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The Retour à La Base solo IMOCA race from Martinique to Lorient, France, is heating up as the leaders complete their curve around the North Atlantic high-pressure system and start to head towards the east. They are seeking to find the best entry point to catch a ride on the train of fast-moving, low-pressure systems set to carry them rapidly towards Europe. 

According to reports, the speeds on Monday and Tuesday could be high enough to threaten the solo 24-hour record, which has been held for five years by Alex Thomson at 539.71 miles. Jéremie Beyou (Charal) had been leading the race, but in the late afternoon, Briton Sam Goodchild (For The Planet) took the lead as Charal gybed north. 

At four days into the 3,500 miles passage from Fort-de-France, the pace is already telling on boats and skippers. Goodchild revealed that he hoped to get some much-needed rest this afternoon before a week’s onslaught with successive, deeper and more malicious low-pressure systems due through to the finish, which should be Saturday, according to the latest estimates.

Goodchild said, “To be honest, I don’t know what I am doing right, really; I am just happy the boat is going well. But I am a bit tired, so I need to start being a bit careful. Last night was a bit full-on, so I did not get much sleep. I have been trying to catch up on sleep but it really is not easy. It is nicer now, and the wind is more stable, so we had the big sail change this morning, which went relatively well. We are heading more to the east now, which is nice; I am trying to eat properly get some rest and keep going fast. The last two nights have been bad for sleeping, painful, to be honest, with unstable winds and a bad sea state, so I am hopeful. I have put some rice and fish curry on for my Sunday lunch to eat, I am looking forwards to it and then try and get a nap after that.”

Meanwhile, Beyou is still in the race, always around 17-19 nautical miles ahead of Goodchild and Yoann Richomme (Arkéa-Paprec). 

The race is far from over and the sailors are pushing themselves to the limit. As the weather conditions continue to pose a challenge, it remains to be seen who will emerge victorious in this exciting solo race.nd Seb Simon (Groupe Deubril) are more on the outside, positions more fancied by Will Harris, the co-skipper of Malizia-Seaexplorer and a renowned weather expert,

“Going slightly wider will take them north earlier and may mean one less gybe, and they should have a little more pressure.” Says Harris who believes the solo record could well fall, considering 550 miles a realistic mark. “The thing here is if they need to gybe in the 24 hours. Really to maximise the record run it needs to be straight line, especially solo.”

“Between Monday morning and Tuesday, there can be some very nice runs,” explains Christian Dumard, the race meteorologist. “They must manage to sail at more than 22.36 knots to beat the record,” specifies Jacques Caraës assistant to the race director.

The daggerboard boats will also start to accelerate and turn to the right. Louis Duc (Fives Group – Lantana Environnement) is positioned slightly further East than his competitors. Often happy to do his own thing, Duc says he is liking passing through the South-East of Bermuda – “I would have liked to stay round here to see how it is.”

Follow the race tracker here

Published in Offshore

Thursday 30th, November at midday local time (0800hrs UTC), more than 30 solo skippers on their IMOCA 60s will start the 3,500 nautical miles inaugural Rétour à La Base race from Martinique in the French Antilles across the Atlantic to Lorient in Brittany.

The only solo IMOCA race of this 2023 season, the gruelling contest is an important qualifier for next year’s Vendée Globe and comes very hard on the heels of the outward, two-handed Transat Jacques Vabre race to Fort-de France.

And whilst qualification is a key goal for all the racers, it also represents a valuable chance to build solo miles in a tough, racing environment amidst a field which will very much represent that which will take on solo ocean racing’s pinnacle round the world race in just less than one year’s time.

As well as the quest for outright victory, there will be many ‘ races within the race’ between solo skippers with similar generations and designs of IMOCA.

The 3,500 nautical miles inaugural Rétour à La Base race from Martinique in the French Antilles across the Atlantic to Lorient in Brittany on ThursdayThe 3,500 nautical miles inaugural Rétour à La Base race from Martinique in the French Antilles across the Atlantic to Lorient in Brittany on Thursday

Among them, the honours of being the first ‘non-foiling’ IMOCA will be very hotly contested.

Meantime, for the skippers who finished the Transat Jacques Vabre a number of days ago, there has been time to recover in the pleasant heat of the Caribbean, where the mercury registers a daily 30 degrees C.

The local sporting, leisure and visitor attractions of the island are the perfect antidote to the rigours of the outward race. But with the clock ticking down and the next start line beckoning, time management must be optimised. On this idyllic island, it would be all too easy to switch off for too long! But for body and mind, rest and recovery are absolutely vital.

A highly anticipated race

And so in just four days, the majority of the skippers will be out again, heading towards Lorient. To date, there are 34 competitors set to take part.

Skippers like Charlie Dalin (Macif), Éric Bellion (Stand as One), Paul Meilhat (Biotherm), Yannick Bestaven (Maitre Coq) and Oliver Hee r(Oliver Heer Ocean Racing) who had to abandon the outbound race for different reasons will not be on the starting line. After damage to the bowsprit of his brand new boat, the team of Brit Phil Sharp (Oceans Lab) confirmed last week that he will not compete.

