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A day after leaving Cascais, Portugal on the second leg of The Ocean Race Europe, this afternoon (Monday 7 June) the race’s 12-boat fleet battled fierce headwinds in the Strait of Gibraltar — the narrow and congested waterway dividing mainland Europe from North Africa — on their way to Alicante, Spain.

One of busiest commercial shipping routes in the world, the strait marks the crews’ transition from the vast expanses of the Atlantic Ocean to the enclosed waters of the Mediterranean Sea.

As expected, strong easterly headwinds gusting over 40 knots made for brutal conditions for The Ocean Race Europe yachts for the three-hour passage.

The five IMOCA and seven VO65 crews had made short work of the opening stage of Leg 2. They enjoyed mostly fast downwind conditions on their way south along the Portuguese coast to Cape St Vincent, before they turned southeast overnight and this morning began to feel the effects of easterly headwinds flowing from the Mediterranean on the beat across the Gulf of Cadiz.

AkzoNobel Ocean Racing off Portugal before the turn to the Med | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceAkzoNobel Ocean Racing off Portugal before the turn to the Med | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team (POR), skippered by France’s Yoann Richomme, made much of the early running among the VO65s during the first night at sea. Richomme’s international crew of men and women led until around 40 nautical miles/74km from the Moroccan coast where they ceded the lead to Sailing Poland, led by Bouwe Bekking (NED).

“We are in the Strait of Gibraltar and are actually on the Moroccan coast and currently Sailing Poland is in the lead so that’s quite nice but it has been very, very windy,” Bekking said on Monday afternoon.

“We saw up to 46 knots. Right now the breeze is going down a little bit but it is still a stiff 30 knots. Battling with Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team just behind us and then the IMOCA LinkedOut is just a little bit further offshore and AkzoNobel Ocean Racing has crossed to the other side so we have to see how it is all panning out in the next 10-12 hours.”

Ever since leaving Cascais on the second leg, two French teams — Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut and Louis Burton’s Bureau Vallée — had engaged in a fascinating downwind match race at the front of the IMOCA 60 class.

Cape St Vincent is the southwesteanmst point of mainland Europe | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceCape St Vincent is the southwesteanmst point of mainland Europe | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

The pair had never been more than a few miles apart until, as they tacked north close to the coast of Morocco, a problem on board Bureau Vallée dropped them back behind Robert Stanjek’s non-foiling Offshore Team Germany (GER), and Nicolas Troussel’s CORUM L’Epargne (FRA).

“We’ve got 38 knots of wind which is a bit over-the-top,” said Clarisse Cremer from on board LinkedOut. “But it doesn’t matter because we are going a bit faster, doing many, many tacks between Spain and the African coast, a tack every 10 and fifteen minutes, so everybody is up on the deck. We want to go as fast as possible which is a bit tiring as nobody is able to have a nap or anything because we have to be as efficient as possible.”

Meanwhile, Charlie Enright’s 11th Hour Racing Team (USA) has made remarkable progress since restarting racing yesterday afternoon, sailing without a port foil which was damaged in an incident with an anchored boat shortly after the start.

“We’ve restarted Leg 2, on our way to our Alicante, with everybody safe and sound,” Enright noted. “The objective is to keep it as close as possible here to push the boat within reason and see if we can get a couple of points and keep this show on the road and not throw in the towel.”

Having set off 77nm/143km behind the pack yesterday, this afternoon they were just 36nm/67km behind LinkedOut as they closed in on the Gibraltar Strait.

Prior to the start of Leg 2 there had been much discussion in Cascais about what the winning strategy might be for negotiating the Strait of Gibraltar. The consensus was to pick a side — either south, short tacking along the Moroccan coast, or north, doing the same along the Spanish shoreline — and nothing in between would do.

Led by Sailing Team Poland, the bulk of the VO65 crews opted for the southerly option, but two of them — first Erik Brockmann’s Viva México (MEX), and then AkzoNobel Ocean Racing (NED) — made a break to the north in the hope of smoother sailing.

In the IMOCAs, the LinkedOut and Offshore Team Germany crews kept a close eye on each other along the southern route, while the third-placed CORUM L’Epargne sailors tried their hand on the northerly route.

On Board Bureau Vallée | Credit: Bureau Vallée/The Ocean RaceOn Board Bureau Vallée | Credit: Bureau Vallée/The Ocean Race

In the end there appeared to be little to choose between the north or south options. At 1300 UTC today, as the leaders cleared the exclusion zone formed by the Gibraltar traffic separation zone and began to converge again, the Sailing Team Poland VO65 held a lead of a fraction more than one nautical mile over AkzoNobel Ocean Racing in second.

Emerging from the strait racing bow-for-bow with the Polish leading VO65, the crew of the LinkedOut IMOCA 60 had established a healthy 10nm/19km lead over CORUM L’Epargne and Offshore Team Germany in second and third respectively.

Conditions are expected to moderate for The Ocean Race Europe fleet as they move further into the Mediterranean tonight.

With a little under 300nm/556km still to race on this second leg, the fleet is expected to arrive in Alicante, Spain on Wednesday (9 June), although with light conditions forecast before the finish this ETA could slide back. Track the latest fleet positions on The Ocean Race website HERE.

Viva México racing as the sun goes down off the Portuguese coast | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceViva México racing as the sun goes down off the Portuguese coast | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

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The second leg of The Ocean Race Europe got underway today (Sunday 6 June) in Cascais, Portugal where the event’s 12 professional yacht crews — representing nine countries from around the world — set off on a four-day, 700-nautical-mile offshore passage to Alicante, Spain.

