As the crew races from Itajaí, Brazil to our home port of Newport, Rhode Island USA, we’re onboard with Amory Ross, our Media Crew Member, with live updates from the boat!

Don’t forget you can track the fleet here.

📅 MONDAY May 8, 2023
🕒 1800 UTC

The forecast is for winds gusting near 50 knots as the leaders approach their penultimate night at sea on leg 4… [read the full article about the conditions on The Ocean Race website here] which explains how the final days of Leg 4 will see the fleet experience the strongest winds from the entire race.

The below isn’t in the format of Amory’s usual polished blog (as you might notice!), instead it’s taken from a series of texts back and forth with the boat describing the conditions and life onboard. It’s going to be a tough 12 hours… 

The ETA to Newport remains Wednesday May 10.

✍️ Onboard update from Amory Ross:

It’s nuts out here.

Our arrival at the Gulf Stream was unfortunately met with 35 knots. It’s a miserable combination and one that took us and the boat to the red line in an instant.

There is no question these are boat-breaking conditions. Made worse by the fact that the longer you linger, the worse they get. So we are under some pressure to get out of the path of this low that is only going to intensify.

And the only way to get out of its path is to run… headfirst into a growing and confused sea state, typical of the northeast-flowing Gulf Stream. We’re slamming straight into breaking waves at 26 knots. You are never more alert than in times like these. It’s violent seated, violent standing, violent on your knees!

To be honest, it’s a bit terrifying at the moment. Under three reefs and J3, there’s very little left we can do to de-power. We have to sit tight.

Six more hours of this before the front passes to our south, and we’re over the hump. Next in its path is Biotherm and Guyot environnment – Team Europe, who will probably see worse than us. Fingers and toes crossed that everyone manages the conditions and gets to Newport, 800 long miles away, safe and sound.

This leg has saved its very worst for last!

Ps. iPhone shots only until things calm down

📅 SATURDAY May 6, 2023
🕒 1300 UTC

Reading Amory’s blog below, and watching Si Fi’s video from Thursday, there is definitely a sense of confidence onboard that, despite the constant lead changes with Team Malizia, the team rest assured that when the time to ‘hammer down’ comes, Mālama won’t disappoint in these conditions. 

✍️ Onboard update from Amory Ross:

We have found ourselves quite literally in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. For a moment there we were equidistant from Morocco and Rhode Island, which is the product of a confused, disorganized North Atlantic weather picture and routes that have taken us to the only region of predictable winds. Since Recife and the easternmost tip of Brazil we have mostly been sailing north. Side note: I am often surprised just how far east South America is compared to North America!

After a tough day of losing the lead to Malizia, positioned well to our east, yesterday was a feel good bounce back day. We gybed in the early morning hours and finally began making tracks west, at first seven miles to windward and a few miles behind, and at last, 9 miles ahead, they’re distant sails directly behind. It was exciting to be back in the lead and to have gotten there by sailing the boat to its strengths. We know by now our boats are different, and we will each have our moments between now and Newport. But to have the confidence in knowing that when the time is ours we can capitalize – that is great.

Not that we were ever comfortable with the lead going in to last night but, as expected, everything got turned inside out and upside down by the center of the low. There was rain, lots of drifting and a good amount of going fast, too, but we were both all over the map. It easily could have been another lead change. Positivity prevailed and we emerged closer to each other but largely unscathed.

This morning we’ve gone back to work, slowly trying to regain the buffer we ended the day with. It will be upwind for much of the next few days, a condition that probably suits us, before downwind sailing in to the finish, that probably suits them! If there is one thing we’ve learned so far this leg though it’s that the weather is doing its own thing… we left Brazil thinking it was going to be an ‘easy’ leg with winds mostly in the low teens; the models had a relatively direct course and less than ten hours in 20-plus knots (which lines up with my recollection of this course). Instead, we have probably averaged twenty knots of wind and ended up all the way out here.