Vendée Globe qualification is conditional on participation in a solo transatlantic race and the Rétour à La Base counts significantly towards the mile race (which might determine the 40 sailors if the race is oversubscribed). That is the reason that two skippers who did not do the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre race have brought their boats to Martinique to race back, ever-popular veteran Jean Le Cam, who has a recently launched new boat, Tout commence en Finistère – Armor Lux, and NicolasLunven who has taken over as solo skipper of Holcim – PRB.

All the ingredients are in place

The race for overall honours promises to be fiercely contested. Thomas Ruyant (For People) is out to win a fourth consecutive transatlantic race. Jérémie Beyou (Charal) is looking to improve on a modest race out and is seeking another win. Yoann Richomme (Paprec Arkéa) and Sam Goodchild (For the planet) second and third on the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre both now set off on their first solo races with their respective boats, while the wily, highly experienced Sam Davies (Initiatives Cœur) or Germany’s Boris Herrmann (Malizia-Seaexplorer) represent very strong, solid podium contenders.

The race promises to be spectacular. A beautiful start Thursday off the coast of Martinique, a crossing of the Atlantic into the wind and big Atlantic depressions to seek out…or avoid! And there is the unwelcome transition from the Caribbean heat to the winter chill of northern Europe.

It promises to be a highly engaging contest, not least as it races back into the usually hostile December North Atlantic. Race Direction has set three gates which can be used to neutralise the course and define finishing positions.

While waiting for the big start, all the teams from the boats that had already arrived were busy. Job lists are being followed as quickly but efficiently as possible. Repairs and “little bits and pieces” are ticked off. The sailmakers have been working round the clock. And skippers come to lend a hand or at least check on the work in progress.

But for the skippers, the big challenge is managing fatigue and recovering. Between long, restful nights, some have been out kitesurfing, winging, hiking or taking quiet time with family. All are important means to restore the batteries and be as ready as possible for this week’s start.

Published in Solo Sailing
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The last day of racing in this 14th edition of The Ocean Race took place at the Grand Finale in Genoa on Saturday afternoon (1 July).

Sunny skies, very light and shifty winds and enthusiastic crowds on shore and on the water were the order of the day as this six-month round-the-world odyssey came to a close.

It was a day of celebration as well as competition with the afternoon and evening set aside for awards night and prize-giving ceremonies.

11th Hour Racing Team skipper Charlie Enright was delighted to be able to deliver a race win after all the effort it had taken to get his IMOCA Mãlama repaired after it was hit by GUYOT environnement - Team Europe soon after the start of Leg 7 in The Hague.

“Our shore crew worked night and day for three days straight to be able to get us back on the water and able to take part in this Grand Finale In-Port Race,” he said.

“To be able to compete — and win the race today in Genova — we couldn’t ask for a better way to complete our lap of the planet and to show our thanks to everyone who has supported our campaign for the past few years.”

The race win ensured 11th Hour Racing Team would take the double victory — a win in the offshore round-the-world race as well as the In-Port Race Series.

There was very little wind for the scheduled start of the IMOCA In-Port Race and after a brief delay, the start got away at 1415 hours local time.

All four boats were late to the start, but Team Malizia was first to cross the line and take the early lead in just three knots of wind.

Team Holcim-PRB started further to windward and seemed well placed initially. But as the fickle breeze shifted further to the right, the Swiss boat looked increasingly stranded. After poor starts from Biotherm and 11th Hour Racing Team, the French and American teams started to close the gap on the early leader, Team Malizia.

By Mark 1, Paul Meilhat’s Biotherm had closed the gap on the lead and was overlapped with Boris Herrmann’s boat. The black German boat managed to hold on to the lead but now the chase was on, with Biotherm in hot pursuit and Charlie Enright’s crew on 11th Hour Racing Team not far back in third. Benjamin Schwartz and Team Holcim-PRB were struggling to stay in touch with their rivals, the green boat a long way back in fourth place.

Around Mark 2, Malizia rounded up on to the breeze and were on port tack upwind. Biotherm tacked away from the leader to create a split and see if the French boat could find anything better than the Germans.

Eventually the Germans tacked too and on the next cross, Meilhat had closed distance on Herrmann. However, Germany was still in the lead as the fleet drifted upwind, battling to keep the boats moving in almost no breeze.

Meanwhile, 11th Hour Racing Team decided to keep things simple, leaving the tacking duel to the front two while Enright kept his boat tracking on port tack on the city side of the race course. Hooking into more breeze on their side of the course, it looked like the Americans would move into the lead as their boat speed touched six knots, their rivals still looking slow further out to sea.

With the wind showing little sign of improving, the race was shortened at Mark 3. Now the outcome of the race would be decided on a port-starboard convergence between the Germans and the Americans to see who would cross ahead.

In the end, it was 11th Hour Racing Team who eased across the finishing line to steal the race win from Team Malizia, who had led for so long but had to settle for second. Biotherm held on for third place, which was good enough to lift the French to third overall ahead of Team Holcim-PRB in the In-Port Series.