Having arrived in Cascais on Wednesday 2 June at the end of the three-day opening stage from Lorient in France, the crews of the seven one-design VO65s and five development-rile IMOCA 60s had only a few days to recover before returning to points racing yesterday in a coastal sprint as part of the local Mirpuri Foundation Sailing Trophy regatta hosted by the Clube Naval de Cascais.

Overnight the teams had to quickly switch mindsets from inshore to open-water offshore racing as they take on what weather forecasters predict will at times be a wild and windy trip to Alicante.

The course for Leg 2 sees the fleet pass Portugal’s coastal capital city Lisbon and then south on to Cape St Vincent, the southwestern-most point in Portugal and Europe.

Here the boats will turn southeast towards the Strait of Gibraltar — the narrow and highly congested waterway which divides the Iberian Peninsula from Morocco in North Africa, and marks the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea.

IMOCA 60 Bureau Vallée at the Leg 2 start | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceIMOCA 60 Bureau Vallée at the Leg 2 start | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

Conditions in the Gibraltar Strait are expected to be fierce, with headwinds peaking to 40 knots tomorrow (Monday 7 June) when The Ocean Race Europe yachts are expected to pass through.

Once into the Mediterranean, the most direct route is along the Spanish coast to the finish in Alicante. However, depending on the prevailing weather conditions the crews may opt to sail a longer route in the hope of finding better winds that will get them there quicker. Track the fleet positions on The Ocean Race website HERE.

“The wind starts to go up a lot in the Strait of Gibraltar,” said renowned French yachtsman Sébastien Josse who is racing aboard the IMOCA 60 CORUM L’Épargne (FRA) that tops the class standings leaving Cascais.

“We have two options in the Strait: one is to stay in the north on the left coast. It’s maybe a lot of tacks in a narrow zone but with less wind. The second option is to cross the Strait and go to Morocco, but we are in really strong wind — 40 knots and less tacks.

“That’s just a few hours and after that the wind drops completely and we start the new race upwind in light air to Alicante — and we don't know yet what weather we have.”

Having proved right the old sporting adage of never, ever giving up with a surprise win in the VO65 class on Leg 1, the skipper of The Austrian Ocean Race Project, Gerwin Jansen, said his young crew would be giving their all like always on the way to Alicante.

“We enjoyed the win like we should,” Jansen said. “But we have also tried to get the expectations down a little bit. It’s not quite normal that the young team wins like that for the very first race. So now we are ready for Leg 2, we’re going to try to push as hard as we can.

“It’s going to be downwind sailing to the southern part of Portugal. Then we go into the Straits of Gibraltar and we’re looking at pretty strong winds upwind with choppy waves. So it’s going to be tough on the crew, tough on the boat, and we have to survive the fight.”

After a short delay to allow a new breeze to stabilise, the IMOCA 60s were the first fleet to start the second leg, with all five boats powering off the line on a short fast northwest reach to a turning buoy marking the exit point from Cascais, where Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut was the first to round.

Some two miles from the start, 11th Hour Racing Team was involved in a collision with a small, anchored motorboat. There were no injuries on either boat, and the motorboat returned to port under its own power and unassisted. 11th Hour Racing Team also returned to port, having suspended racing, to assess damage to its port foil.

On board with VO65 Viva México at the Leg 2 start | Credit: Jen Edney/Viva México/The Ocean RaceOn board with VO65 Viva México at the Leg 2 start | Credit: Jen Edney/Viva México/The Ocean Race

“We’ve been able to confirm through race management that everybody on that motorboat is okay and we sent a group of our support team to accompany them into the marina, which they were able to do unassisted and under their own power. I can also confirm that everyone on our crew is also okay,” said Charlie Enright, the skipper of the 11th Hour Racing Team.

“We take full responsibility for what happened on the water today. We are back in the marina assessing exactly what happened to our boat. We’ve definitely sustained some damage to our port foil. We’re working with the shore team and the design team to see what that means for our participation.”

After approximately two hours ashore, the team signalled its intent to restart the leg later on Sunday evening.

Meanwhile, the seven VO65s were a spectacular sight as they lined up in close formation on the first reach. As if to prove that their Leg 1 win was no fluke, The Austrian Ocean Race Project crew got the jump off the line to lead the VO65s at the Cascais exit mark.

IMOCA 60 CORUM L’Epargne races out of Cascais | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceIMOCA 60 CORUM L’Epargne races out of Cascais | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

Before leaving the dock in Cascais, a baton from the Relay4Nature initiative was passed from the Portuguese Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team VO65 skipper Yoann Richomme (FRA) to Chris Nicholson (AUS), skipper of the Dutch AkzoNobel Ocean Racing VO65.

The Relay4Nature is a baton relay for the ocean, which aims to encourage world leaders to radically increase their ambition for nature, human and ocean rights across all policy and actions and to unite for stronger ocean governance.

On Leg 1 from Lorient the Relay4Nature baton was carried aboard the winning IMOCA 60 11th Hour Racing Team (USA) and passed to the Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team by Swiss crew member Justine Mettraux.

Based on the latest weather models, the teams are predicted to complete second keg in four days, and so are expected to arrive in Alicante this Thursday 9 June.

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The home team topped the V065s while Offshore Team Germany took the IMOCA class as The Ocean Race Europe fleet returned to competitive action in Cascais, Portugal today (Saturday 5 June).

The 12 international teams representing nine countries took on the Mirpuri Foundation Sailing Trophy coastal race ahead of the start tomorrow (Sunday 6 June) of the second offshore leg to the city of Alicante, on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.