At times, the computer has wanted us to go north to Newfoundland and then south down the coast of Maine. At times it’s asked us to go straight up the coast off Carolina. So… moral of the story – we are ready for anything and everything! With Malizia constantly in sight for most of the leg we know we’ve got a dogfight on our hands and are excited for the final stage: the Bermuda high, Gulf Stream transit, and sprint to the Newport finish just five or so days away.

The Ocean Race 2022-23 – May 05 2023, Leg 4 onboard 11th Hour Racing Team. Charlie Enright and Francesca Clapcich re-stacking the interior.

📅 THURsday May 4, 2023
🕒 1400 UTC

It’s time to ‘pick your poison’ according to Simon Fisher. As the team clear the Southern Hemisphere and head north, the insufferable heat begins to subside but with the cooler air comes a rougher sea state – meaning the crew are back to being thrown around Mālama all hours of the day. “Things are getting a little more bearable onboard temperature wise, it’s fast sailing but the sea state is getting gradually worse. We’re happy pushing forward at between 20-25 knots,we’ve had a good battle with Team Malizia who are currently a few miles behind, we’re still waiting for the exact moment to go full throttle – it’s a case of cashing your chips at the right time!” 

Once again, all eyes are on Newport, despite having led the fleet for the majority of this leg, there’s 1,900 nautical miles to go and that means pretty much anything can happen. As Amory explains in his blog below, the history of the race arriving into Newport, Rhode Island, has seen some of the tightest finishes in its history. At this point, it’s too early to tell but one thing is for sure… we have a very determined crew.

✍️ Onboard update from Amory Ross:

The northeast tradewinds continue to push us into the heart of the Atlantic at pace. Malama has always performed well “two-sail” reaching (meaning just jib and main) in 20-plus knot winds. We’ve tried to push hard and capitalize on that sweet spot to build a decent buffer between us and the more downwind-oriented Malizia, 20 miles away to the southeast. As we enter the northern limits of the trades this breeze will fade and lift, until we end up downwind on our big A3 with 400 miles or so to the first gybe of the leg.

In the softening winds overnight our lead over Malizia, still in the pressure to the east, has dwindled. We are happy with our westerly position going into the gybe, they should end up pointing at us after the gybe, but would have preferred they not only be east, but south, too! We are hopeful they start sailing in the same conditions we have soon though, because they’re still faster than us every sched.

It’s the reality of being first north. It was always going to ease for us first. Maybe there’s some difference in sea state, too, that’s allowing them to carry the speed as we start pushing water. We can’t be sure. What we do know is we are still in a strong position and the North Atlantic gets tricky after the gybe. The weather models are still messy. No lead will be safe, for anyone, from here to the tip of Fort Adams, so we have to keep looking forward and ahead for the next opportunity, and then the next, and so on.

This leg will be a battle until the very last minute. It always has been. The prior two races to Newport have seen the leaderboard totally reshuffle in the final hour, even the final minutes. We have to keep pushing to make sure we are there for when that happens. What today, or tomorrow, brings, we’ll we can’t get too up or too down. The most important thing is how we respond to the losses and continue looking for the gains!

Otherwise, life onboard is gradually improving. Temps have started coming down. The chocolate snacks in the galley are finally more solid than liquid and down below is again bearable. Soon enough we’ll be in thermals, begggging for the tropics, crunchy, frozen chocolate and all!

The Ocean Race 2022-23 – May 01 2023, Leg 4 onboard 11th Hour Racing Team. Charlie Enright and Damian Foxall look at the wind field to weather, made trickier by the clouds.

📅 Wednesday May 3, 2023
🕒 1600 UTC

After crossing the Equator just 2 minutes and 3 seconds after Team Malizia, 11th Hour Racing Team has regained first place, leading the fleet through a relatively non-existent Doldrums – which is all good when you’re leading but no doubt those at the back of the fleet might have been hoping for a park-up! 

Meanwhile, the dog fight with Team Malizia continues as both teams push out into the Atlantic passing the mouth of the Amazon River, at times so close to each other on the tracker, they appear as just one boat. Speaking of the Amazon River Exclusion Zone, keep an eye out for a story we’ll have coming out later today. For now though, here’s the latest from Mālama…

✍️ Onboard update from Amory Ross:

Day Ten sees us firmly into the northeast tradewinds, reaching along in 19 knots of wind and relatively calm seas. The transition from the southeast tradewinds through the doldrums, across the equator and into the Atlantic all happened very quickly and without much notice.