The Ocean Race In-Port Series Final Leaderboard (IMOCA):

  1. 11th Hour Racing Team - 29 points
  2. Team Malizia - 25 points
  3. Biotherm - 19 points
  4. Team Holcim-PRB - 17 points
  5. GUYOT environnement - Team Europe - 10 points

It was one last hurrah for Team JAJO with their win in the VO65 In-Port Race in Genoa on Saturday 1 July | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceIt was one last hurrah for Team JAJO with their win in the VO65 In-Port Race in Genoa on Saturday 1 July | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

The VO65s took to the race course first on this last day of The Grand Finale in Genova, in light winds of three to six knots.

As the seconds counted down to the start, all five teams were looking late on their time-on-distance judgement. Bearing in mind how an extra metre at the start can turn into hundreds of metres of advantage further along the race track, it was a missed opportunity for everyone.

Mirpuri/Trifork Racing Team (DEN/POR) was looking in a solid and safe position at the windward end of the line and accelerated up to speed nicely.

WindWhisper Racing Team (POL) has tended to dominate the pin end of the line but this time skipper Pablo Arrarte was beaten to the punch by Team JAJO (NED). Jelmer van Beek looked vulnerable initially, but he had the advantage of being the most leeward boat.

This enabled van Beek to turn away from the breeze by an extra couple of degrees, breathing extra power into the sails on a day when every ounce of additional oomph was vital.

Team JAJO began to stretch its early advantage, as WindWhisper Racing Team started to slip into the backwash of the big VO65 rig ahead of them.

The Dutch led around the first mark, followed by Mirpuri/Trifork Racing Team whose windward start had served Roberto Bermúdez de Castro and his crew well. Next around were Austrian Ocean Racing/Team Genova but finding a better puff of wind behind them were Viva México who capitalised on a deeper downwind angle to get inside rights at the next turning mark.

Erik Brockmann’s team gybed the Mexican boat nicely on the inside of Gerwin Jansen and the Austrians and México sneaked into third place as they set out on the third leg of the course.

Meanwhile, WindWhisper had struggled to find clear air on the first leg out of the start, and really struggled to get around the first mark. The Polish team furled its headsail as it luffed up towards the breeze in a desperate bid to avoid hitting the mark. Arrarte and company did indeed avoid the mark but now had to play catch-up. There was a slim possibility of the dominant Polish team losing their In-Port Race crown to Team JAJO if Arrarte failed to finish inside the time limit.

With the wind looking unlikely to improve and, if anything, get even lighter, the race committee shortened the race course after 30 minutes of competition. Team JAJO finished exactly 60 seconds ahead of Mirpuri/Trifork Racing Team, with the Mexicans third, Austria fourth and WindWhisper bringing up the rear but well inside the time limit.

This means WindWhisper narrowly retains the top of the In-Port leaderboard despite Team JAJO closing the points gap.

Jelmer van Beek was rightly happy with Team JAJO’s performance which all stemmed from that accurately executed start at the pin end of the line: “A light and tricky day and not much breeze, but we had a really good start. They say you’re only as good as your last race, and we won the last race! It’s nice to finish like this. Time for a holiday now but I love this race, it was a great experience.”

Paolo Mirpuri, founder of the Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team, was on board his VO65 for the race and enjoyed the experience: “We had a very good start, the teamwork went well. We managed to keep it close and very happy to get second place today.”

Erik Brockmann was delighted to get another podium finish for Team México in Genova: “Even though it was light it’s always intense. We managed to maintain our position and to overtake a boat and got another podium in Genova. Couldn’t be happier to finish The Ocean Race like this.”

The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint In-Port Series Final Leaderboard:

  1. WindWhisper Racing Team - 19 points
  2. Team JAJO - 17 points
  3. Mirpuri/Trifork Racing Team - 12 points
  4. Viva México - 10 points
  5. Austrian Ocean Racing powered by Team Genova - 8 points
  6. Ambersail 2 - 0 points
Published in Ocean Race
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After racing around the world and overcoming challenge after challenge, 11th Hour Racing Team was confirmed as winners of The Ocean Race 2022-23 on Thursday morning (29 June).

While the team celebrated ashore and afloat, they would need to wait a few more hours before joining together to toast their incredible achievement.

But finally, just after 1730 local time in Genoa, the 11th Hour Racing Team IMOCA, Mālama, eased into the port and arrived at Ocean Live Park to a thunderous welcome and an incredible prize-giving moment.

Just hours earlier the World Sailing International Jury had awarded the team four points of redress, based on an average of their strong results in the race to date, following the incident just minutes into the start of the final leg on Thursday 15 June when the boat was involved in a collision with GUYOT environnement - Team Europe.

The crew were notified by satellite phone on Thursday morning as their boat made up the last miles towards the northeastern Italian port after repairs to its extensively damaged hull.

The final leaderboard sees 11th Hour Racing Team three points clear of Team Holcim-PRB in second place, with Team Malizia in third, Biotherm fourth place and GUYOT environnement - Team Europe in fifth.

“I’m absolutely ecstatic,” said skipper Charlie Enright. “This race takes everything out of you — emotionally, mentally and physically. I’m incredibly proud of our whole team who have worked tirelessly for three years to get to this point. There have been highs, some incredible highs, but also lows that have knocked us all, but they were all worth it to hear this news today.”