Having arrived in Cascais on Wednesday at the end of a fast and furious three-day opening leg from Lorient, France which saw breathtakingly close finishes in both the VO65 and IMOCA 60 classes, the competing crews had just a few days for rest and recuperation before returning to the racecourse for today’s four-hour, 40-nautical-mile/75km sprint from Cascais to the Portuguese capital Lisbon and back.

In what was a dress rehearsal for tomorrow’s Leg 2 start, the course for the coastal race initially took the fleet on a tight northwest reach from the town’s waterfront to a turning mark at nearby Cabo Raso.

From there, a long downwind leg gave the crews plenty of gybing practice as they jockeyed for position on the way to a marker southeast of the entrance to Lisbon’s Tagus River. The final leg was a long beat back upwind again to the finish line positioned off the Clube Naval de Cascais.

Racing in the Mirpuri Foundation Sailing Trophy between Cascais and Lisbon on Saturday 5 June | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceRacing in the Mirpuri Foundation Sailing Trophy between Cascais and Lisbon on Saturday 5 June | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

Conditions were close to perfect for racing, with blue skies and warm winds ranging in the 15–20 knot range.

“It’s going to be about a four-hour race,” said AkzoNobel Ocean Racing skipper Chris Nicholson dockside before the start. “So it’s not long, but it’s certainly not quite a sprint either.

“Normally for an in-port race, you wouldn’t even be stacking the sails side-to-side. But at this course length, yeah, it’ll be full stacking, for example. So in a lot of ways it will be a bit harder than normal.”

As the day progressed, he was proven right. The racing was characteristically tight amongst the fleet of seven identical VO65s. Cascais-based Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team held a narrow lead at the first mark over Nicholson’s team and this pair were tied neck-and-neck as they rounded the leeward mark at the bottom of a long downwind leg.

The local team then put their local knowledge to good use on the final upwind section to the finish, crossing the line first for a three-point win.

AkzoNobel Ocean Racing took a close second for two points, with Sailing Poland, led by Dutch skipper Bouwe Bekking claiming one point for third.

Offshore Team Germany ahead of French teams CORUM L’Épargne and LinkedOut in the IMOCA class | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceOffshore Team Germany ahead of French teams CORUM L’Épargne and LinkedOut in the IMOCA class | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

“It was just awesome to to get out today and show everyone what we could do,” said Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team sailor Jack Bouttell. “We wanted to put on a good show in Cascais and it’s fantastic to give back after what Paulo [Mirpuri] has given us the chance to do.”

In the IMOCA 60s, Charlie Enright’s American entry 11th Hour Racing Team made most of the early running. But having led the five-boat fleet around the first two marks, on the way back upwind the United States foiler could not hold off the non-foiling Sailing Team Germany, skippered by Germany’s Robert Stanjek.

At the finish, Offshore Team Germany took the win to collect three points, 11th Hour Racing Team took two points for second, with Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut closing out the podium for the final single bonus point.

“I think we managed very well in the conditions which were not suiting us, we managed to survive and keep in contact,” said German skipper Robert Stanjek. “Then we just had a smashing downwind and Ben [Dutreux] made a really good layline calls and we were in a good flow and we just closed in. I think technically we sailed pretty smart on the last upwind. It’s a great feeling ahead of the leg two start tomorrow.”

Starting at 1300 local time in Portugal, the course for the second leg of The Ocean Race Europe first takes the teams south to Portugal and Europe’s southwestern-most headland, Cape St Vincent, before the yachts turn south-east towards the Strait of Gibraltar – the narrow and highly congested waterway between the Iberian Peninsula and Morocco, North Africa which marks the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea.

From there the most direct route to the finish in Alicante is along the Spanish Mediterranean coast. However, depending on the prevailing weather conditions the crews may opt to sail a longer route further offshore, in the hope of finding better winds that will get them to Alicante quicker.

In contrast to the mainly straight-line, fast-reaching conditions the crews experienced on the three-day opening leg of The Ocean Race Europe, the latest weather models being pored over by the team’s navigators in Cascais this evening suggest the second 700nm/1,297km leg will be a longer more complex affair, featuring several key transitions between weather systems for the crews to deal with.

In particular, the passage through the Strait of Gibraltar looks set to be a wild and windy experience where the funnelling winds are expected to peak at 35–40 knots.

“The leg is going to be intense,” said France’s Yoann Richomme, skipper of the Portuguese entry Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team.

“It's a very long downwind all the way to Cape St Vincent and then a big transition before coming into some very strong winds at the Strait of Gibraltar with maybe some tacking on the Moroccan coast. Then it’s [into] the Med, so the wind is going to be a little bit on and off. It’s going to take quite a bit of time, almost four days to get to Alicante.”

The crew of Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team celebrate the VO65 class win in their home coastal race | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceThe crew of Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team celebrate the VO65 class win in their home coastal race | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

Having incurred some bumps and bruises amongst the crew the first leg, Ambersail-2’s Lithuanian skipper Rokas Milevičius said the team would be taking extra measures to ensure everyone on board the VO65 stayed safe on the passage to Alicante.

“I think the next leg will be very challenging — very difficult safety wise,” Milevičius said. “We had injuries already on the first leg, so we are taking extra precautions for the next one, because it looks like we are going to have a really bumpy, upwind ride through Gibraltar.

“Later on, when we are in the Med everything is more calm and easy to play — like the breeze and the light area — so should be fine. But I think the most crucial part will be the Gibraltar Strait and going in [to the Mediterranean] with the least damage as possible.”

