Home stretch to Alicante in The Ocean Race Europe

Published on June 8th, 2021

(June 8, 2021) – The weather conditions experienced by the 12 international teams competing in the second leg of The Ocean Race Europe have moderated considerably from yesterday’s fierce headwinds winds that funneled against them through the Gibraltar Strait.

The screaming winds that pounded the yachts for most of the day in the Gibraltar Strait eventually gave way to ultra-light Mediterranean zephyrs yesterday evening, offering a chance for the sailors to rest a little and take stock of any damage to their boats enroute to the leg two finish in Alicante, Spain.

“You do all this tacking with 35 plus knots of wind in Gibraltar to gain zero point something of a mile, and then at the end you’re all floating in the Med within a mile of each other,” lamented Jolbert van Dijk, the Dutch navigator aboard The Austrian Ocean Race Project VO65.

The crew of Louis Burton’s IMOCA 60 Bureau Vallée (FRA) had a torrid time yesterday as they passed the Cap Spartel lighthouse close to Tangiers on their way into the strait. The tackline on their J2 headsail suddenly exploded, and in the ensuing chaos the mainsail was damaged, costing the crew time to get the boat back in full racing mode.

Meanwhile, the crew of the American 11th Hour Racing Team IMOCA 60 has continued to make impressive progress on their quest to close down the rest of fleet since restarting several hours late on June 6 due to damage to their port foil incurred in a collision with the anchor line of a moored boat.

They closed to within 35 nautical miles on the approach to the Gibraltar Strait yesterday. Today, having made quick work of the strait, the team managed to overhaul the non-foiling Offshore Team Germany, and are sitting in fourth place, 21nm off the lead.

“I think we did a pretty picture-perfect job carving it up with 30 to 40 knots and two reefs and the J3, crossing the channel a couple times,” said skipper Charlie Enright (USA). “Eventually we went north of the TSS [traffic separation zone] and snuck in kind of under Tarifa.

“We seemed to get back up to speed after Gibraltar quite well. Just shaking reefs, sail changes, stuff like that. So, closing the gap, I don’t know if it’s going to be enough, but we’re pushing hard. It’s all we can do and, you know, if we make it close and hopefully we can make it exciting at the end.”

At the front of the VO65 class there is a familiar scene with the two frontrunning teams for most of the first leg from Lorient, France to Cascais, Portugal – Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team (POR) and AkzoNobel Ocean Racing (NED) – once again match racing for the lead.

At 1400 UTC this afternoon, the Portuguese crew led by French solo racing skipper Yoann Richomme had edged ahead of the Dutch boat skippered my multiple world champion and around the world sailor Chris Nicholson from Australia.

Just six nm behind lies Sailing Team Poland, skippered by serial around-the-world racer Bouwe Bekking (NED).

In the IMOCA 60s Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut (FRA) crew continue to hold on to the lead as they have for almost the entirety of the second leg. Sixteen nm behind them in second is Nicolas Troussel’s CORUM L’ Épargne (FRA), with the hard chasing 11th Hour Racing Team (USA) a further four nautical miles adrift.

With a little over 100 nm still to race to Alicante no more than 22 nm separates all seven VO65s, with just 31 nm between first and fifth in the IMOCA 60s – raising the very real prospect of an ultra-close finish to the leg, perhaps even a repeat of what was seen at the end of leg one in Cascais.

Current weather routing estimates suggest the leaders could now reach Alicante as early as 0700 UTC tomorrow.

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The Ocean Race Europe Overall Standings:

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

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

The Ocean Race Europe is a new event on the offshore sailing calendar, open to the one-design VO65 class and teams sailing in a fully-crewed configuration in the IMOCA 60s. The Ocean Race Europe is providing a bridge event for 2022-23 The Ocean Race (formerly Volvo Ocean Race) which was postponed one year due to COVID-19.

As well as the three equally scored offshore legs totalling 2000 nm – Leg 1: Lorient to Cascais, Portugal (starts May 29); Leg 2 Cascais to Alicante, Spain (starts June 6); and Leg 3 Alicante to Genova, Italy (starts June 13) – the teams will also race two shorter coastal races in Cascais and Genova with bonus points being awarded to the top three.

Source: TORE

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