The team members already in Genoa celebrate confirmation of 11th Hour Ocean Racing’s victory in The Ocean Race 2022-23 | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceThe team members already in Genoa celebrate confirmation of 11th Hour Ocean Racing’s victory in The Ocean Race 2022-23 | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

Speaking from onboard Mālama as the team delivered the boat to Genoa, Enright added: “When we launched our campaign in 2019, we never could have anticipated that it would finish in this way. Any sailor will tell you that they want to win races on the water and not in the jury room, and after winning three legs back to back we felt exceptionally strong and confident going into the final leg.

“We are pleased with the jury’s decision, although we wish we had had the chance to battle it out for this final leg on the water as Holcim-PRB have been exceptional competitors and pushed us all the way.

“To be the first US team to be lifting this trophy is an exceptional honour, and to be sharing the message and showcasing action and innovation for ocean health has made this a truly impactful, global campaign. It’s not the way I would have drawn this up, but the victory is sweet all the same.”

James O’Mahony with Lucy Hunt and Rebecca White, Kerry-based advisors to The Ocean Race and Damian Foxall with The Ocean Race trophy | Credit: Damian FoxallJames O’Mahony with Lucy Hunt and Rebecca White, Kerry-based advisors to The Ocean Race and Damian Foxall with The Ocean Race trophy | Credit: Damian Foxall

Featured in Mālama’s crew at various stages were Cork sailor James O’Mahony and Kerry offshore veteran Damian Foxall, the latter of whom declared to Afloat.ie: “Munster just won The Ocean Race!”

In another achievements of note, 11th Hour Racing Team is the first US-flagged team to win The Ocean Race — and sailor Francesca Clapcich arrived in Genoa on Thursday afternoon as the first Italian sailor to win the race.

“It feels pretty surreal still - it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Clapcich said. “It’s been a lifetime dream to firstly be part of the race, and now to win the race, and so it feels very special. The first time for an American team and the first time an Italian sailor has won the race — it means a lot to me. I’m Italian, and I live in the US — it’s both of my worlds colliding together.”

11th Hour Racing Team strategist Marcel van Triest gets a congratulatory handshake from Holcim-PRB skipper Benjamin Schwartz  | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race11th Hour Racing Team strategist Marcel van Triest gets a congratulatory handshake from Holcim-PRB skipper Benjamin Schwartz | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

Team navigator Simon Fisher added: “I’ve done this race six times now, and it has consumed almost 20 years of my life. It’s nice at this stage of my career that I can be involved with a campaign that’s trying to do something more than ‘just’ be competitive and has a positive impact on the sport, the wider community, environment, people, and planet. That’s really important to me.

“Winning is important, and it is what we all strive for, but personally for me, I hold a lot of value in winning the right way and doing things the right way. And so, to win The Ocean Race with 11th Hour Racing, a team like this, with such a great group of people and a positive mission, is really incredible.”

Published in Ocean Race
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Team Malizia found a way to grab a last-minute win in Leg 7 of The Ocean Race 2022-23, saving the best for last.

On the waters off the finish port of Genoa, skipper Boris Herrmann and his crew boldly grabbed the leg lead in extremely light and variable conditions at 0600 UTC on Tuesday morning (27 June), by virtue of heading close to shore and picking up a gentle breeze by the land.

This allowed them to ease past Team Holcim-PRB — who had led for the majority of the leg from The Hague to Genoa — as well as Biotherm, and secure their second leg win in The Ocean Race.

“I’m very happy and very proud of this team. It’s been a privilege to work with all of them,” said Herrmann, reflecting on the end of his round-the-world race. “We have the most sailors who completed the full race and Rosie [Rosalin Kuiper] is the only female to do the whole lap of the planet.”

“It’s incredible to finish the leg to Genoa in first place,” said Kuiper. “I still can’t believe it. We have done a lap around the world, pushing ourselves day in and day out and to finish like this is so special… It’s been a crazy adventure and we had such a good time. We will miss each other and miss being out at sea together.”

Following the finish of Malizia, the wind nearly died completely, leaving Paul Meilhat’s Biotherm and Benjamin Schwartz and his Holcim-PRB crew to play a very downspeed chess match to get to the finish line.

At the end, it was Biotherm who were able to glide across in second place on Leg 7, leaving Team Holcim-PRB to claim third place in the IMOCA fleet — an unfortunate result after leading for so much of the leg.

“It was a really close race even if only with three boats,” said Meilhat once his team reached the dock. “Congratulations to Malizia — they took a risk during the night and it worked. We knew from the start that it would all come down to the last moments in front of Genova and this is how it happened.”

On the other hand, third place was a disappointment for Team Holcim-PRB. “It could have been better as unfortunately we are finishing third today,” Schwartz said on final approach to the line. “Biotherm and Malizia, we couldn’t cover them at one point and they managed to escape and here we are after leading the race for the last 12 days and finishing in the last position of the group, so it’s a bit disappointing. But we are happy to be here in Genova and it was a great leg, we really enjoyed it, so we have to remember this too.”