Results of the Mirpuri Foundation Sailing Trophy Coastal Race

VO65

  • Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team (POR) – 3 points
  • AkzoNobel Ocean Racing (NED) – 2 points
  • Sailing Poland (POL) – 1 point
  • Viva Mexico
  • Team Childhood
  • Ambersail2
  • Austrian Ocean Race Project

IMOCA 60

  • Offshore Team Germany (GER) – 3 points
  • 11th Hour Racing Team (USA) – 2 points
  • LinkedOut (FRA) – 1 point
  • Corum L’Epargne
  • Bureau Vallée

The Ocean Race Europe Overall Standings

VO65

  • The Austrian Ocean Race Project (AUT) – 7 points
  • Ambersail-2 (LTU) – 6 points
  • AkzoNobel Ocean Racing (NED) – 5 points
  • Sailing Poland (POL) – 5 points
  • Team Childhood I – 5 points
  • Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team (POR) – 4 points
  • Viva México (MEX) – 2 points

IMOCA 60

  • 11th Hour Racing Team (USA) – 6 points
  • Offshore Team Germany (GER) – 5 points
  • CORUM L’Épargne (FRA) – 5 points
  • LinkedOut (FRA) – 4 points
  • Bureau Vallée (FRA) – 1 point
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As reported earlier on Afloat.ie, The Austrian Ocean Race Project and CORUM L’Epargne won their respective classes in today’s thrilling finale of the first leg of The Ocean Race Europe.

For the Austrian upstarts, it was even more remarkable as they came from behind to edge out Rokas Milevičius’ Lithuanian entry Ambersail-2 by just six seconds.

“It’s crazy that we won this super-intense race,” Jansen said from the helm, moments after crossing the finishing line. “Did you see that? Four boats in a row. What a wild race. We are super-happy!”

‘The last 30 miles were so intense, it was unbelievable. We just kept on fighting and this was the result!’

Later, on the dock, he said: “We are the newbies, the young team, not that much experience… The last 30 miles were so intense, it was unbelievable. We just kept on fighting and this was the result!”

A further 15 seconds behind in third was Dutch skipper Simeon Tienpont’s Team Childhood I and the full seven-boat fleet finished within six minutes.

Meanwhile in the IMOCA class, Nicolas Troussel’s CORUM L'Epargne (FRA) took the winner’s gun, ahead of Charlie Enright’s United States entry 11th Hour Racing Team in second, and Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut (FRA) in third.

‘We’re really happy with that victory, we fought very hard and the finish was magical for us’

“It was an intense race… and we knew that everything could be decided here like everything can be decided in Alicante and later on in Genoa for the race final,” Troussel said. “Anyway we’re really happy with that victory, we fought very hard and the finish was magical for us.”

Yesterday’s stint of high-speed, straight-line reaching back from the Atlantic turning mark had continued overnight for both classes.

But at around 0600 UTC today the entire fleet started to compress as the IMOCA 60 and VO65 crews began to strategically position themselves to round the large race exclusion zone which blocked their path to the finish line.

In the VO65s, long-time leader Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team was alone in choosing the northerly route, while the rest of the class squeezed together into a tight gaggle to round the south-west corner of the zone.

The final 40 nautical miles (nm) of the leg saw the VO65s in the south racing line abreast with the leader board positions changing incessantly, seemingly with every new gust of breeze.

Things got even more unpredictable in the final 15nm as the fleet slowed in easing winds from a cold front sweeping towards the Portuguese coast.

Fickle winds dogged The Ocean Race Europe contenders sailing into Cascais this morning | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceFickle winds dogged The Ocean Race Europe contenders sailing into Cascais this morning | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

A split amongst the six southerly VO65s saw Sailing Poland, Team Childhood I and The Austrian Ocean Race Project holding high, while AkzoNobel Ocean Racing (NED), Ambersail-2 (LTU), and Viva Mexico (MEX) gybed away to the south in search of a better angle to the finish.

When the boats converged again in the final two miles to the finish line there was nothing to choose between the Austrians, Ambersail-2, and Team Childhood I as they raced for the line.

In the end it was The Austrian Ocean Race Project — a new team with a relatively young, inexperienced crew — who edged ahead to claim victory over second-placed Ambersail-2, with Team Childhood completing the podium.

Race organisers described it as “a testimony to the incredible intensity of the racing in the one-design VO65 class” that all seven crews finished within just six minutes of each other after more than four days of open water racing.

The racing between the five IMOCA 60s was also a close-run affair, with all five teams very much in contention for victory on the final day.

Special mention should be made of the crew of non-foiling Offshore Team Germany, led by experienced offshore racer Robert Stanjek, who somehow managed to claw back a deficit of over 100nm yesterday to take the lead at one point on the final approach to Cascais before ultimately finishing in fourth.

The decision on which route to take around the exclusion zone played a significant factor in the final IMOCA 60 standings.

Louis Burton’s Bureau Vallee (FRA), CORUM L’Epargne and 11th Hour Racing Team all looked set to round to the north but a last-minute change of heart from CORUM L’Epargne, and 11th Hour Racing Team saw them gybe away to the south.

Although this move initially looked costly for the French and American team, it paid dividends for both as they somehow managed to skirt their way around the exclusion zone quickly enough to be able to overtake Offshore Team Germany and Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut who had committed themselves to the southerly route earlier.

Teams will get some well-deserved rest on Thursday and Friday in Cascais, before competing in the Coastal Race as part of The Mirpuri Foundation Sailing Trophy on Saturday 5 JUne and the start of Leg 2, into Alicante, on Sunday 6 June.

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IMOCA 60 yacht CORUM L’Épargne and the VO65 one-design of The Austrian Ocean Race Project have come first in Leg 1 of The Ocean Race Europe.

Fickle breeze challenged all 12 international teams as they raced into Cascais in Portugal this morning (Wednesday 2 June) with all to play for.

