Early glimpse of The Ocean Race 2022-23

Published on September 7th, 2022

While the final line-up for The Ocean Race 2022-23 is not yet firm, five of the IMOCA teams so far confirmed as entries are in France and set to race in Lorient at the 2022 Défi Azimut – a multi-stage event on September 14-18.

Four of the five international teams – Charlie Enright and Mark Towill’s 11th Hour Racing Team (USA), Boris Herrmann’s Team Malizia (GER), Benjamin Dutreux Robert Stanjek’s GUYOT environnement – Team Europe (FRA/GER), Paul Meilhat’s Biotherm (FRA) – will race with with four crew (including at least one female sailor) as well as an additional onboard reporter (OBR) whose role is to chronicle their crew’s performance in words, images and video.

Meanwhile, French skipper Kevin Escoffier has opted to sail his Holcim – PRB IMOCA in solo mode.

The six-day annual event for solo IMOCA skippers, which is permitting the crewed division, has attracted a total entry of 29 boats in its 12th edition. The entry list features many of the top name names in the class including the top three skippers from the 2020–2021 Vendée Globe: Yannick Bestaven (FRA), Charlie Dalin (FRA), and Louis Burton (FRA).

The program opens September 14 with a day of sprint speed trials along a one-nautical mile reaching course set between Lorient and the nearby Groix island. The racing will be based on football World Cup-style knock-out format with the teams grouped in the early rounds before the qualifiers race one-on-one in the later stages. For The Ocean Race boats, this stage offers a valuable opportunity to gauge themselves against their opposition in terms of raw boatspeed.

The following day the fleet sets off on a 48-hour offshore race around a course that loops out into the Atlantic around a set of virtual waypoints before bringing the fleet back to Lorient on September 17. For The Ocean Race’s four fully-crewed teams, this will be the first and last time they will race offshore together before the 14th edition of the around-the-world race starts on January 15, 2023 in Alicante, Spain.

With that in mind the two day offshore could be as much about reconnaissance as it is about the result, with the crews expected to keep a close eye on each other as they try to glean any useful information about their rivals’ technique, setup, and performance.

The final day of racing on September 18 centers around a timed sprint fleet race around the 15-square kilometre Groix Island. With 29 boats and a record time of just one hour, eight minutes, 10 seconds (set by French skipper Vincent Riou on PRB in 2015), this race is set to be a frenetic scramble with no room whatsoever for tactical mistakes or boathanding errors.

11th Hour Racing Team skipper Charlie Enright said his team was looking forward to racing with the other IMOCAs from The Ocean Race.

“The format is great. You ease into it with the speed runs which are fun and then there’s the 48-hour race – which is the most relevant to what is coming down the track for all the competitors.

“The Round Groix race is particularly useful for us because it gives us a chance to get some meaningful boat handling practice in the crewed format.”

Paul Meilhat – skipper of the brand new Biotherm IMOCA – acknowledges that his boat, which was only launched last week in Lorient, may not be fully ready, nevertheless he said that he and the team are excited to take part.

“I’m really happy that we can do this fully-crewed as a warm up for The Ocean Race. The truth is that it is easier to manage a boat that is not totally finished sailing with four people rather than if you are alone. Also I think it’s a really good way for us all to start our story with The Ocean Race together.”

Team Malizia co-skipper Will Harris (GBR) said Boris Herrmann’s squad were keen to line up against the other IMOCAs entered for The Ocean Race for the first time.

“We have seen some of the other boats out on the water but we have never lined up against them,” Harris said. “So this is going to be the moment we see whether we are in the game – or we have a lot more work to do.”

GUYOT environnement – Team Europe’s team manager Jens Kuphal said that the event would be a major milestone for the team which is a potent blend of Olympic campaigners and ocean racing talent.

“There is a lot of anticipation for the Défi Azimut because it’s the first time that our sailors will come together as a crew. For us it is like the kickoff point for the whole campaign – so it is a special moment.”

Despite opting to race the Défi Azimut solo, Holcim – PRB’s French skipper Kevin Escoffier said he was pleased to have the rest of The Ocean Race IMOCA crews competing.

“I have chosen to do it single handed because I wanted to have some solo training on the boat ahead of the Route du Rhum. But for sure I will keep an eye on our friends and rivals from The Ocean Race teams.”

All the boats will carry GPS trackers for the entire event meaning fans will be able to follow the action online on the event website. The tracker for the 48 hour race will be embedded on theoceanrace.com.

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The Ocean Race 2022-23 Race Schedule*:
Alicante, Spain – Leg 1 start: January 15, 2023
Cabo Verde – ETA: January 22; Leg 2 start: January 25
Cape Town, South Africa – ETA: February 9; Leg 3 start: February 26 or 27 (TBC)
Itajaí, Brazil – ETA: April 1; Leg 4 start: April 23
Newport, RI, USA – ETA: May 10; Leg 5 start: May 21
Aarhus, Denmark – ETA: May 30; Leg 6 start: June 8
Kiel, Germany (Fly-By) – June 9
The Hague, The Netherlands – ETA: June 11; Leg 7 start: June 15
Genova, Italy – The Grand Finale – ETA: June 25, 2023; Final In-Port Race: July 1, 2023
* To be confirmed – Prologue: September to December 2022

The Ocean Race (formerly Volvo Ocean Race and Whitbread Round the World 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. The 14th edition was originally planned for 2021-22 but was postponed one year due to the pandemic.

Source: Scuttlebutt/Ed Gorman, IMOCA

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