The two other IMOCA teams in the fleet, 11th Hour Racing Team and GUYOT environnement - Team Europe, were forced to retire from racing shortly after the start, following a collision.

And this means the overall leaderboard for the IMOCA fleet in The Ocean Race remains provisional, awaiting the Request for Redress that has been filed by 11th Hour Racing Team after being hit just after the start by GUYOT environnement - Team Europe, who acknowledged responsibility for the incident.

The World Sailing International Jury will hear the eedress request on Thursday (29 June). With today’s results, Charlie Enright’s 11th Hour Racing Team is just one point behind Team Holcim-PRB, so any award of redress of one point or more will give the team overall victory in The Ocean Race.

In the VO65 fleet, the first boat to finish in Genoa on Tuesday — just minutes ahead of Malizia — was Team JAJO, with skipper Jelmer van Beek sliding home just over 24 hours after WindWhisper Racing Team won the VO65 Sprint Cup.

“We always said this leg was going to come down to the very end, the last night, and I’m so proud of the team for pulling it off because every day was a battle,” Van Beek said. “In the end we were on the right side of it. We’re really happy!”

The second-place finish into Genoa ensures Team JAJO has locked up second place in the VO65 Sprint leaderboard.

Viva México then had their best result of the VO65 Sprint, a third-place podium finish that was a long time coming, with the dying breeze prolonging their day.

“It’s been an amazing leg for Viva México,” said skipper Erik Brockmann. “We are happy with a podium finish and to be in Genova is an amazing feeling.”

Behind them, the light conditions also enveloped Austrian Ocean Racing powered by Team Genova and Mirpuri/Trifork Racing Team — both boats were declared as having reached the finish line by the race management team some two hours later, at 1530 and 1545 UTC respectively.

Rankings at 1700 UTC, 27 June

IMOCA:

  1. Team Malizia, finished at 11:17:51 UTC
  2. Biotherm, finished at 12:54:23 UTC
  3. Team Holcim-PRB, finished at 13:31:49 UTC

VO65
:

  1. WindWhisper Racing, finished on 26 June at 10:27:52 UTC
  2. Team JAJO, finished at 10:50:43 UTC
  3. Viva México, finished at 13:35:39 UTC
  4. Austrian Ocean Race - Team Genova, finished at 15:30:00 UTC
  5. Mirpuri/Trifork Racing Team, finished at 15:45:00 UTC

Follow both fleets’ progress via the race tracker at theoceanrace.com.

Published in Ocean Race

WindWhisper Racing Team won the final leg of The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint into Genoa on Monday morning (26 June), beating the rest of the fleet by a massive margin.

The Polish boat crossed the finish line in just six knots of breeze at 10:27:52 UTC with a leg time of 10 days, 23 hours, 17 minutes and 52 seconds.

With the rest of the fleet still to cover some 80-plus nautical miles in very light winds on Monday afternoon, WindWhisper could win the leg from The Hague to Genoa by more than 18 hours.

With skipper Pablo Arrarte (ESP) unable to take part in the final leg, it was left to previous race winner Daryl Wislang (NZL) to take up the skipper’s role. “It’s an amazing feeling to arrive here, happy to be part of the team, and I was lucky enough to take the handlebars for the last leg,” he said.

Even though it always looked like a healthy lead entering the Mediterranean, the fickle nature of the breeze meant Wislang and the crew were never able to rest on their laurels.

“The biggest challenge is trying to cover someone that far behind because the other boats were in completely different weather,” the skipper said. “Ultimately we decided we couldn’t cover them and chose to sail the fastest way we could to the finish. There was no option to get back to the coast with the other guys.”

The biggest responsibility for such big decisions always rests with the navigator, so Aksel Magdahl (NOR) rightly earns a lot of credit for his brave choices on the race course.

“We had a tricky choice to make in the Mediterranean because the other boats were more than 100 miles behind,” said Magdahl, who chose to keep on looking forwards rather than play a more traditional, defensive game of covering the opposition. “We decided to go towards the coast of Algeria to take the fastest route. We thought the other option to cover the other boats would be slow for us. So we went for what we thought was our fastest option and it worked out well for us.”

Magdahl also wins the navigator’s award, the Vasco da Gama Mirpuri Foundation Prize for first boat to pass the line of 37 degrees North latitude. That was largely down to a very good call to break away from the fleet in the English Channel, one which absent skipper Pablo Arrarte had been watching with great interest from ashore.

“The guys made a big strategy call. The fleet was in light pressure and the big breeze was coming, and they stayed further north and the big pressure reached them first. That was the important moment to break away from the fleet.”

From there the team never looked back, leading into the Strait of Gibraltar by a healthy margin.

For Phil Harmer (AUS), today’s victory is extra special as it happens on his 44th birthday. The two-time winner of the race was pleased to be back on board the VO65 and to have come through the Strait of Gibraltar at night, thereby avoiding the orca whales that paid a little bit too much attention to some of the other VO65s.

“I think the orcas were asleep when we went through the strait,” he laughed. “We went through in stealth mode, managed to give them the slip, so we were lucky to get through unscathed.”

Crew member Liz Wardley has a special connection with this particular VO65, having led the five-month refit of the boat that she had already managed in its previous guise as Team AkzoNobel.