It’s easy to lump all Doldrums crossings into the same category, but they grow and shrink all the time and get gradually narrower as you go west across the Atlantic. It’s why, during Leg 2 to Cape Town, there was such a push across the fleet to get west. The biggest tell of all that we were in the vicinity of the doldrums was the presence of the towering cumulus. These huge clouds grow and expire in a rapid state, often dictating your days of chasing their winds – or more often – running from their rain.

With Malizia by our side, in the land of these giants, we spent the better part of two days see-sawing back and forth, hemming and hawing, usually the result of finding ourselves on opposite sides of clouds between us. There was always a momentary winner and loser, but the rubber band would spring back and we’d reset for the next round. Somewhere in the midst of the close combat sparring we crossed the Equator, an occasion that we nearly missed onboard; there had hardly been time to monitor our position.

We forgot Neptune’s rum, so in lieu of the traditional offering Si Fi donated a spoon of his best chicken from dinner. Quite generous really, given the scarcity of big, solid chunks of meat in the ho-hum landscape of freeze dried food, but we figured maybe the king’s tired of sailors’ rum anyway! Our play to his stomach instead of his liver seems to be working for the time being; ever since entering the north we’ve had consistent winds and a generously flat sea state. Malama enjoys these conditions and we have been able to gradually add some miles between us and the rest of the fleet.

Now all eyes look to Newport and the North Atlantic, which, as it relates to wind, is mess. The routing software can’t figure out what to do and every run spits out a different path. Some go into the middle of the Atlantic and then go due west. Some go up the coast of South America, south and west of all the Caribbean, up past Puerto Rico to Florida and north from there. Very few go in between, which is the more historical trajectory. The cold water in the north this time of year contains far less energy then during the summer and fall (autumn?) months, so there is far less oomph to the wind generation. You need low pressure systems to start the engine and right now, that picture is bleak. So, we’re kind of speeding towards the unknown at the moment. I think we have to hedge towards the finish and as we get closer and the weather models get more accurate, the picture will inevitably come into focus.

Until then, it’s about eeking all the speed we can out of these tradewinds with fastest angles and best speeds north!

The Ocean Race 2022-23 – May 01 2023, Leg 4 onboard 11th Hour Racing Team. Charlie Enright on deck at sunset, pleased at having gone over the equator and being back in the Northern Hemisphere.

📅 SUNDAY APRIL 30, 2023
🕒 1400 UTC

As of 1400 on Sunday, 11th Hour Racing Team is narrowly holding on to its lead over Team Malizia, have traded places earlier today.

✍️ Onboard update from Amory Ross:

Our mini-doldrums episode and the light, shifty winds now behind us, the quest for the strong southeast tradewinds begins. We’re starting to feel the first influences of its potential as I write this with boatspeeds in the mid-twenties for the first time this leg. After five or six days of upwind sailing, it will feel nice to ease the sheets and spend our time going fast forward for a change! If only we could roll down the windows and let all that apparent wind inside because with the speed comes the water and the front hatch is now closed. It’s stifling inside.

That’s one constant topic of conversation with these boats: ventilation and airflow. It worked FOR us in the south, where it was substantially warmer inside than out, but it’s working against us now… it’s way too hot inside, and there’s no way to avoid it. You could cut the corner off a chocolate bar wrapper and spread it like icing.

On the previous boats you’d be standing outside, basking in the fresh air. Sure, you’d be in the sun, but the wind would keep you cool. Now, we are inside and with no wind, and the air is so, so hot and so, so humid. Everything is damp. I had to sacrifice the electrolyte tab sleeve for a sail-stitch needle holder and the electrolytes, meant to be dropped in water, started fizzing in the air; it’s that humid. What’s worse is we are sitting all the time, so the back of the thighs and the derrieres are red with rashes. There’s the added complication of infection during these tropical legs that we need to be really vigilant in monitoring. Itches get scratched and turn into open wounds that can turn into infected problems.

