Storms, Politics, and Predictions

Published on November 1st, 2020

After training stateside for seven weeks in 11th Hour Racing Team’s homeport of Newport, RI, the crew set sail for France on October 27 to continue their campaign to win The Ocean Race 2022-23.

Now halfway across the Atlantic with the tail-end of Hurricane Zeta pushing them at breakneck speed, immersed in conditions more akin to the Southern Ocean, media manager on board Amory Ross (USA) sends this update on November 1:

Transatlantic Day 5, 11:30 UTC
Position: 039° 37.292N, 035° 6.616W
Course: 45°
Boat speed: 26 knots
Wind speed: 33 knots
Sea temp: 25°C (77°F)

November 1… spooky! Life here is a little radical at the moment. We’re currently reaching northeast in 35-40 knots after a successful 4am gybe, finally pointed towards France. Or as SiFi says – more France than Africa for a change.

Keeping the boat in the water has been a challenge, but we continue to collect valuable data, and our comprehension for the limits of both boat and body are improving every hour. It’s inconclusive as to which is taking more punishment!

On our August trip from Concarneau to Newport we sailed the minimum distance, almost a straight line across, but it was all upwind and took the longest time (14 days), this trip is the opposite – we are very, very far from the traditional US to France route of the North Atlantic Great Circle, but it is going to be fast. We have been full speed since casting dock lines with virtually no slow downs.

We have been enjoying some proper offshore training with three reefs in the main for two full days, and big, long waves that, as Charlie said in his update yesterday, were certainly reminiscent of the Southern Ocean, where the boat is locked in and you change nothing for weeks. I’m not sure anyone touched a rope for 48 hours.

In 2020 terms, it felt like we were trapped in a looping GIF, three yellow suits in the cockpit, a steady cascade of water over the roof, everyone just staring out the windows. But we’ve been fortunate to dodge and weave around these massive weather features without boundaries or race competition to influence our route, prioritizing safety and optimum training.

Onboard conversation has been largely dominated by US politics and Vendeé Globe predictions, neither of which I am probably at liberty to share! It is an interesting time to be at sea for Charlie and I, the only two Americans on board, and you can feel the international relevance of the election in 48 hours time through the perspectives of everyone else on board. The States will be a different place for us when we get back, one way or another.

It is also ironic to be sailing this IMOCA back to Brittany, arriving a few days before the rest of the fleet leaves to sail around the world. When Charlie goes to sleep we all joke of diverting to Les Sables and submitting a late entry on his behalf! Everyone’s excited for the start, as we have a vested interest in new partners, new friends, and some very interesting design differences to help us along our own path.

We probably have another three days before landfall with winds gradually easing as we fall off the coattails of this last system. I think everyone is excited for a less intense finish to what has been a pretty active busy trip!

Team details:

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Here was the plan prior to the 2022-23 postponement:
The Ocean Race 2021-22 (formerly The Volvo Ocean Race) will be raced in two classes of boats: the high-performance, foiling, IMOCA 60 class and the one-design VO65 class which has been used for the last two editions of the race. Entries in the IMOCA 60 class will compete for The Ocean Race trophy, while those racing the VO65s will chase the Ocean Challenge Trophy.


Ten Stopovers for 14th Edition:
Alicante, Spain: This historic Mediterranean port will host the start for the fifth consecutive edition in the autumn of 2021.

Cabo Verde: More accustomed to having offshore teams sail by, or stop for repair, this archipelago of ten volcanic islands in the central Atlantic Ocean will become just the second African venue the race has ever visited and the first West African nation to host the event. Details.

Cape Town, South Africa: Located on the shore of Table Bay, Cape Town, as the oldest urban area in South Africa, was developed by the United East India Company (VOC) as a supply station for Dutch ships sailing to East Africa, India, and the Far East. Located at latitude 33.55° S, it’s approximately the same as Sydney and Buenos Aires and equivalent to Casablanca and Los Angeles in the northern hemisphere. Details.

Shenzhen, China: Located in the southeast, the city is a modern metropolis that links Hong Kong to China’s mainland. It’s known for its shopping destinations and features contemporary buildings, such as the 600m-tall skyscraper Ping An International Finance Centre, and a number of amusement parks. The city is a leading global technology hub and was one of the fastest-growing cities in the world in the 1990s and the 2000s. Details.

Auckland, New Zealand: European, Polynesian, Asian, and strong Maori heritages give Auckland its distinctive culture. Located in the North Island of New Zealand, it is the most populous urban area in the country with an urban population of around 1,570,100. Details.

Itajaí, Brazil: To the south of Rio de Janeiro, Itajaí was founded in the mid-19th century by German and Italian colonists, and is now the commercial centre and Atlantic port for an agricultural region drained by the Itajaí River and its tributaries. Details.

Newport, USA: Located on Aquidneck Island, Newport is 74 miles south of Boston and 180 miles northeast of New York City. It is known as a New England summer resort and is famous for its historic mansions and its rich sailing history. It was the location of every challenge to the America’s Cup between 1930 and 1983. It is also the home of Naval Station Newport, which houses the United States Naval War College, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, and an important Navy training center. This is the third consecutive edition of the race to stop in Newport. Details.

Aarhus, Denmark: The course comes to the east coast of the Jutland peninsula during the spring of 2022, following a popular ‘Fly-By’ of the city during the final leg of the 2017-18 edition of the Race. Details.

The Hague, Netherlands: This city along the North Sea coast will welcome the race for a third consecutive time, first coming as a ‘pitstop’ on the final leg of the 2014-15 edition and as the final finish port for the 2017-18 race. Details.

Genoa, Italy: As the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, this first-time race host is Italy’s largest sea port yet remains full of grandeur as the gateway to the Riviera while offering weighty architectural heritage. Details.

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