It made for a close-run finish among the top VO65s, with the lead changing every few minutes. But in the end The Austrian Ocean Race Project crossed the line at 12:47:41 UTC, just six seconds ahead of Ambersail-2 which in turn was only 15 seconds ahead of Team Childhood I.

The crew of The Austrian Sailing Project celebrate their Leg 1 win in the VO65 class | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceThe crew of The Austrian Sailing Project celebrate their Leg 1 win in the VO65 class | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team’s apparent gamble to stick with an approach from the north was looking good until noon UTC, when the southern group crossed ahead with just 6nm to go and put them in last place per the provisional results — but a mere six minutes behind the leader.

The northern track spelled a similar fate for Bureau Vallée among the IMOCA 60s, and that boat was the last of the whole fleet to arrive at 13:02:15 UTC.

But between the two classes, the IMOCA 60 division has the clearest winner with CORUM L’Épargne arriving at 12:46:57 UTC, one minute and 23 seconds ahead of 11th Hour Racing Team.

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After an adrenaline-fuelled day of power reaching through the Atlantic on Tuesday 1 June, the 12 weary crews competing in The Ocean Race Europe are facing a challenging final night at sea as they close in on Cascais, Portugal — the finish of the race’s opening leg from Lorient, France.

The northerly winds strengthened as the fleet rounded the virtual Atlantic turning mark early this morning, and that meant some exhilarating high-speed sailing for the crews in both the one-design VO65s and the development-rule IMOCA 60 class as they headed back towards Cascais.

In the IMOCA 60 class, the fierce foiling match race between Thomas Ruyant’s French entry LinkedOut and the American 11th Hour Racing Team, skippered by Charlie Enright, continued to rage. The two boats were neck-and-neck on the way out the turning mark, with the American boat getting there just ahead at around 0140 UTC.

From there the narrowly separated duo raced flat-out towards Cascais at speeds touching 30 knots as they traded the lead back and forth several times.

At around 1100 UTC on Tuesday the LinkedOut crew appeared to seize the initiative by gybing away to the south – apparently in an effort to stay in the strongest winds. The move did not go unnoticed by their rivals and the 11th Hour Racing crew followed suit some 40 minutes later.

Both crews are pushing their foiling boats hard and the two IMOCA 60s were clocked at speeds up to 25 knots this afternoon. 11th Hour Racing topped the leader board until Tuesday afternoon, when current first-placed Bureau Vallée and CORUM L’ Epargne in second surged ahead by virtue of their closer position to the finish. But with plenty of racing action to go before they reach the finish line in Cascais the final result is still in doubt.

In the VO65s, Portugal’s Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team skippered by Yoann Richomme continues to sail a near perfect race at the front of the seven-boat fleet. The team rounded the virtual turning mark around 30 minutes ahead of the second-placed Dutch entry AkzoNobel Ocean Racing — skippered by Chris Nicholson — with Bouwe Bekking’s Sailing Poland and Simeon Tienpont’s Childhood I (NED) also in hot pursuit.

On board with 11th Hour Racing Team | Credit: Amory Ross/11th Hour Racing/The Ocean RaceOn board with 11th Hour Racing Team | Credit: Amory Ross/11th Hour Racing/The Ocean Race

“It’s been pretty windy since yesterday afternoon and we rounded the virtual waypoint a few hours ago and we’re heading back to Cascais now,” said Jack Boutell, watch captain on the Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team boat. “It should be a very wet and windy day, I think.

“We’re leading the 65 fleet… So I think we’re in a pretty good spot. I think the main stress will now be just obviously going fast today, but then in the approach into Cascais it gets light again and managing that will be the last big hurdle I would say.”

It is noticeable on the race tracker that AkzoNobel Ocean Racing has been sailing a lower and slightly faster course than their rivals ahead and astern. As the day wore on, their southerly track steadily increased the lateral separation between them and the other three VO65s.

In terms of distance to the finish, this dropped them down to third behind Sailing Poland.

But given the gybe to the south executed further down the track by the two leading IMOCA 60s, it could be that the AkzoNobel Ocean Racing crew have positioned themselves well to make gains during the hours of darkness — they have already climbed into second place as of 1645 UTC.

Only time will tell, but as in the IMOCA 60 fleet the battle for line honours looks likely to go right down to the wire.

ETA in Cascais will be influenced by conditions near the finish. Estimates for the first finish range from 0800 local time (UTC+1) to around noon. The full fleet should arrive within about four hours from first to final boat across the line.

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The 12 international teams competing in the opening leg of The Ocean Race Europe have made steady progress across the Bay of Biscay in their first 24 hours since leaving Lorient, France yesterday afternoon, Sunday 30 May, bound for Cascais in Portugal.

Although weather conditions have been comparatively benign so far, the crews nevertheless had a busy first night at sea as changeable winds called for a series of gybes to keep them sailing at optimum VMG to the first turning mark — a virtual waypoint out in the Atlantic Ocean.

As expected, the racing has been tight in both the one-design VO65 class and the development-rule IMOCA 60 class. The crews in both fleets have been manoeuvring in packs with no one willing at this early stage to try a breakaway move. See their latest positions on the live race tracker HERE.

In the VO65s, Portuguese favourites Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team have maintained their position at the front after leading the seven-boat fleet out of Lorient yesterday. Behind them however the chasing pack is hot on their heels with just seven nautical miles (nm) separating the whole fleet.

“We’ve got all the other boats on AIS (automatic identification system), the tracking system, and we are logging all the numbers of the other boats so we can monitor their performance and try to get the best out of our boat,” explained skipper Yoann Richomme on night one.

