No excuse to lose for 11th Hour Racing

Published on October 22nd, 2022

The US entry 11th Hour Racing Team provides this update on their preparation for the crewed, around the world race on October 22, 2022:

There are now less than 100 days until the start of The Ocean Race, 85 to be precise, and our team is in full training mode.

Based out of our second home in Concarneau, Brittany, France, the shore crew is working around the clock at the MerConcept base to ensure the boat is kept in peak condition for the sailors.

Having completed a two week session in late September, which included training with the prestigious Pôle Finisterre, the whole team will come together once again in Concarneau in mid-November. Soon after, the sailors will set off for Cascais, Portugal, and the last stint of training before heading to Valencia. Spain. Our final destination is, of course, Alicante, Spain, where we will arrive in the new year for the start of The Ocean Race on January 15, 2023.

The training at the small center of excellence in Brittany is a unique opportunity to collaborate with the best in the world of offshore sailing. They’re picky about who they select and you must play by their rules.

During one of the training days, the team’s Media Crew Member Amory Ross was on the phone from the 60-foot performance race boat as it was dealing with 35 knots of wind:

“It’s errrrrr, well [SLAM] let’s just say the sea is [SLAM] angry,” says Amory as he’s thrown around the cockpit. “We’re out here [SLAM] seeing waves between three to five meters and it’s [SLAM] pretty gnarly. You can see Charlie behind me and [SLAM] we’ve got a lot of learning to do out here.”

So, what exactly are they doing in the Bay of Biscay, alongside ten other boats? The answer is mining for gold.

Every few months, high-performing IMOCA boats and sailors come together at Pôle Finisterre to train in a unique collaboration, where selective information will be shared in the interest of optimizing everyone’s performance.

As Enright explains, “To become the best, you must train with the best.” To join a Pôle training session, a team must be willing to give up all their data for mining by the experts in the hope that in exchange, there will be gold from the other teams.

For four days, trust and confidentiality are at the top of the agenda. In extremely private debriefs (no cameras allowed), the experts are selective and particular about what data is shared, allowing an equal playing field for all participating teams. Pôle is notoriously picky about who they allow to take part: 11th Hour Racing Team is the first Anglo-Saxon team allowed into the program.

“In these training sessions, there’s an absence of pressure but the same subliminal competition is present,” notes Ross. “There’s the opportunity to really gain in learnings from this approach and it’s so unique. With other Ocean Race teams here we’re able to truly collaborate. I’ve never heard of anything like it in sport.”

Founded in 1993, Pôle is a training school designed for excellence.

“It’s about giving the team every opportunity for success in The Ocean Race,” said Team CEO Mark Towill. “There is more pressure on our team than ever before. We’ve had the most time on the water, we’ve completed several Pôle sessions, and we are well prepared.”

While having time on your side (compared to the other Ocean Race teams who all launched in the last three months) can ease the mind on occasion, it can also bring about sleepless nights for both leaders. “We won’t know until the start of the race where we truly stack up, but Charlie and I discuss the pressures all the time, each aware of the other’s challenges,” says Towill.

Meanwhile, on the water, off the coast of Brittany, Ross texts through a progress report: “Hi, pretty terrible sea state – slamming has been relentless. Last night was difficult. No moon, zero visibility steady 35 knots, dead downwind in a short and very steep sea state. Lots of near wipeouts – plenty to learn.”

As the managers weigh each other up in Alicante and the sailors weigh each other up on the water, the countdown to The Ocean Race continues and so does everyone’s obsession to win it.

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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

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: The Ocean Race

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