At 05:20:28 UTC on April 2, in Itajaí, Brazil, Team Malizia—Boris Herrmann, Will Harris, Nico Lunven, Rosalin Kuiper and onboard reporter Antoine Auriol—glided across the finish line off Ocean Live Park to win Leg 3 of The Ocean Race, collecting 5 points in the process. The win comes on the 35th day of racing and after 14,714 nautical miles of intense, close-quarters racing.
Early in the leg, it didn’t appear likely that we would see Team Malizia at the front of the fleet for the finish. Within days of the start in Cape Town the team discovered serious damage to the top of their mast and needed to devote nearly two full days to effecting difficult repairs at sea, with an uncertain result.
Meanwhile, Team Holcim-PRB had escaped from the rest of the fleet and was a full weather system and nearly 600 miles ahead. On board Malizia, the makeshift reinforcement of the top of the spar was successful and the chase was on.
By the time the teams reached the Leg 3 scoring gate, Malizia had closed to less than 200 miles from Holcim-PRB, moving up into second place and collecting 4 points.
As the fleet raced south of New Zealand and into the southern depths of the Pacific Ocean, the game closed up significantly within 10 miles and exchanging the lead one to the other as they raced along the ice exclusion zone.
During one of the worst periods of the leg, with the boat lurching a violent sea state, Rosalin Kuiper was tossed from her bunk and suffered a head injury. With a focus on getting Rosie stabilized and recovering, the crew was taxed even more, down to a three-person watch rotation for the rest of the leg.
A day out from Cape Horn and Team Malizia had a narrow advantage of less than 30 miles, leading the fleet around the iconic passage and winning the Roaring Forties trophy in the process.
The final push north was hard-fought. Team Holcim-PRB and Team Malizia were racing within in sight of each other – exchanging body blows all the way up the South American coast.
The penultimate night – Friday night – was a battle through yet another fierce storm, with gusts of 50 knots screaming off the coast and whipping up the sea. Boris Herrmann and his crew on Team Malizia handled the conditions with aplomb, and emerged into the daybreak with a 60-mile lead after Holcim-PRB did a crash jibe overnight and suffered damage. This was the largest lead any team had enjoyed since New Zealand.
On the last day of the leg and into the final night at sea Team Malizia sailed fast and confident towards the finishing line, extending its lead to more than 80 miles and taking an historic win.
“Dreaming of doing The Ocean Race, and this amazing leg through the Southern Ocean, finishing it after all the trouble we had early on, and winning is amazing,” Herrmann said. “Four weeks ago, if I had been told ‘Repair your mast because you might win this leg’ I would have not believed it and said that’s not possible, we are too far behind and can’t push the boat anymore. But it worked out beyond our expectations.”
In fact, on the first days of Leg 3, it appeared as if the early race dominance of Kevin Escoffier’s Team Holcim-PRB was going to be repeated over the longest Leg in the history of The Ocean Race.
Escoffier and his team were aggressive from the start gun for Leg 3 and eased away in tricky conditions to build a lead that would put them a full weather system and nearly 600 miles ahead.
But in doing so, they bumped up against a ridge of high pressure and very light winds that wouldn’t let them pass. The trailing boats made back nearly all the miles.
“We saw quite early this was likely to happen,” Escoffier said dockside after securing second place. “But we kept pushing and pushing because we knew that getting out early could be important, especially for the scoring gate.”
As it turned out Team Holcim-PRB would score the maximum points at the gate, to remain perfect. But the rest of the fleet was back in touch and the lead would change often on the race to Cape Horn, where Malizia led, and again up into the south Atlantic.
For Escoffier, the points gained on this Leg solidify his position at the top of the leaderboard.
“We always said at the start of this leg that the first job is to get to Itajaí with the crew and the boat in good shape and we have done this,” he said. “To also get 9 out of 10 points for the leg is very good of course and sets us up well for the rest of the race.”