“[Navigator] Nico [Lunven] is checking the weather routing with the predicted weather from five or six weather files but none of them agree. So we have to try and understand what is going on and make some tactical decisions based on the weather and what the others close to us are doing.”

CORUM L’ Épargne on Leg 1 from Lorient to Cascais | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceCORUM L’ Épargne on Leg 1 from Lorient to Cascais | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

Meanwhile, the IMOCA 60 crews have also been keeping it close over the first 24 hours of Leg 1 with all five crews matching each other’s manoeuvres as they raced downwind in the direction of Cape Finisterre at the northwest corner of Spain.

On Sunday afternoon the five IMOCAs were separated laterally by 14 nm, with the USA entry 11th Hour Racing Team holding the top spot by virtue of its positioning furthest west and closer to the virtual turning mark.

“So far so good,” said skipper Charlie Enright on the first night at sea. “It’s been pretty tricky… I feel like we’ve positioned ourselves in a way that, nine times out of ten, it’s pretty good. But the important thing is, the boat is going well.”

“The new Bureau Vallée seems faster than the old Bureau Vallée,” said navigator Davy Beaudart. “All is good with the crew and the weather and we are trying to learn how to go faster and faster. We are expecting fair winds from Cape Finisterre and a fast run to the turning mark and on to Cascais too.”

Wind strength and boat speeds are forecast to increase steadily over the next 24 hours as the teams close on the Spanish coastline and set themselves up for some fast reaching out into the Atlantic on their way to the virtual turning mark, with an expected arrival in Cascais this Wednesday 2 June.

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The inaugural edition of The Ocean Race Europe got underway today with a fleet of 12 high-performance ocean-going yachts setting off from Lorient, France on the opening leg to Cascais in Portugal.

This new three-stage European race has been created to showcase professional fully-crewed offshore racing and will see the fleet of 12 teams representing nine countries stop off in Cascais and Alicante, Spain on the way to the race finish in Genoa, Italy on 19 June.

Conditions at start time were extremely light, with the teams easing across the line with a favourable tide and tacking through a race gate before heading for the open waters off Lorient.

According to Wouter Verbraak, navigator aboard the Dutch Team Childhood I — which currently trails the VO65 pack but only two nautical miles from current leader Viva México — the light wind conditions at the start could prove critical in determining the running order for the rest of the leg.

Ambersail-2 making a splash at the Lorient start | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceAmbersail-2 making a splash at the Lorient start | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

“That is going to be a key moment of the race, so we will try to be not too radical and stick with the fleet so that we don’t get left behind,” Verbraak said. “Then it is going to be quite challenging for the rest of the leg because we are expecting strong winds around Finisterre and onward as we go out reaching into the Atlantic and back. But then the finish is looking very light.

“Like in many ocean races, you need to be good at everything. So for us, all round performance is what we will mostly focus on.”

The crew of the Portuguese Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team VO65 would love nothing less than to lead the fleet into Cascais — the team’s home port and training base in the lead up to The Ocean Race Europe.

However the team’s skipper, Frenchman Yoann Richomme, confirmed that the crew has its sights on winning the race overall, having had the most pre-race training time of all the seven VO65 teams. But he also made it clear that they were taking nothing for granted.

VO65s The Australian Racing Project and Team Childhood I meet at at gate marker | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceVO65s The Australian Racing Project and Team Childhood I meet at at gate marker | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

“The goal has always been to win it, for sure,” Richomme said. “We have been given everything we need to do that. The race is the race; it’s really hard, it can come down to one little mistake.

“We all know that we will make a lot of mistakes — we will just try to make less than the others.”

11th Hour Racing Team’s Swiss sailor Justine Mettraux said she had lots of confidence in the hours of pre-race preparation the team’s renowned British navigator Simon Fisher (aka SiFi) had put for the opening leg of The Ocean Race Europe.

“I don’t think it is going to be easy going out of Brittany and away from Lorient,” Mettraux said. “You have to decide what is the fastest way out, the heading you want to take because you think it will take you fastest out of the light winds.

“SiFi has a lot of experience in all of that and I am pretty confident in what he does, and we will do our best to make the boat go fast. “I think the hard part will be the start and the first few days, then we will see where we sit.”

The VO65s and IMOCA 60s faced light winds and flat seas out of Lorient this afternoon | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceThe VO65s and IMOCA 60s faced light winds and flat seas out of Lorient this afternoon | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

With near flat calm conditions prevailing at the race start time of 1.45pm CEST, the race committee set a reaching start towards a short departure gate between two fixed yellow buoys, giving the fleet the best chance of making headway on the tide away from Lorient.

The super-light wind conditions left the boats ghosting across the mirror-flat waters off Lorient as the sailors strained their eyes searching the horizon for the next little puff of breeze.

Later today the fleet is expected to encounter better winds as the crews negotiate the Bay of Biscay on the way towards the northwest tip of Spain at Cape Finisterre. Track their progress on The Ocean Race Europe website HERE.

The crews received a rousing send off from Lorient, where the sailors and race organisers have been operating under a strict COVID-19 protocol designed and managed by Spanish company Quirónprevención to ensure the safety of the competitors and race staff for the event.

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International ocean racing teams from around the world are assembling in Lorient, France this week ahead of the start of the inaugural edition of The Ocean Race Europe this Saturday 29 May.

Designed to showcase professional, fully-crewed offshore racing, the new European multi-stage race has attracted a top-tier entry of 12 teams representing nine countries.

The race is open to two classes of high-performance ocean-going racing yachts: the 65-foot one-design VO65 and the 60-foot development rule IMOCA 60. Both classes of boat are capable of high speeds and in the right conditions can cover 600 nautical miles or more in 24-hours.

