Today at 20H54 hours UTC  the Franco-Japanese crew of MILAI Around The World was first across the leg 5 finish line at the entrance to the Beagle Channel, which leads to the Argentinean town of Ushuaia. Hours earlier, Masa Suzuki and Estelle Greck were also first to reach the legendary Cape Horn at 09:36 UTC, where wind conditions were very calm. MILAI utterly dominated the last two weeks of this 4,500-mile leg, with a long stretch of downwind sailing in an established breeze, punctuated by a series of low-pressure systems. Over the coming hours, it will likely be confirmed that the current ranking will earn MILAI second place in the overall ranking, with SEC HAYAI set to remain at the top of the leader board just one-point ahead. As a result, there is still everything to play for in the next few legs as the fleet climb back up the Atlantic.

Papeete – Ushuaia, an unprecedented leg

The 4682 miles covered by MILAI in this latest leg required a sea passage of 19 days and 19 hours at an average speed of 9,84 knots. Setting sail from Papeete on 26 November 2022, the competitors initially had to contend with a week of light to medium winds as they dropped due south in search of the strong  west winds reminiscent of the lower latitudes. Over the course of that first week, the hierarchy was constantly shifting according to the tactics in play, everyone alternating between first and last place. The arrival of the strong breeze at around 35° South heralded the start of a new phase, which MILAI Around The World clearly excelled at, constantly posting higher speeds than their rivals to finish some 80 miles ahead of second placed SEC HAYAI at the finish. Quite the achievement in view of the multiple rips in their sails and the long days spent sewing them back together for a temporary fix.

It’s a leg which saw the crews set sail from Tahiti and the shores of French Polynesia at 18° South and make landfall in Tierra del Fuego at 55° South, which is a stark contrast to say the least. SEC HAYAI will likely cross the finish line around a hundred miles or so in MILAI’s wake, whilst the other competitors, AMHAS, WHISKEY JACK and GRYPHON SOLO2 are some 300 to 500 miles astern of the leader and due to make landfall in Ushuaia over the weekend and through into next Monday. This 2 or 3-day deficit is still very short when you take into account the overall distance covered so far, proving once again that the competitive spirit in this event is very much alive and kicking.

The southern latitudes and the Horn: an initiatory voyage

The GLOBE40 fleet had already dropped down to the lower latitudes of around 40° South as they rounded the tip of South Africa and entered the Indian Ocean, before later closing on Australia. However, the duration was considerably shorter and, in this latest leg, the GLOBE40 skippers have really tapped into what sparks the imagination and creates a gripping narrative for great offshore racers through the exhilaration of long days slipping along and the sense of limitlessness in these vast, deserted marine spaces, which stretch out to infinity. For every one of the crews, it will be a memorable leg in their journey around the globe and in their personal careers, each of them caught up in the wonders of this latest experience, amidst a chilly backdrop coloured by the anxiety of the fiercest depressions barrelling through and by the fear of damage in such a remote part of the world. They have certainly had more than their fair share of depressions too with winds regularly reaching 50 knots. However, with most of the skippers having clocked up some 20,000 miles since June, they can take great comfort in the fact that they can now tackle a leg like this with the confidence and skill that comes with experience.

Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia: the GLOBE40 prepares to make its return to the Atlantic.

Though the competitors in the Vendee Globe or The Ocean Race have occasionally had to be make a pit stop in Ushuaia after suffering damage, this is the first time that TIERRA DEL FUEGO has played host to a round the world yacht race as an official stopover. Over the 70-mile passage between the official finish line and the port of Ushuaia, it is sure to offer the skippers a superb natural spectacle amidst snow-capped mountains and the abundance of marine fauna in the Beagle Channel, in the wilds of Patagonia, which is a haven for trekking in the summer and skiing in the winter. Measuring some 2 to 3 miles wide, the Beagle Channel links the Atlantic and the Pacific and connects the waters of Argentina and Chile, as well as attracting many visitors keen to cruise the Antarctic under sail and under engine. For the event organisers, this leg is also a very key moment in the race as it marks the end of the course through the Southern Ocean and the start of the climb back up the Atlantic.

As such, Sunday’s final match, ARGENTINA v FRANCE in the football World Cup will only add to the ambiance in Ushuaia!!

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