“It feels amazing to be here now,” she said. “We had such a big lead into the Med and there was always the option that the others could catch us, so that was stressful. We did Leg 1 well, we did Leg 6 well, and now to win Leg 7 by more than a hundred miles is pretty cool. And finished in front of the IMOCAs, too, so a double win.”

While Pablo Arrarte and Daryl Wislang’s WindWhisper Racing Team are enjoying some Genova hospitality after being the first arrival and winning The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint, seven boats remain at sea, fighting through light winds to get to the finish.

In the IMOCA class, it’s Team Holcim-PRB at the head of the fleet. After enjoying some strong outflow winds off the coast of France overnight, the team is now back in the slow lane, in winds near five knots, with just under 90 miles to go to the finish line.

“Last night we had very welcome wind — 20-25 knots of wind — and this was wonderful as the boat loves wind and we love the boat when it is flying so we were happy,” said Ambrogio Beccaria, the Italian sailor on the Holcim-PRB boat, overnight. “And we still have some good comfort on board, it’s steady and nice sailing.”

Looking ahead, there are still some shifts and changes to navigate before the finish.

“We are now heading north to the next transition,” said Holcim skipper Ben Schwartz early on Monday afternoon, joking that they are placing bets on the arrival time on board. “Ahead of us is a transition to a southwesterly wind, and this is the wind that could bring us to Genova…hopefully.”

Biotherm, just behind, confirms it’s not going to be straightforward.

“Still long to reach Genova…” said Paul Meilhat. “Really complicated from here until the finish line. Probably there will be a convergence of the fleet and then it might open up, some might choose the coast, some offshore. Many possibilities but we will make the final choice tonight.”

Team Malizia also enjoyed the breezy conditions last night. “It’s so good,” said Will Harris. “We’re doing about six- times the speed [30 knots] we’ve done for most of this leg!”

For the VO65s, the fight now is for second place on Stage 3 and on the overall ranking for the VO65 Sprint. Team JAJO is two points clear of Austrian Ocean Racing - Team Genova on the overall leaderboard. But with the four VO65s spread out over 20-odd miles, it’s a wide open race still.

“The game is to stay focussed on all the little details,” said JAJO skipper Jelmer van Beek.

“I think we are all going to be together again,” said Gonzalo Infante, the navigator on Viva México. “And we just need to work out how to escape!”

Given the forecast, the ETA for the remaining boats is very uncertain, but the best estimate remains Tuesday morning (27 June) local time.

Rankings at 1600 UTC, 26 June

IMOCA:

  1. Team Holcim-PRB, 86.6 miles to finish
  2. Biotherm, 4.7 miles to leader

  3. Team Malizia, 5.4 miles to leader

VO65
:

  1. WindWhisper Racing, finished at 10:27:52 UTC
  2. Viva México, 87.6 miles to finish
  3. Team JAJO, 1.8 miles to leader
  4. Mirpuri/Trifork Racing Team, 2.7 miles to leader
  5. Austrian Ocean Race - Team Genova, 22.5 miles to leader

Follow both fleets’ progress via the race tracker at theoceanrace.com.

Published in Ocean Race

If there wasn’t already enough urgency to get to Genoa quickly, Ambrogio Beccaria is more desperate than ever. Not only is the Italian crewman on Team Holcim-PRB keen to reach his home country as soon as possible, vital provisions on the IMOCA are running very low. “Dude, there is no more Nutella,” he complains to colleague Yoann Richomme. “The others have eaten it all.”

With just five souls on board, the Nutella thief shouldn’t be too difficult to unmask. But then there is the small matter of maintaining focus to stay ahead of their rivals in The Ocean Race, which is proving anything but straightforward in a trickier-than-usual Mediterranean Sea.

Late on Friday night (23 June), skipper Benjamin Schwartz took Holcim-PRB on a trip over to the Algerian coastline in search of some night-time trickle of breeze from the top of the African continent. Meanwhile, Biotherm and Team Malizia decided to stay in European waters as they worked their way up the Spanish coast.

“Well we weren’t expecting our two colleagues to choose a different route than us,” Schwartz said. “They are doing a coastal route along the Spanish coast whereas we have decided to go to Algeria. I don’t know what they saw that we haven’t seen that would make us go towards land, so now we don’t have a choice anyway.”

As it turned out, any concerns about allowing a big split to develop didn’t prove too dangerous. Holcim-PRB bounced off the Algerian coast and tacked back over towards Spain and reconverged ahead of their rivals. Holcim-PRB crew Annemieke Bes commented: “We were happy with the strategy in the end. We were stressed as there was a huge lateral gap. Anyway, it was good to try to catch the thermal winds a bit earlier.”

While not as extreme as WindWhisper Racing Team’s breakaway at the front of the VO65 fleet, there are similarities in the way the leaders of the respective fleets have ploughed their own route out to the east.

But as WindWhisper’s navigator Aksel Magdahl explained, it didn’t feel like they had another option at the time: “We sailed east towards the coast of Algeria, and there was a big split. We sailed east of Mallorca, the other boats sailed west. We thought if we had stayed west we’d stop in no wind and they would catch us up. It felt there was no other option than to go east, even if it’s uncomfortable to do it.”

