Sitting down with The Ocean Race

Published on January 18th, 2023

Shirley Robertson

This edition of Shirley Robertson’s Sailing Podcast comes from the Spanish port of Alicante, long time home to The Ocean Race, as the fourteenth edition of this famous round the world adventure gets underway with a dramatic new look.

On what is the fiftieth anniversary of what was originally called the Whitbread Round The World Race, then became famous as the Volvo Ocean Race, and is now being sailed as simply The Ocean Race, double Olympic gold medalist Shirley Robertson presents her podcast from the start of the thirty two thousand nautical mile odyssey.

In this edition she talks to skippers and crew members from each of the five foiling IMOCA entrants, and catches up with race Co-President, Johan Salen, to talk thorough the class changes, and the future of the event.

Now being sailed in the IMOCA 60-footer, the superfast foiling monohulls more familiar to Vendee Globe fans, much of the dockside chat was over sailing these solo-orientated speed machines with a crew, and how sailing from the almost fully covered cockpits was a huge departure for this race.

British offshore sailor Will Harris, sailing the Race with Boris Herrmann’s Team Malizia explains…

“We’re always looking at the sensors and the numbers because when you’re inside these boats that’s really all you’ve got to go off, it’s how these boats are sailed now, it’s not so much about what you feel in the helm, or what you feel by looking at the sails.”

American entrant Charlie Enright of ’11th Hour Racing Team is skippering his third campaign, but is comparatively new to the IMOCA Class. Much of his discussion with Robertson is around the adoption of the new class, and how sailing fully foiling with crew in the covered cockpit presents plenty of challenges…

“It almost requires a more natural sailor, because you are trying to do it with less feedback, if that makes sense, so it’s more seat of the pants, it’s more feeling, it’s really unique to be sailing inside and down below.”

From Holcim PRB, French offshore skipper Kevin Escoffier is of similar opinion… “You have to discover new ways of feeling it, the vibration, the sounds of the foils…anybody who has sailed a dinghy will know, if they close their eyes, they will feel the boat.”

This edition of The Ocean Race is a fascinating new era, and the discussions within the podcast certainly reflect that. Revealing the decisions made to move the event forward, Robertson’s talk with Co-President of The Ocean Race, Johan Salen makes for interesting listening.

Robertson also talks to two time Volvo Ocean Race sailor Annie Lush, sailing this edition on the European flagged Guyot environnment and to IMOCA regular, Route du Rhum winner Paul Meilhat, skippering Biotherm. The podcast also features short guest appearances with one time Volvo Ocean Race winner Ian Walker and previous Volvo skipper Sam Davies.

This edition of the podcast is in two parts:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Shirley Robertson OBE made history by becoming the first British woman to win Olympic Gold Medals at two consecutive Olympic Games. Shirley Robertson’s Sailing Podcast, produced and edited by Tim Butt of Vertigo Films, is available to listen on her website or via most popular podcast outlets, including iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcast, and aCast.

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