The Ocean Race Europe’s 2,000-nautical-mile course will take the teams from Lorient to Genoa, Italy with stops in Cascais, Portugal and Alicante, Spain along the way.

The race start on May 29 will be broadcast live on Eurosport across over 50 markets in Europe and can be seen internationally on theoceanrace.com and @theoceanrace YouTube and Facebook platforms. Coverage begins at 13.30 CEST ahead of a 13.45 race start.

This year’s inaugural edition of The Ocean Race Europe leads off a 10-year calendar of racing activity that includes confirmed editions of the round-the-world race taking place on a four-year cycle beginning in 2022-23.

The Ocean Race Europe is also part of the IMOCA Globe Series which runs from 2021 through to the 2024-25 Vendée Globe single-handed, non-stop round-the-world race.

Many of the teams taking part in The Ocean Race Europe are also planning to compete in the next round-the-world edition of The Ocean Race which is scheduled to start in the autumn of 2022 from the Spanish city of Alicante, where the race’s headquarters are located.

Sailors from 23 nationalities are competing in The Ocean Race Europe, with each of the teams’ crew-lists including some of the top names in international yacht racing – along with a selection of young talented newcomers, each eager to make their mark on the professional ocean racing scene.

Racing in both the VO65 and IMOCA 60 classes is expected to be close and exciting, with the overall winners in each fleet unlikely to be decided until the finish of a coastal race in Genoa on 19 June.

Offshore Team Germany, skippered by Robert Stanjek for The Ocean Race Europe | Credit: Offshore Team GermanyOffshore Team Germany, skippered by Robert Stanjek for The Ocean Race Europe | Credit: Offshore Team Germany

The IMOCA 60s

In the foiling IMOCA 60 division, three French teams are joined by entries from the United States and Germany.

The American 11th Hour Racing Team is led by US yachtsman Charlie Enright, a veteran of two round-the-world editions of The Ocean Race. Based out of Newport, Rhode Island, the crew recently made a transatlantic crossing to take part in The Ocean Race Europe.

Joining Enright for the race as navigator is British five-time round-the-world racer Simon Fisher along with the highly experienced Pascal Bidégorry from France, who won the 2017-18 edition with Dongfeng Race Team. 

‘We feel fortunate to be able to go racing around Europe’

 Fresh off the back of an impressive third-place finish in the 2020-21 Vendée Globe, French skipper Louis Burton leads the Bureau Vallée entry in The Ocean Race Europe.

“We are very enthusiastic because the initiative between the IMOCA class and The Ocean Race is very positive and intelligent,” Burton said. “We feel fortunate to be able to go racing around Europe. I think it hasn’t been an easy event to organise in this time, so we are thankful as it’s great to be able to go to stopovers like Cascais, Alicante and Genova...

“It’s amazing to have five IMOCA and seven VO65 boats together on the starting line only a few weeks after the end of the Vendée Globe.”

Burton’s core crew is made up of fellow French sailor Davy Beaudart as navigator, as well as Burton’s wife Servane Escoffier – another highly experienced ocean racer. The team plans to rotate in several other experienced French offshore racers during the race, as well as British Vendée Globe competitor Pip Hare.

CORUM L’Épargne skipper Nicolas Troussel might be best known for his solo sailing success, having twice won France’s hallowed Solitaire du Figaro, but the Frenchman has assembled an equally competitive trio of talent for his tilt at The Ocean Race Europe.

Joining Troussel on board the team’s state-of-the-art IMOCA 60 is renowned French yachtsman Sébastien Josse, as well as French pair Marie Riou and Benjamin Schwartz, who both competed in the 2017-18 race and together won the 2020 EUROSAF Mixed Offshore European Championship.

French skipper Thomas Ruyant and his latest generation IMOCA 60 return to racing again after finishing sixth in the 2020-21 Vendée Globe. The team is supporting LinkedOut, an innovative initiative that helps homeless people in France find a job by giving them an opportunity to showcase their resume and to show who they really are.

Racing alongside Ruyant will be an all-French line-up featuring Morgan Lagravière – Ruyant’s co-skipper for the double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre race later this year – as well as Quentin Ponroy, Laurent Bourguès and 2020-21 Vendée Globe competitor Clarisse Crémer.

Offshore Team Germany is led by German Olympian and experienced offshore skipper Robert Stanjek and the team has set its sights on racing around the world in The Ocean Race 2022-23.

For The Ocean Race Europe, Stanjek has recruited British Olympian and two-time around-the-world racer Annie Lush, as well as the talented young German sailor Phillip Kasüske and French solo sailor Benjamin Dutreux, who finished ninth in the 2020-21 Vendée Globe.

Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team training off Portugal | Credit: Marc BowMirpuri Foundation Racing Team training off Portugal | Credit: Marc Bow

The VO65s

The VO65 class has been used for the last two round-the-world editions of The Ocean Race and the fleet is set for a third lap of the world in the upcoming 2022-23 edition. Built to a strict one-design rule, the boats are identical in every way, and therefore extremely evenly matched.

The VO65 division in The Ocean Race Europe is made up of two entries from the Netherlands, as well as one each from Austria, Lithuania, Mexico, Poland, and Portugal.

Dutch-flagged entry AkzoNobel Ocean Racing is led by Australian skipper Chris Nicholson, one of the world’s most experienced around-the-world racers. The team’s international line-up blends proven experience with exciting young talent, and features Britain’s Will Harris as well as Australians Liz Wardley and Lucas Chapman.

