Final night for The Ocean Race Europe

Published on June 16th, 2021

(June 16, 2021; 14:01 UTC) – Another 24 hours of light wind racing out on the Mediterranean on the third and final leg of The Ocean Race Europe has seen both the VO65 and IMOCA 60 fleets compress significantly as they push towards the finish line in Genova, Italy.

There has been compression in the five boat IMOCA 60 class with the trailing group of four foilers – 11th Hour Racing Team (USA), LinkedOut (FRA), Bureau Vallée (FRA), CORUM L’Épargne (FRA) – all starting to make better progress in new breeze and eating considerably into the leg-long lead established by the non-foiling Offshore Team Germany (GER) skippered by Robert Stanjek (GER).

Since the leg three start on June 13, today at 0000 UTC saw Stanjek and his crew – navigator Benjamin Dutreux (FRA), Annie Lush (GBR), Phillip Kasüske (GER), and their onboard reporter, Felix Diemer (GER) – at 97 nm ahead of the pack.

But this afternoon at 1300 UTC that lead had nearly been halved, to 58 nm, as the American-flagged 11th Hour Racing Team – made up of skipper Charlie Enright (USA), past winners of The Ocean Race Pascal Bidégorry (FRA) and Simon Fisher (GBR), Swiss round the world sailor Justine Mettraux, and OBR Amory Ross (USA) – leads a charge from the newer boats in building breeze that has seen the yachts accelerate to consistent double-digit speeds for the first time in 48 hours.

“Well, we’re sailing these ocean-going machines inside the Mediterranean Sea, so it’s very complicated,” said 11th Hour Racing Team’s Charlie Enright. “There’s not a lot of wind and they don’t go well in not a lot of wind. So you need to squeeze every ounce of performance out of them or you may never get started again if you stop. And we’ve done more maneuvers in this leg probably than we have in the rest of the race combined already. So it’s really tricky. And you got to stay on your game.”

There’s more of that ahead, with another night of light winds and calm areas forecast before the IMOCA fleet finds its way to Genova tomorrow.

But further ahead, the seven VO65s continue to make the best of light to moderate conditions with the entire fleet of identical one-design yachts now within 100 nm of Genova.

Sailing Team Poland VO65 was still in front this aftertnoon, albeit with a dramatically reduced lead over their nearest rivals, second placed Team Childhood I (NED) and Mirpuri Foundation racing Team (POR) in third.

The Polish-flagged yacht skippered by Dutch serial around-the-world racer Bouwe Bekking has led the VO65 class for the majority of this third leg from Alicante, Spain and at one point was 27 nm ahead of the pack. Since yesterday that advantage has been pegged back to under 5 nm.

With under 60 nm still to race to Genova, just 26 nm separated the VO65 leader Sailing Team Poland from seventh placed The Austrian Ocean Race Project (AUT). The Polish team’s nearest rivals – Childhood I skippered by Simeon Tienpont (NED), and the Yoann Richomme (FRA)-skippered Mirpuri Foundation Ocean Racing – are respectively four and six nautical miles behind and ready to pounce on any mistake.

But with the chances high of a breeze shutdown tonight on the approach to Genova, at this stage none of the chasing fleet can be ruled out earning a podium position for leg three.

“We managed to get away from Mallorca and Minorca with the Polish, although they were leading by 10 miles and managed to pull away from the rest of the field by almost you know, 20 miles…” explained Yoann Richomme on board the Mirpuri Foundation boat. “Luck can turn and it’s still a long leg to Genoa.”

“There’s still a lot to fight for,” said navigator Will Harris with the fourth-placed AkzoNobel Ocean Race. “We’ve got Poland who were 22-23 miles ahead of us last night, now that’s down to 13 miles. So we’ll see kind of how the opportunities come up. But still a whole load of snakes and ladders to play before we get to finish.”

Latest estimates predict that the earliest arrivals in Genova would be near midnight tonight, but there is significant uncertainty in that ETA. If the wind holds as it is, the leading VO65s could arrive over two hours earlier. But if the wind dies out as forecast, the boats could be drifting, becalmed, within just miles of the finishing line well into the morning hours tomorrow.

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Overall standings after Leg Two:

IMOCA 60
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

VO65
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.

Source: TORE

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