A day after leaving Cascais, Portugal on the second leg of The Ocean Race Europe, this afternoon the race’s 12-boat fleet battled fierce headwinds in the Gibraltar Strait – the narrow and congested waterway dividing mainland Europe from north Africa – on their way to Alicante, Spain.
One of busiest commercial shipping routes in the world, the Gibraltar Strait marks the crews’ transition from the vast expanses of the Atlantic Ocean to the enclosed waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
As expected, strong easterly headwinds gusting over 40 knots made for brutal conditions for The Ocean Race Europe yachts for the three-hour Gibraltar Strait passage.
The five IMOCA and seven VO65 crews had made short work of the opening stage of leg two. They enjoyed mostly fast downwind conditions on their way south along the Portuguese coast to Cape St. Vincent, before they turned southeast overnight and this morning began to feel the effects of easterly headwinds flowing from the Mediterranean on the beat across the Gulf of Cadiz.
Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team (POR), skippered by France’s Yoann Richomme, made much of the early running among the VO65s during the first night at sea on leg two. Richomme’s international crew of men and women led until around 40 nautical miles (nm) / 74 kilometres (km) from the Moroccan coast where they ceded the lead to Sailing Poland, led by Bouwe Bekking (NED).
Second Leg of The Ocean Race Europe, from Cascais, Portugal, to Alicante, Spain.
© Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race
“We are in the Strait of Gibraltar and are actually on the Moroccan coast and currently Sailing Poland is in the lead so that’s quite nice but it has been very, very windy,” Bekking said on Monday afternoon.
“We saw up to 46 knots. Right now the breeze is going down a little bit but it is still a stiff 30 knots. Battling with Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team just behind us and then the IMOCA LinkedOut is just a little bit further offshore and AkzoNobel Ocean Racing has crossed to the other side so we have to see how it is all panning out in the next 10-12 hours.”
Ever since leaving Cascais on the second leg, two French teams – Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut and Louis Burton’s Bureau Vallée – had engaged in a fascinating downwind match race at the front of the IMOCA 60 class.
The pair had never been more than a few miles apart until, as they tacked north close to the coast of Morocco, a problem on board Bureau Vallée dropped them back behind Robert Stanjek’s non-foiling Offshore Team Germany (GER), and Nicolas Troussel’s CORUM L' Epargne (FRA).
“We’ve got 38 knots of wind which is a bit over the top,” said Clarisse Cremer from on board LinkedOut. “But it doesn’t matter because we are going a bit faster, doing many, many tacks between Spain and the African coast, a tack every ten and fifteen minutes, so everybody is up on the deck. We want to go as fast as possible which is a bit tiring as nobody is able to have a nap or anything because we have to be as efficient as possible.”