sailing Record Council).

The previous official IMOCA record was set by Alex Thomson on Hugo Boss in 2018 (solo) at 539.71 miles, while the crew of Charal had smashed out a 558-mule run on the delivery back from the Route du Rhum last December (which couldn’t be ratified).

IMOCA record and maximum points

Escoffier’s Holcim-PRB team was also first through the Tasmanian scoring gate on this Southern Ocean leg. They collect a full five points for passing longitude 143° East at 17:45 (UTC) today, Sunday 12 March.

These maximum points add to Holcim-PRB’s back to back wins in Legs 1 and 2, and puts Escoffier and crew of Abby Ehler, Sam Goodchild and Tom Laperche firmly atop the leaderboard on 15 points.

“The rhythm of these last hours of racing has been set by a big push to the scoring gate and this first set of points for leg 3,” Escoffier said in a French interview.

Happy skipper, happy boat: Kevin Escoffier is leading a successful team on Team Holcim-PRB in The Ocean Race having set a new IMOCA record 24hr run

“We built a big lead early this leg, but the others caught a favourable weather front and there was nearly a re-start a few days ago. But we managed to hold on to a bit of a lead through it all, which we really wanted to keep for the scoring gate.

“Yesterday (Saturday) the sea state was manageable enough that the IMOCA speed records kept falling. For us, we are very happy to get the record even if that wasn’t the goal, but an objective towards the goal of leading at the scoring gate. We keep learning about this boat and finding ways to go faster and faster.”

Although there has been the expected compression across the fleet, and Holcim-PRB’s lead has shrunk from over 600 miles one week ago to just 136 to second-placed Boris Herrmann‘s Malizia today, they remain the boat to beat.

Rudder damage for 11th Hour Racing

The challenge for the chasing pack is how hard to push in order to stay in touch, and how much they need to nurse their boats in order to avoid exacerbating any damage.

Malizia had to make significant rig repairs last week, and is now racing within sight of 11th Hour Racing, who has reported potentially serious rudder issues.

Charlie Enright’s crew on 11th Hour Racing discovered cracking to both their port and starboard rudders, while the boat carries only one spare.

After crew member Jack Bouttell ground back some layers of carbon, one was discovered to have more seriously delaminated, leading Bouttell to describe it as ‘a write off’ in a video put out by the team, while the other appears to have more superficial cracking in the outer wrapping layers of laminate.

Jack Bouttell and team mates checking the extent of rudder damage onboard 11th Hour Racing Team

The crew have replaced the starboard rudder, now the active rudder, with the spare, and marked the port one to monitor if the cracking worsens.

11th Hour Racing navigator Simon Fisher explained how two days of back-to-back repairs for the crew would have a knock-on effect on their tactical choices. 

“We find ourselves in quite a difficult situation today. Obviously as a result of having to slow down for sail repairs [yesterday] we’re a little more exposed than the rest of the fleet to the ridge of high pressure behind which caught us up this morning And then obviously the slow down to replace the starboard rudder with our spare one [puts us closer to the light winds].

“We’re very much at the risk of being a system back.”

Super-close racing in The Ocean Race. Photo taken from Team Malizia on March 12 2023, as they overtake 11th Hour Racing Team at around 50°S in the Indian Ocean

So close are the chasing pack, that the crews have been able to clearly observe their rivals’ set-ups and who is fastest in which conditions.

“After working our way through Biotherm last night it was Malizia’s turn to do the same to us this afternoon,” wrote 11th Hour Racing media crew member Amory Ross on Sunday.

“They seem to be able to carry more sail and keep their bow up, presumably with the shape of their hull, and while we struggled in the waves to keep from nosediving they were able to sail at the same speed but lower.

“We watched as they sailed down to us, around our bow, and then continued on in a more southerly direction.”

Biotherm in 4th

Biotherm is currently around 70 miles back in 4th, having dropped behind and to the south of the chasing pair over the course of today. While Biotherm have not reported any serious reason for any slowdown, crew member Sam Davies did reveal that they’ve also been making some running repairs.

Grey Southern Ocean days and high speeds in Leg 3 onboard Biotherm

“Finally the conditions are more stable, the wind is coming from the North and it is much less cold,” she posted this evening. 

“We are recovering the energy lost in the last difficult days. The boat gave us a few surprises and we had to repair several small pieces of equipment. Nothing serious, but it’s draining our energy to be on deck in the cold and we’re missing precious hours of sleep.”

The fleet still has 7,500 miles to go until the finish in Itajai, Brazil.

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