The Ocean Race 2023 gets underway
Published on January 15th, 2023
Alicante, Spain (January 15, 2023) – The 14th edition of The Ocean Race, the fully-crewed, around the world yacht race, got underway today for the 32,000 nm course that will take six months to finish in Genova, Italy.
Five IMOCA class yachts – the high-tech, foiling, flying race boats that are in The Ocean Race for the first time – started in glamour conditions on the waters off Alicante’s Ocean Live Park just after 16:00 local time.
Two hours earlier, a fleet of six VO65 one-design yachts set off on the first stage of their shorter, European-focused event, The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint, which features three stages of competition.
While both fleets are now racing on Leg 1 to Cabo Verde, some 1900 nautical miles away, the IMOCAs continue their race around the world, while the VO65s will pause in Cabo Verde, before rejoining the IMOCA fleet in Europe in the spring for the final two legs of their race.
While the Alicante start period featured perfect January weather with warm temperatures under sunny skies, the sailors are expecting gale force westerlies overnight, with a forecast for gale-force westerlies to build overnight, with a heavy sea state making the passage to Gibraltar and the trade winds in the Atlantic a treacherous one.
With the weak weather front having passed through the race area earlier in the afternoon, the wind conditions settled at WNW 12-14 knots for the start of the five IMOCAs.
Nevertheless, as the race got under way two hours after the start of the VO65s, it was clear from the aerial view that there were still some shifts and puffs to be had.
On the water and as the start gun went it was Paul Meilhat’s brand new Biotherm (FRA) that was to set the pace, on time, at speed and on the foils. It was an impressive display, not least because last week was the first time that this crew had sailed together aboard a boat that has only recently been launched.
After a few unstable moments on the fast reach to the first mark, when the boat leaped into the air, it was clear that while the French team were fast they were not yet properly trimmed.
Behind them, hot on their heels, Kevin Escoffier’s Team Holcim-PRB (SUI) was also leaping into the air from time to time as both boats set a blistering pace.
The second leg of the inshore lap saw the fleet sail downwind. With the boats now under less load, teams were able to re-trim and re-set before the next fast leg. Seconds after Biotherm had rounded mark 3 it was clear that they had made some essential trim changes.
This time the boat was faster and better trimmed as Biotherm accelerated away on the third leg and extended their advantage over the rest of the fleet.
Meanwhile, after a disappointing start, 11th Hour Racing Team (USA) skippered by Charlie Enright hauled themselves back from last to third. Experience was showing already from a team that many have considered as the favorites.
As 11th Hour Racing Team made their charge towards the front of the fleet, Boris Herrmann’s Team Malizia (GER) had slipped out to the back but were able to pass GUYOT environnement – Team Europe (FRA/GER), skippered by Benjamin Dutreux after the French/German team had a problem with their code zero sail which forced them to press pause as they sorted the issue.
As the leaders passed through the final gate, Biotherm was hitting 29 knots in the flat water. Their advantage had already stretched out to 500m over second placed Holcim-PRB. After just 40 minutes of sailing it was an impressive performance.
Before the start, skipper Meilhat had explained how comfortable he and his crew would be with sailing the boat in a manual mode if required. Now, having performed a blistering lap of the inshore course with the tiller in his hand and sailing outside for the entire period, this was a good example of what he had meant.
Others had explained the importance of taking things carefully. But if the inshore lap had revealed anything, boat speeds regularly exceeding 30-knots as the fleet moved away from the shore and into the stronger breeze illustrated what the new world of fully crewed IMOCA racing means along with a demonstration of the relentless pace that is in store for this 1900 nm leg to Cabo Verde.
IMOCA: Boat, Design, Skipper, Launch date
• Guyot Environnement – Team Europe (VPLP Verdier); Benjamin Dutreux (FRA)/Robert Stanjek (GER); September 1, 2015
• 11th Hour Racing Team (Guillaume Verdier); Charlie Enright (USA); August 24, 2021
• Holcim-PRB (Guillaume Verdier); Kevin Escoffier (FRA); May 8, 2022
• Team Malizia (VPLP); Boris Herrmann (GER); July 19, 2022
• Biotherm (Guillaume Verdier); Paul Meilhat (FRA); August 31 2022
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