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The Fleet Moves Into The Northern Hemisphere

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  • The Fleet Moves Into The Northern Hemisphere

    Game on - as close as it gets at the Equator

    Just a couple of minutes separated Team Malizia and 11th Hour Racing Team at the equator crossing while Biotherm closes it up

    This edition of The Ocean Race has offered extremely close racing on each of the legs. Although Team Holcim-PRB had stretched to a convincing margin on the overall race leaderboard by winning three of four scoring opportunities, the margin of victory each time was relatively small.

    Leg 4 is showing once again how close the IMOCAs can be in fully crewed racing configuration.

    On Monday night, Team Malizia led the fleet back into the northern hemisphere, crossing the equator at 19:39:57 UTC. Just over two-minutes later it was 11th Hour Racing Team (19:42:00 UTC).

    Biotherm followed three hours further back - 22:44:18 UTC - but has since closed up the distance considerably. On the 06:00 UTC tracker update this morning, Paul Meilhat's boat was just 8.5 miles back.

    The fourth boat racing north is GUYOT environnement - Team Europe. They're yet to reach the equator, but have reeled in nearly 30 miles over the past day.


    Skipper Kevin Escoffier stepped off his jury-rigged boat in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday afternoon local time and announced Team Holcim-PRB would abandon Leg 4 to focus on being able to rejoin the race in time for the transatlantic leg from Newport to Aarhus.

    The team had dismasted on Thursday, the fourth day of Leg 4 and has been sailing slowly towards Rio ever since.

    The transatlantic Leg 5 of The Ocean Race is a double-points scoring leg and Escoffier says the team must focus on being ready for this to maintain a chance at winning the overall race. Team Holcim-PRB sits atop the overall leaderboard.

    "It's a very difficult decision to make, but common sense prevails," Escoffier said. "Since our dismasting, the whole team has been totally focused on finding the best solutions so that we can get back into the competition in a solid way. Starting again on this fourth leg would allow us to take a point, but not to arrive in time to line up at the start of the next leg in Newport.

    "But the sporting stakes of the fifth leg are very high and we want to be able to present ourselves at our best level for this leg which will count double. We are definitely still aiming for victory on this round the world race and in this perspective, this is the best decision we can make," he concluded.

    With the assistance of GAC Pindar, the official logistics provider of The Ocean Race, Team Holcim-PRB has worked through numerous options to get a mast from Europe to the boat in either Rio or Newport. Today, the team decided Newport was the most realistic option.

    In a statement, Team Holcim-PRB said its shore team members, with the help of the sailors, will prepare the IMOCA boat to be loaded onto a cargo ship that could set off as early as Tuesday to head for Newport. It will take about 16 days at sea to reach the American port. At the same time, on the other side of the Atlantic the mast will be loaded onto another cargo ship. The crossing will last seven days and the mast could be unloaded between May 9 and 10 in Newport.

    According to the team, in the best case scenario Holcim-PRB will be in Newport on May 18. The team will then have just over 48 hours to rig the boat and finish preparing it for the return trip to Europe.

    "I know that everyone is very mobilised and united so that we can be in Newport on time," Escoffier said. "I have complete confidence in my team to meet this collective challenge.

    "We are receiving a lot of messages of support and this is a great boost. Our partners are also fully behind us and, like us, are showing incredible determination.

    "I only have one desire, to continue this magical race. In Newport, at the start of the fifth leg, it is possible that we will still be in the lead of the general classification. Mechanical breakdown is part of our sport, we accept it. The next leg will be decisive for the rest of the race and we are looking forward to giving our best as we have done so far."

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