Heat aside, the boat has been happy! It was designed with these conditions in mind and seems to be enjoying itself, as is the group onboard. We’ve shown good speed and feel confident with the mountain of work that the tech team did during the Itajaí stopover, confident enough to push if we need to as the winds begin to build. Malizia is 10 miles away to the east and we know they’re feeling the same way. With Recife and the corner of Brazil fast approaching, it feels like the first checkpoint of this leg will soon be upon us, which is exciting. We want to be first, and we know we can be! But you have to be fast to be first and – just in – a good sched. Onwards and upwards…

🕒 1800 UTC

Three days into Leg 4 of The Ocean Race and it’s uncomfortable, upwind sailing onboard Mālama as the crew tack their up on the western edge of the oil field exclusion zone, through very localised wind conditions. The team is currently lying in second position, just 1.6nm behind leaders Holcim-PRB to the north east.

The exclusion zone – a no-go area for the racing boats – is one of four types of exclusion zones to be negotiated in this leg of the race. They have been implemented by race control around the three oil fields due to the high level of hazards (or marine traffic); next will be an area with high levels of protected marine life – specifically the Abrolhos Bank – a whale breeding ground; as they approach the NE coast of Brazil there is a long exclusion zone to keep the boats away from the debris that comes out of the Amazon River Delta; and finally there is an exclusion zone on the approach to Rhode Island due to the designated shipping lanes.

✍️ Onboard update from Amory Ross:

The tug of war between solid boatspeed and sound tactics wages on. That balance sometimes feels tipped one way or another but the pendulum continues to swing back and forth well into the third day. Sometimes it seems the fastest boat is winning, sometimes it seems the smartest boat is winning. Being fast AND smart is of course the goal, but a complicated coastline brings a diurnal affect of mid-day and mid-night winds, and the south-running continental current creates a boundary you’d be brave to break through alone. Changing modes in the changing winds is an endless task, and nailing every shift and obstacle is as much a game of luck as skill, but we are doing a good enough job at both to be right at the front of the fleet with Holcim less than a mile away to leeward.

The wind and waves have subsided which is making life onboard a little more pleasant! With the long Southern Ocean leg we avoided the upwind diversion towards Asia, and boy did we forget what going upwind on these boats is like… ouch. The flatter seas and calm 10-15 knot winds are very much appreciated by all, as are the clear skies. With no squalls in sight, everyone is finally settling in to a more routine watch schedule of four on and four off.

Now that we are committed to the inside lane west of the oil exclusion zone, we’ll next have to decide how and where to approach the Abrolhos archipelago and Marine National Park exclusion zone, 285 nm away. It’s not insignificant in scale and will force us 150 nm offshore at some point, but not yet. For the immediate future the pendulum swings hard in favor of boatspeed, where we’re currently in a match with Holcim. Once north of the oil fields and the course opens up again, the chance for leverage returns. Who knows who will roll the dice and how far they throw them! With our overall point deficit top of mind we seem to have defaulted to being more bold than not… I’m excited to see where that takes us!

The Ocean Race 2022-23 – 24 April 2023, Leg 4 onboard 11th Hour Racing Team. Charlie Enright considers the latest sched while Damian Foxall drives in the bubble.

📅 tuesday april 25, 2023
🕒 2000 UTC

It’s inconsistent conditions for the team right now and although they are leading the fleet, Team Holcim – PRB are hot on their tail. To quote Amory Ross ‘it’s hard to know if you’re doing the right thing, because no one is doing the same thing!’ At the moment it’s looking like a game of snakes and ladders to the Doldrums where, as always, we can expect to see a – no doubt stressful – compression of the fleet. But for now, as we let the racing play out, we rest assured knowing we have a not-so-secret weapon in Si Fi, who has done this leg 6 times now.