The pack that stayed close to the Spanish coast got so close to Alicante earlier this weekend that you might have started to wonder if the sailors were thinking the race was due to finish in the same place it started six months earlier. But no, the slow boat race continued past The Ocean Race HQ further up the Iberian coast, going past Barcelona and towards the south of France.

The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint Cup Stage 3, Day 9 (Saturday 24 June) onboard with WindWhisper Racing Team | Credit: Tomasz Piotrowski/WindWhisper Racing Team/The Ocean RaceThe Ocean Race VO65 Sprint Cup Stage 3, Day 9 (Saturday 24 June) onboard with WindWhisper Racing Team | Credit: Tomasz Piotrowski/WindWhisper Racing Team/The Ocean Race

None of it is easy sailing, not even for an old veteran like Roberto ‘Chuny’ Bermúdez de Castro, the skipper on VO65 Mirpuri/Trifork Racing Team. “Sailing through this Mediterranean short wave period, the boat is jumping too much, but we’re pushing really hard with the Mexicans and Austrians and the IMOCA fleet, tacking upwind,” he said.

“It’s interesting to see Windwhisper taking the option to go more east, go outside the Balearic Islands. It will be interesting to see what happens. There’s still a lot of difficult weather before arriving to Genova. The Mediterranean is always tricky, but this time even more than usual.”

With the forecast for light and variable winds between where the fleets are and Genoa, the ETAs still have a high degree of uncertainty. But WindWhisper is expected on Monday 26 June, with the remaining race boats finishing on Tuesday 27 June.

Rankings at 1600 UTC, 25 June

IMOCA:

  1. Team Holcim-PRB, 316.5 miles to finish
  2. Biotherm, 10.9 miles to leader

  3. Team Malizia, 19.6 miles to leader

VO65
:

  1. WindWhisper Racing, 186.7 miles to finish
  2. Viva México, 142.3 miles to leader
  3. Mirpuri/Trifork Racing Team, 144.6 miles to leader
  4. Team JAJO, 148.6 miles to leader
  5. Austrian Ocean Race - Team Genova, 156.1 miles to leader

Follow both fleets’ progress via the race tracker at theoceanrace.com.

Published in Ocean Race

Team Holcim-PRB made a break for the Algerian coast overnight on Friday (23 June), leaving the close-quarters match racing they’d been having with Biotherm and Team Malizia since before Gibraltar.

At one point, they had gained nearly 100 miles of separation to the south — risky business in the light, shifting winds.

But surprisingly, when the boats converged on Saturday morning (24 June) off the Spanish coast, not too much had changed. Although Holcim-PRB had made a net gain of about five or six miles — important when the margins are so thin — it seems like scant reward for taking such a big risk.

By returning to the Spanish coast (not far off The Ocean Race start port of Alicante, fully completing the circumnavigation in the process!) skipper Benjamin Schwartz has consolidated what little gain he’d made and secured a more powerful protective position between Biotherm, Malizia and the finish in Genoa.

But as of Saturday evening that lead is being eroded, with the chasing boats within four (Biotherm) and seven (Malizia) miles respectively.

“We’re heading up the Spanish coast, less than 600 miles to go to the finish now,” said Alan Roberts from on board Biotherm on Saturday morning. “In theory we could do that distance in one day on an IMOCA. More likely it’s going to take us three! It’s not very fast sailing. Quite complex with a few more transitions between now and the finish.

“We’ve got Malizia just a few miles behind and to leeward of us. Team Holcim-PRB is to weather and forward of us. Last night they hitched out to the right pretty hard, sailing quick, and they’ve come back ahead of us, but probably not as far as they should have been…an interesting option from them…”

In the VO65 fleet, WindWhisper Racing Team continues to sail its own race towards the Grand Finale in Genoa, with a nice lead over all of the chasers.

Skipper Daryl Wislang’s team is nearly 175 miles to the east of the rest of the fleet with the Balearic Islands to port, racing in very different conditions to the others. And this is just about the only risk for WindWhisper — in these light, changeable conditions, they have to sail their own race and be confident they can get to Genoa faster.

When they arrive, the Grand Finale is fully prepared to offer some top Italian hospitality. Ocean Live Park in Genoa had a soft opening ceremony on Saturday morning before the official opening on Sunday (25 June).

Rankings at 1900 UTC, 24 June

IMOCA:

  1. Team Holcim-PRB, 456.3 miles to finish
  2. Biotherm, 3.7 miles to leader

  3. Team Malizia, 7 miles to leader

VO65
:

  1. WindWhisper Racing, 352.1 miles to finish
  2. Mirpuri/Trifork Racing Team, 132.1 miles to leader
  3. Team JAJO, 136.5 miles to leader
  4. Viva México, 147.1 miles to leader
  5. Austrian Ocean Race - Team Genova, 162.7 miles to leader

Follow both fleets’ progress via the race tracker at theoceanrace.com.

Published in Ocean Race

It’s been a profitable 24 hours for Poland’s WindWhisper Racing Team, which has escaped from the rest of the boats racing towards the Grand Finale of The Ocean Race 2022-23 in Genoa and stretched out to a lead of over 150 nautical miles over its nearest pursuers in the VO65 fleet.

