Baptism of fire for The Ocean Race

Published on January 21st, 2023

Cape Verde (January 21, 2023) – The US-flagged 11th Hour Racing Team, sailing onboard its 60-foot IMOCA race boat Mālama, finished Leg 1 of The Ocean Race 2022-23 in second place. The opening leg of the grueling 31,700 nautical miles around-the-world race took the fleet from Alicante, Spain, to the Cabo Verde island of São Vicente.

Crossing the line at 03:50:45 local (04:50:45 UTC), the elapsed finish time for the team was 5d 13h 50m 45s, having sailed 2,401 nautical miles and just 2 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds behind first placed Holcim-PRB.

Skipper Charlie Enright’s (USA) squad of sailors for Leg 1 were Navigator Simon Fisher (GBR), Trimmers Jack Bouttell (AUS/GBR), and Francesca Clapcich (ITA), along with Media Crew Member, Amory Ross (USA).

This opening leg was described by Enright as a ‘baptism of fire’ shortly after arriving at the dock, following multiple reports of damage sustained by boats across the fleet.

“That was an incredibly tough first leg,” commented Enright. “Tough on the boats, and physically tough on the crew. Nothing we haven’t seen in training, so it didn’t come as a surprise, but it is no surprise that with a forecast like that, you end up with damage to the boats, but now we are here, we can turn our minds to the repairs.”

Cabo Verde is defined in The Ocean Race rules as a ‘Short Stop’, with just four days between arrival and departure. The rules state that only the sailors from Leg 1 are allowed to do any repairs, and they must be completed physically on the boat. The crew can only use tools and equipment that were on the boat for the opening leg, and extra fuel, water, food, and provisions are not allowed to be taken onboard.

“Every team is going to have its hands full with repairs, and knowing that this was a Short Stop, we went heavy on spares when loading in Alicante,” explained Enright. “We have a handy group of sailors onboard and are also surrounded by an excellent technical support team here in Cabo Verde, to guide us when they can. There were a lot of bright spots to the leg, the boat is fast, and we are here in second so overall, a cool start to the race.”

Navigator Simon Fisher, the most experienced sailor in the IMOCA fleet with five circumnavigations of the planet already under his belt, reminded own The Ocean Race is a marathon and not a sprint. “This leg was the first big test. The conditions were really challenging for everyone in the fleet, and everyone will come into here with issues – I don’t think anyone will arrive unscathed.

“We can be proud of our second place. The potential to win the leg was always there and, of course, we would have loved to have won, but second is a great result from which to build.

“We learned a lot in this leg. We knew that it was going to be hard, and we knew the competition was going to be good. We have learned a lot about them, and we have learned a lot about our boat. We found more speed in Mālama in the last couple of days, which is encouraging – a good place to be.”

Leg 1 started on January 15 at 1610 CET (1510 UTC), and quickly the five IMOCA teams were picking their way down the Spanish coast. The conditions intensified, and early on January 17, it had been a brutal 36 hours onboard Mālama as they approached the Gibraltar Strait.

With winds consistently above 30 knots, gusting up to 50 knots, there was very little sleep and very little opportunity to eat, as the crew sailed upwind in a terrible sea state. To quote Ross, “everything hurt”.

11th Hour Racing Team and Holcim-PRB continued their tacking duel for the lead through the Gibraltar Strait, but a torn J3 jib onboard Mālama saw the team slow briefly to change sail, allowing the French to slip through into first as the boats finally broke out into the Atlantic Ocean.

As predicted by the team’s strategic meteorologist, Marcel van Triest before the start, the leg was there to lose for the team that made it into the Atlantic first, and Kevin Escoffier’s crew on Team Holcim-PRB led 11th Hour Racing Team all the way down the Atlantic to the Cape Verde Islands into first place.

The Ocean Race IMOCA fleet will start Leg 2 on January 25 for Cape Town, South Africa from Mindelo, Cabo Verde.

IMOCA Rankings at January 21, 08:00 UTC
1. Team Holcim-PRB, winner leg one, finished – 5d 11h 01min 59s
2. 11th Hour Racing Team, finished – 5d 13h 50min 45s
3. Team Malizia, finished – 5d 16h 35min 21s
4. Biotherm, 208.8 nm to finish
5. GUYOT environnement – Team Europe, 202.2 nm to finish

Race detailsRouteTrackerTeamsContent from the boatsYouTube

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: 11th Hour Racing Team

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