Final leg for The Ocean Race Europe
Published on June 13th, 2021
Alicante, Spain (June 13, 2021) – The third and final offshore leg of The Ocean Race Europe got underway today where the 12-boat international fleet of yachts representing nine countries set off into the Mediterranean bound for Genova, Italy.
The Ocean Race Europe fleet arrived in Alicante on June 9 after a three-day second leg two from Cascais, Portugal, having previously raced there from Lorient, France on leg one.
In contrast to the predominantly breezy conditions the crews experienced on the first two legs, the weather forecast for leg three calls for light winds throughout the 600 nautical mile passage to Genova.
Due to the forecast, race management made a course change less than 24 hours before the start, shortening the course and directing the fleet straight from Alicante to Genova.
The points spread among the top three teams in both the VO65 and IMOCA 60 classes could not be closer as the fleet left Alicante for the final offshore stage on the new professional yachting event.
In the seven-boat VO65 class, Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team (POR) and AkzoNobel Ocean Racing (NED) are in first and second, tied on 11 points, with Sailing Team Poland (POL) in third, just one point behind.
Remarkably, the scores in the five-boat IMOCA 60 class are even tighter, with the top three teams – LinkedOut (FRA), Offshore Team Germany (GER), and 11th Hour Racing Team (USA) – all sitting on nine points.
Although the focus may be mainly on the podium teams, there are several other crews in either class with enough points to challenge for overall victory, given a strong performance on the leg to Genova.
“It’s going to be tight all the way to the end,” said Thomas Ruyant, the skipper of LinkedOut, the nominal leader in IMOCA. “The race likely won’t even be decided on this leg, but on the coastal race in Genova.”
Adding to the pressure, particularly for the skippers and navigators, was the uncertainty of the weather forecasts for the coming week. Even as the boats left the dock there was no clear indication of which side of the three Balearic Islands – Ibiza, Mallorca, and Minorca – the fleet should pass.
“It’s going to be very tricky,” confirmed Spanish navigator Juan Vila ¬– an America’s Cup and around the world racer who has been drafted in by the Viva Mexico VO65 crew for leg three.
“There’s a big decision to make whether to go south or north of the Balearic Islands and when to cross a ridge of high pressure – that’s basically light winds – around Ibiza and Mallorca.
“There could be some big splits north and south as the [weather] models keep changing their minds – one day they tell you to go north, the next day they tell you to go south. So we will just have to see what we get.”
Simon Fisher, the British navigator with the American 11th Hour Racing Team, said the IMOCA fleet would have to choose between trying to find gradient wind out to sea, or rely on picking up thermal winds closer to land.
“Do we use the gradient to try and make as much progress as possible, and then see what develops?” Fisher said. “Or do we commit early on to dealing with sea breezes and land breezes? That [the second option] is obviously going to be a messy and fairly long affair, battling up the coast.
“So I think it’s going to be an interesting leg and looking at how the different teams decide to deal with, that’s going to be fascinating.”
The course for leg three took the fleet away from the start line off the Alicante city front, first upwind to the Alicante exit mark where the yachts bore away towards mark two, located off the nearby Tabarca Island. From there the crews are now free to choose their own fastest routes north through the Mediterranean to Genova.
Conditions were near perfect with 8-12 knots of breeze and sunny skies for the start.
In the VO65s AkzoNobel Ocean Racing made the best of the first beat, taking an inshore route that saw them lead at the Alicante exit mark, with Mirpuri Foundation Sailing Team in second and Viva Mexico third.
In the IMOCA 60 class, Robert Stanjek’s Offshore Team Germany (GER) took full advantage of their non-foiling configuration to rocket up the first beat to lead at the Alicante exit mark from 11th Hour Racing Team (USA), skippered by Charlie Enright, in second, and Louis Burton’s Bureau Vallée (FRA) in third.
But as soon as the foiling IMOCAs were able to hit their angle, and lift out of the water, the Germans were left behind. Stanjek and his crew can take solace in the fact that light, upwind conditions are forecast to return soon.
Based on the forecast for predominantly light winds the crews are expected to take up to four days to complete the course, and are estimated arrive in Genoa on June 17.
The final points scoring opportunity of The Ocean Race Europe will be a coastal sprint race in Genova scheduled to take place on June 19 when bonus points will be awarded to the top three finishers in each class.
With the leaderboard so close, it is likely this coastal race will be decisive in determining the winners of the inaugural edition of The Ocean Race Europe.
Overall standings after Leg Two:
LinkedOut (FRA) – 9 points
Offshore Team Germany (GER) – 9 points
11th Hour Racing Team (USA) – 9 points
CORUM L’ Épargne (FRA) – 6 points
Bureau Vallée (FRA) – 3 points
Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team (POR) – 11 points
AkzoNobel Ocean Racing (NED) – 11 points
Sailing Team Poland (POL) – 10 points
The Austrian Ocean Race Project (AUS) – 9 points
Team Childhood I (POL) – 8 points
Ambersail-2 (LTU) – 7 points
Viva México (MEX) – 5 points
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.