Corralling VO65s for The Ocean Race

Published on January 13th, 2023

The Ocean Race (formerly Volvo Ocean Race and Whitbread Round the World Race) was initially to 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.

It seemed like a good plan to energize an event that had been slipping. Eight VO65s had been built, and there were piles of IMOCAs that existed. Instant participation, right? Wrong.

While nearly 40 IMOCAs did the solo non-stop Vendée Globe 2020-21, that race takes half as long as The Ocean Race, with those campaigns historically focused only on the shorthanded circuit. Only five committed, with three of the boats hardly vetted from their recent launches.

As for the VO65s, they’d previously been owned and controlled by the event, but all have since been sold. One was purchased by Bianca Cook and her NZ Ocean Racing team, though a lack of funding forced their withdrawal. The other is the ex-MAPFRE boat from the 2017–2018 Volvo Ocean Race which has been idle and needs a refit to go racing.

Uncertainty remained among the other six, with a compromise conceived for a shorter – and less expensive – competition. Called The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint, the course would use Legs 1, 6, and 7 of The Ocean Race course. This plan got the six VO65s to commit.

As this one design fleet prepares for its third lap around the planet, there are plenty of new faces among the teams along with some old hands too. Here’s a look at the fleet:

Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team (POR)
Winner of The Ocean Race Europe, the Portuguese team is skippered by Antonio Fontes, a veteran of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 sailing aboard Scallywag. His wife Mariana Lobato is also among a crew that includes triple Olympian Diogo Cayolla, Olympic 470 bronze medalist Hugo Rocha, and Argentinian windsurfing Olympian Francisco Cruz.

Ambersail 2 (LTU)
The Ambersail 2 crew is based around a core group of Lithuanian sailors with the collective goal of promoting their country on the international sporting stage. The team is headed by Lithuanian London 2012 Olympian skipper Rokas Milevičius – who, when he raced aboard Team Brunel in 2014-15, became the first Lithuanian sailor to take part in the crewed round the world race.

The core crew of the Netherlands entry Team JAJO is made up of five Dutch under-30 sailors skippered by Jelmer van Beek who is 27. Alongside him, acting as watch captain is legendary Dutch around-the-world racer Bouwe Bekking – a veteran of eight editions of the event. The team is managed by Sailing Holland and represents two of the oldest yacht clubs in the Netherlands: the Royal Maas Yacht Club and the Royal Netherlands Yacht Club.

Windwhisper Racing Team (POL)
Skippered by experienced Spanish ocean racer Pablo Arrarte – a veteran of four editions: 2008-09 with Telefónica Blue (ESP), 2011-12 with Telefónica (ESP), 2014-15 with Team Brunel (NED), and with MAPFRE in 2017-18. The squad is made up predominantly of exciting young Polish sailing talent – like Tokyo 2020 Laser Radial Olympian Magdalena Kwaśna (24) – backed up by the experience of veteran around-the-world racers including Neal McDonald who has competed in seven editions of this crewed round the world race.

Viva México (MEX)
Led by Mexican yachtsman Erik Brockmann – a past J70 World Championship winner who as well as skippering Mexican teams in the Extreme Sailing Series has also racked up thousands of miles of offshore racing, including six editions of the Transpac Race. Viva México took part in The Ocean Race Europe, flying the flag for Mexico and with an ambition to represent the country that had won the first race 50 years ago with Ramón Carlin’s Sayula II. Among the crew that includes four time Olympian and former top ranked ILCA 6 sailor Tania Elías Calles from Mexico, while race veteran Roberto ‘Chuny’ Bermúdez de Castro from Spain will be sailing with his son Carlos Bermúdez de Castro.

Austrian Ocean Racing Powered by Team Genova (AUT/ITA)
The Austrian campaign to compete in The Ocean Race was founded by Konstantin (26, AUT) and Oliver Kobale (23, AUT) along with skipper Gerwin Jansen. Together, they purchased a VO65 and set out to train, competing in numerous regattas and covering over 50,000 nautical miles over the past three years. In search of a home port, they were welcomed in Genova in 2021, where they formed a strong partnership with the city which has been basis of the partnership behind the team’s entry in The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint.

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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) was initially to 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.

However, only the IMOCAs will be racing round the world while the VO65s will race in The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint which competes in Legs 1, 6, and 7 of The Ocean Race course.

Additionally, The Ocean Race also features the In-Port Series with races at seven of the course’s stopover cities around the world which allow local fans to get up close and personal to the teams as they battle it out around a short inshore course.

Although in-port races do not count towards a team’s overall points score, they do play an important part in the overall rankings as the In-Port Race Series standings are used to break any points ties that occur during the race around the world.

The 14th edition of The Ocean Race was originally planned for 2021-22 but was postponed one year due to the pandemic, with the first leg starting on January 15, 2023.

Source: The Ocean Race

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