✍️ Onboard update from Amory Ross: 

The dark clouds have been rolling by for most of the last 24 hours, some to our left, some to our right, and some right overhead. On the downside – they bring instability and inconsistent winds. Conditions are always changing and it’s hard to know whether you’re doing the right thing because nobody is doing the same thing. There are no “relatives” to compare with the competition. But on the upside – they bring loads of opportunity! Lots of shifts can turn into gains as quickly losses and if you string a few good clouds together you can get a real boost.

We’ve used what we’ve been given to hammer home our desire to protect the east. We have made a concerted effort to step out to the right of the fleet – something we said we wanted to do right from the start – and it has been working well lately. We are directly upwind of our frienimies and sailing right on our optimal routing. The weather we are seeing outside and the weather the computer is telling us we should have are in agreement, and that has been a rarity so far this leg.

Life onboard is still somewhat unsettled, though. Between the intensity of a leg start and a very busy few days of shifty wind and endless maneuvers, not to mention re-adjusting to the motion of upwind sailing, it hasn’t felt like we’ve gotten into much of a rhythm yet. All five of us have been up for a good chunk of the time, which as nice as it is to be social does not do wonders for sleep! With 12 hours of 15-20 knots in front of us the upwind slamming will certainly continue, but everyone’s hopeful that it will at least settle in abut so we can do the same!

The Ocean Race 2022-23 – 24 April 2023, Leg 4 onboard 11th Hour Racing Team. Simon Fisher sitting on the new bean bag, able to nap but ready to help in the cockpit at a moments notice.

📅 monday april 24, 2023
🕒 1700 UTC

Here we go again! As the team’s set off for the 5,550 nautical mile leg from Itajaí to Newport, Rhode Island, there is excitement in the air as the five onboard Mālama get settled into their offshore routines…

✍️ Onboard update from Amory Ross: 

It’s day number one of Leg 4 onboard Mālama and I can easily speak for everyone when I say that it’s good to be back! For the three of us carrying on from the long trip around the South it is a drastic change of scenery, 11 knots upwind in flat water, and for the two new bodies onboard in Francesca and Damian, there is loads of fresh energy and an obvious enthusiasm to make a difference straight away. We are all thrilled to be sailing to Newport, a destination where this race very much feels at home, but I’d be remiss not to mention how great of a time in Brazil was had by all. For as knowledgeable and passionate as people in Newport are for sailing and especially for this race, Brazil is equally as excited about “sport,” in general. They embrace the Ocean Race family and have done so since 2011, and the arrivals and departures are always really rowdy and loud with great attendance and fanfare! Yesterday was no exception. We all felt a little like Neymar…

After a tough call at the start of the race that had us flagged “over early,” our inshore lap was done mostly in isolation, but at least, with 5500 nautical miles to go, that also meant it was uneventful, and gave us a chance to ease into the leg and allowed Si Fi to focus on the first few decisions to make once offshore. Sailing north with the fleet on starboard tack we showed promising boatspeed and clawed back to the leaders. A few big rain clouds shuffled the wind field and we began to struggle inshore to the west. With the first few signs of a persistent header early this morning we tacked to go southeast and offshore, the first to do so. Since then it has gotten lighter and flukier while we head out into the South Atlantic.

The goal now is to cross the continental shelf and the southerly current that runs over it, before again prioritizing the north. We have to be certain we are across the current completely, because tacking too soon and being stuck in it, or having to cross it again, would be very costly. There are lots of little eddies and gyres but the continuous continental current is a real obstacle we all need to get though, and there are fewer cues to it’s location than with the wind. Our biggest tool is the difference between our actual boatspeed and the GPS speed-over-ground, which accounts for the moving water around us. “Current” models are less accurate than wind models and since getting it wrong leaving Cape Town we are more attentive to the actual data we have access to onboard in helping pinpoint our position relative to the current.

That’s probably enough out of me 🙂 great to be back onboard, thank you Itajaí, we’re in the mix again and will keep chipping, more clouds and rain and shifts ahead before confirming we’re through the current, then we get to go North towards Newport. Very fun to say and think about!

The Ocean Race 2022-23 – 23 April 2023, Leg 4 onboard 11th Hour Racing Team. Malama chasing down the fleet ahead.