🗺️ Itajaí, Brazil ➡️ Newport, usa
🏁 START april 23, 2023
⌛️ ETA may 10, 2023
📏 DISTANCE 5,550-nautical mile (6,387-mile/10,279- kilometer)

The 5,550-nautical mile (6,387-mile/10,279- kilometer) fourth leg of The Ocean Race 2022-23 is a complex northerly passage that takes the teams back into the northern hemisphere on the way from Itajaí, Brazil to 11th Hour Racing Team’s US base in Newport, Rhode Island. 

Picking a route north from Itajaí could be a challenging one for the teams’ navigators who may have to choose between betting on heading east in search of steadier winds well offshore or taking a more direct route along the Brazilian coast as far as the country’s northeast shoulder close to the city of Recife.

As well as finding the best winds the crews will likely also have to deal with huge fields of Sargassum seaweed blocking their path to the north. Formed by fronds of the brown free-floating weed binding together these Sargassum patches can be acres across and have been known to be three feet deep.

Avoiding getting caught up in one will be top of mind for the crews who know that the only way to detach the weed from their yacht’s rudders and foils is to stop and back the boat up – an manoeuvre that can be costly in terms of precious time lost to their rivals. 

In previous races the effects of the Doldrums have been minimal while crossing back into the northern hemisphere but the crews know that nothing is guaranteed and they will need to be on top of their game to ensure a smooth passage across the Equator.

From there the crews can look forward to some warm-weather trade wind sailing as they pass east of the Caribbean islands and start to close on the North American seaboard where the effects of the northerly flowing warm waters Gulf Stream will become a factor.

Picking the right time to cross the stream on the approach to Newport will be critical and depending on the wind conditions the crews could be in for a bumpy ride for the few hours it takes.

Previous editions of The Ocean Race have seen light wind finishes on this route and no matter how familiar these waters may be to them the 11th Hour Racing Team sailors will be taking nothing for granted until Mālama’s bow crosses the finish line off Newport’s Fort Adams State Park.