‘To have this event in between the around-the-world races is important for all of us’

Lithuanian entry Ambersail-2 is led by London 2012 Olympic skipper Rokas Milevičius. The crew includes 2016 Vendee Globe competitor Conrad Colman (NZL) as navigator, as well as Lithuanian sailors Domantas Juškevičius and Deimantė Jarmalavičiūtė, plus Tomas and Linas Ivanauskas.

Led by Dutch skipper and accomplished offshore racer Gerwin Jansen, The Austrian Ocean Race Project is a young and ambitious team of international sailors with a shared enthusiasm for big boat sailing. Despite positioning themselves as the ‘new kids on the block’, this team plans to use The Ocean Race Europe to establish its credentials.

Portuguese entry Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team is led by noted French ocean racer Yoann Richomme with a crew list packed with sailors from the 2017-18 around-the-world edition of The Ocean Race, plus some keen newcomers.

Dutch ocean racer Bouwe Bekking — a skipper who has become synonymous with The Ocean Race since he first raced around the world back in 1985-86 – leads the Sailing Poland crew which includes the highly regarded Norwegian racing navigator Aksel Magdhal, as well as experienced ocean racer Jens Dolmer from Denmark as boat captain, and the young but experienced Simbad Quiroga from Spain as bowman.

“What I’m looking forward to the most is just to be our sailing and racing again,” said Bekking from Stockhom, where his team had taken part in a short prologue event. “To have this event in between the around-the-world races is important for all of us. We have a young team, and we want to give them an opportunity to learn about what ocean racing is all about.”

Skippered by Dutch two-time America’s Cup winner Simeon Tienpont, Team Childhood I features an experienced core crew comprising Dutchmen Gerd-Jan Poortman, Peter van Niekerk, and Wouter Verbraak (navigator) and former Olympian Pieter-Jan Postma. Additionally, the team has assembled a pool of Dutch, Swedish and South African sailors to rotate onboard during three legs of The Ocean Race Europe.

And rounding out the VO65 teams, Viva México skipper Erik Brockmann is flanked by two experienced watch captains in the form of Spaniards Roberto 'Chuny' Bermúdez – a competitor in seven editions of The Ocean Race – and Jaime Arbones.

The Ocean Race Europe route map

The Ocean Race Europe starts from Lorient this Saturday 29 May and finishes in Genoa, Italy on Saturday 19 June. As well as the three equally scored offshore legs — Lorient to Cascais, Cascais to Alicante and Alicante to Genoa — the teams will also race two shorter coastal races in Cascais and Genoa with bonus points being awarded to the top three finishers.

As a prelude to the start of the first leg from Lorient, on Friday 28 May all the teams will compete in a non-scoring race around the nearby Ile de Groix.

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European Commission president Ursula Von Der Leyen will be among the speakers at a high-level summit hosted by the organisers of The Ocean Race Europe next month.

The Ocean Race Summit Europe on Wednesday 16 June aims to help drive new and improved policies to tackle some of the most urgent issues facing our blue planet — from the impact of climate change to the lack of governance and protection for our sea and whether the ocean should be given ‘rights’.

Von Der Leyen and Brussels colleague Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Ocean and Fisheries will virtually join a diverse group of speakers and exclusively invited participants from across the world — comprising leading experts from the worlds of government, science, industry, NGOs, media and sport.

Among them are Mumta Ito, lawyer and Founder of the NGO Nature’s Rights, who will reveal why giving the ocean rights could help to ensure its future, and Tommy E Remengesau, former president of the Republic of Palau, who will discuss leading the way in ocean protection.

Alongside these leading voices will be the unique perspectives of sailors, who have unrivalled experiences of the ocean. Annie Lush from Offshore Team Germany will reveal what life is like on the high seas and how offshore racers are helping scientists understand climate and weather systems.

Other confirmed speakers include:

  • Pascal Lamy, president of the Paris Peace Forum and chair of the EU Mission Starfish 2030, talking on the ambitious mission to revamp ocean governance;
  • Dr Emily Pidgeon, vice president of Ocean Science and Innovation, talking about the importance of including the ocean in the climate conversation;
  • Teresa Ribera, Fourth Deputy Vice President and Minister for Ecological Transition for Spain, on the need to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030;
  • Valerie Cabanes, international law expert and co-founder of End Ecocide on Earth, who will reveal what ecocide means for people and nature; and
  • Manu San Felix, marine biologist from Ibiza Preservation and a specialist in the protection of posidonia (seagrass), who will highlight how the ocean can be a hero in the climate crisis.

The Ocean Race Summit in Newport, Rhode Island gathered over 680 registered participants from around the world | Credit: Ainhoa Sanchez/The Ocean RaceThe Ocean Race Summit in Newport, Rhode Island gathered over 680 registered participants from around the world | Credit: Ainhoa Sanchez/The Ocean Race

Hosted by renowned television presenter and science communicator Danni Washington, the event will also be held virtually — featuring local speakers live from The Ocean Race’s home city of Alicante in Spain with a live link to Brussels.

Richard Brisius, race chairman of The Ocean Race, said: “We have one ocean, but the way it is protected and governed is splintered. When you add to this the impact of climate change, it is a recipe for disaster for our marine world. We urgently need to create a better system, with collaboration at the heart of it.

“Sailors in The Ocean Race have seen more of the ocean, and its decline, than most people on the planet. Our Race is all about teamwork, overcoming challenges and achieving the extraordinary.

“We can apply this through our summits, to help drive change for the ocean. Sport has the power to make a real difference for the planet and we are going to do all we can to make the most of this opportunity.”

The summit will be live-streamed on The Ocean Race: Racing with Purpose YouTube channel and takes place during The Ocean Race Europe, which starts on 29 May in Lorient, France and finishes in Genoa, Italy with a coastal race on 19 June.

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