In the short term, however, the forecast isn’t in the team’s favour. The wind was expected to ease dramatically in the western Mediterranean over the course of Thursday (22 June) before shifting from the westerly that has pushed them into the Med to an east-northeasterly that they’ll need to fight to make progress toward Italy.

The calm patch will apply to the chasing boats as well, who may need to battle this transition along with unfavourable tidal current in the Strait of Gibraltar depending on their arrival. And a later arrival could mean tacking into a building headwind.

On the approach to Gibraltar, Team Holcim-PRB is leading the IMOCAs, but at 1800 UTC was in danger of losing miles to both Biotherm — just 2.4 nautical miles astern — and Team Malizia.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to catch up to the others,” said Malizia’s Will Harris looking ahead at the transition. “There will be a light wind area and maybe a chance for us to play a card and gain some miles if we find better wind. We’ll see what we find.”

The light and somewhat fickle winds are taking a toll on the crews. On the VO65 Team JAJO, currently battling with Mirpuri/Trifork Racing Team and Viva México for second position in the VO65 Sprint, the night showed a loss, in very close-quarters racing.

“It’s been very painful,” admitted JAJO’s Jorden van Rooijen. “On the way to Gibraltar, we’ve been battling Mirpuri/Trifork all night. We had them seven miles behind us and now they just got a little bit of pressure, overtook us, a super-close battle, one boat length apart, and now they’re just in front of us.. So we have to get them back!”

That was before JAJO’s encounter with the one of the area’s now infamous orcas, responsible for a spate of attacks on boats since spring. Thankfully boat and crew — and orca — are unharmed.

Rankings at 1800 UTC, 22 June

IMOCA:

  1. Team Holcim-PRB, 854.8 miles to finish
  2. Biotherm, 2.4 miles to leader

  3. Team Malizia, 14.6 miles to leader

VO65
:

  1. WindWhisper Racing, 706.6 miles to finish
  2. Mirpuri/Trifork Racing Team, 145 miles to leader
  3. Team JAJO, 145.8 miles to leader
  4. Viva México, 146.7 miles to leader
  5. Austrian Ocean Race - Team Genova, 157.8 miles to leader

Follow both fleets’ progress via the race tracker at theoceanrace.com.

Published in Ocean Race

As skipper Daryl Wislang pushed his WindWhisper Racing Team across the line of 37 degrees north latitude at 1004 UTC on Wednesday morning (21 June), his team prepared to turn east towards the Strait of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea.

By crossing this 37-degree latitude at the head of both fleets, Wislang’s team wins the Vasco da Gama Mirpuri Foundation Prize, celebrating the heritage of the great navigators of The Ocean Race. In this case, WindWhisper Racing Team navigator Aksel Magdahl will be given the award in Genoa.

While this milestone is in their wake, the team still has over 1,000 nautical miles to run to the finish line and very challenging, light conditions ahead.

However, they have built a nice margin and should be in good shape for the approach to the Mediterranean Sea with the four chasing boats in the VO65 class all at least 117 miles back as of Wednesday evening.

In the IMOCA fleet, Team Holcim-PRB is working hard to hold onto its lead as both Biotherm and Team Malizia keep nibbling at their advantage.

Paul Meilhat’s Biotherm is now within six miles, and Team Malizia has closed up as well, sitting some 40 miles behind.

The IMOCAs, starting behind the VO65s, are just starting to catch the trailing boats in the 65 fleet as the slow conditions haven’t allowed the best performance from these foiling marvels.

“Normally we have some good wind off the coast of Portugal, but now we don’t have wind…only about eight knots,” said Biotherm’s Mariana Lobato, the Portuguese sailor on the boat who was hoping for more exciting conditions off her home coastline. “Hopefully it comes soon so we can make it downwind, and fast, and have some fun!”

“It hasn’t been windy for very much time and now we’re back to the J0, the big headsail, in very light winds,” said Biotherm skipper Paul Meilhat.

“We’re trying to stay in a corridor with the maximum wind we can get,” said Nico Lunven on Team Malizia as his team put in a gybe overnight. “It’s still OK, the spinnaker is still flying… [On Wednesday] we should have more wind close to the shore with the sea breeze effect.”

Despite the light conditions, the Strait of Gibraltar passage is expected on Thursday (22 June) — proof that progress is being made, albeit slower than the teams would like.

Rankings at 1800 UTC, 21 June

IMOCA:

  1. Team Holcim-PRB, 1,092.9 miles to finish
  2. Biotherm, 5.6 miles to leader

  3. Team Malizia, 40.6 miles to leader

VO65
:

  1. WindWhisper Racing, 927.4 miles to finish
  2. Team JAJO, 117.3 miles to leader
  3. Mirpuri/Trifork Racing Team, 119.6 miles to leader
  4. Viva México, 153.3 miles to leader
  5. Austrian Ocean Race - Team Genova, 166.4 miles to leader

Follow both fleets’ progress via the race tracker at theoceanrace.com.

Published in Ocean Race
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