No predictions yet for The Ocean Race
Published on February 12th, 2023
Cape Town, South Africa (February 12, 2023) – After nearly 18 days at sea, it was Kevin Escoffier and the crew of Holcim-PRB who pulled out all the stops during the last difficult miles on the way to Cape Town to score their second consecutive victory today, after their win in Leg 1 of The Ocean Race.
Remarkably, Paul Meilhat and his crew on Biotherm crossed the line just 16 minutes later, on their way to pipping Charlie Enright and his team on 11th Hour Racing Team Mãlama at the post, by no more than nine minutes.
Once again the question is how it could be so close – with finishing deltas that would not look out of place on a day-race around the buoys – after more 5,000 nautical miles from the Cape Verde Islands via the Doldrums, the southeast trade winds, and then a long detour deep into the the South Atlantic around the St Helena High.
With Holcim-PRB now sitting on 10 points, Mãlama in second place on seven, and Biotherm a point further back on six, the race is now nicely set-up as we head towards the massive challenge of Leg 3, which scores double points.
Although both Team Malizia and the crew on Guyot Environnement-Team Europe will feel the most hard done-by on this tricky stage – which saw them both confidently leading – they are by no means out of this. Malizia in particular, could be a real threat in heavy weather in the south on the next leg.
Back in Alicante at the start, there was much discussion about who might win this contest. 11th Hour Racing Team were regarded by many as the favorites, because of their dedicated approach to this event, but Escoffier and Meilhat were seen by many observers as being genuine threats – and so it is proving.
With five more legs to come, including a transatlantic, there is still no idea who is going to win and it was interesting that Sam Goodchild, a key player on Holcim-PRB, was not talking their chances up when they reached the pontoon at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront.
“Honestly, it was a bit of luck,” said the British skipper who will soon begin his first Vendée Globe campaign on LinkedOut. “I’m not going to go on and on about ‘we’re talented, we won,’ because for the last 24 hours, the weather conditions were not at all as expected.
“I think everyone has been trying like hell to get in front, and Biotherm went in front, 11th Hour Racing Team did last night, and even Team Malizia, who seemed to be very strong today…but we were at the front at the end.”
It is a modest analysis, but it underlines how tight this small fleet is. Goodchild said there is very little to choose between the boats as the crews push them harder and match each other’s improvements.
“We were left behind for a little while, but for a good while, we were all about the same speed,” he said. “It was quite impressive and it shows that people are getting to know the IMOCA boat better and better – how to push it – and I think we are learning a lot. All the teams here are learning, the crew members, and in the southern oceans, which is great.”
On second-placed Biotherm, the feeling of achievement was palpable. This crew were sailing the most unprepared boat in the race in Leg 1 and had to settle for fourth place in Mindelo, so to move up to runner-up this time is a big confidence-builder.
Damien Seguin was all smiles when he arrived in South Africa. “Super happy,” was his summary when asked how he was feeling. “It’s always nice to finish stages and on top of that, a nice podium, a nice second place.
“We showed that we know how to use the boat and that we should be taken seriously for the next stages. And then we have had this great welcome at the finish, it’s great.”
Seguin described a long voyage – three days longer than predicted – that tested the stamina of everyone on board.
“We did a big lap,” he said. “We struggled in the Doldrums, then went round the St Helena High to finally finish as far south as we could in the leg – that is to say at 47 South, at the edge of the ice zone. We had all the temperatures and we experienced all the emotions.”
And Seguin spoke about a tense final 24 hours, which finished with Meilhat’s crew out-manoeuvring Mãlama within sight of the finish line.
“We got back into the match thanks to the weather,” he summarized. “We knew that it was going to hit us from the front, so we came back. We had a superb last night, we managed to get through in front. And then the end was worse than we thought – it was interminable and we wondered which day we would arrive, which month sometimes.”
And Seguin spoke too about the enjoyment he experienced racing an IMOCA with a full crew. “We saw that the boat had potential and I think we had fun sailing her together, despite everything. We managed to maintain a good atmosphere on board between us and that’s very important.”
On Mãlama, third place was hard to take at the end of a leg Enright’s crew knew they could have won. Swiss sailor Justine Mettraux said this finish was reminiscent of Volvo Ocean Race finishes in the past, not least in the last race when eventual winners Dongfeng Race Team (of which she was a part) were overtaken by three boats in the final miles into Newport, Rhode Island.
“For sure this has happened before,” said Mettraux, “but that’s part of the game, that’s part of our sport. Sometimes it is nice for you and sometimes it is nice for others.”
Mettraux reckoned they were unlucky with wind conditions in the final miles, but she also said that tactically the crew could have done better.
“When we were leading the pack, we were thinking we could just go straight to Cape Town and we were ahead enough to be able to do it and finally it didn’t happen like this. Maybe we should have controlled our opponents a bit more, maybe we didn’t think that would happen.”
Just like Goodchild, Mettraux enjoyed the IMOCA performance school element in this race.
“For sure, it is not often that sailing is this close – that you feel like you’re alongside other boats after 17 days of racing, so that’s really nice,” she said. “I think we all learned a lot more on how to push the boat and how to find the speed. When you have boats around you, you always need to improve, so that has been really interesting for us.”
When asked about the condition of Mãlama after this long Atlantic test, Mettraux says the boat, rig and sails are in excellent shape ahead of Leg 3. “There is nothing major,” she said. “A lot of small things – like we pushed on the boat quite hard on this leg, on the downwind when it was windy – but nothing special.”
With this leg all but done, the focus is quickly shifting to Leg 3 and Mettraux is looking forward to it.
“The results in this race are close, we see people go well at different moments, so I think it is going to be interesting,” she said. “There is still a lot to play for. The next leg is the big southern ocean leg which counts for double points, so it will have a big impact on the race, so there is still a lot to happen.”
Goodchild knows the boats will be on the limit during the 12,750-mile marathon to Brazil. “Everyone has little technical problems, but fortunately we are all here in South Africa,” he said. “I hope that on the next leg, everyone will make it to the end too. Everywhere, we want the best boat, the lightest, the strongest, the fastest, and sometimes we go a bit too far. But it’s very reassuring that we’ve only had small problems and I can’t wait for the next stage.”
The Ocean Race fleet will set off February 26 on a 12,750-mile leg from Cape Town to Itajai in Brazil.
Leg Two Results
1. Team Holcim-PRB, 17d 19h 00m 09s
2. Biotherm, 17d 19h 16min 54s
3. 11th Hour Racing Team, 17d 19h 25min 40s
4. Team Malizia, 17d 21h 06min 49s
5. GUYOT environnement – Team Europe, 17d 22h 46min 27s
Race details – Route – Tracker – Teams – Content from the boats – YouTube
IMOCA LEG 2 CREW LIST
11TH HOUR RACING TEAM (USA)
Charlie ENRIGHT (USA) Skipper
Simon FISHER (GBR)
Jack BOUTTELL (AUS/ GBR)
Justine METTRAUX (SUI)
Amory ROSS (USA) – OBR
Paul MEILHAT (FRA) – Skipper
Anthony MARCHAND (FRA)
Amélie GRASSI (FRA)
Damien SEGUIN (FRA)
Annne BEUGÉ (FRA)
TEAM HOLCIM-PRB (SUI)
Kevin ESCOFFIER (FRA) – Skipper
Sam GOODCHILD (GBR)
Tom LAPERCHE (FRA)
Susann BEUCKE (GER)
Georgia SCHOFIELD (NZL) – OBR
GUYOT ENVIRONNEMENT-TEAM EUROPE (FRA/ GER)
Robert STANJEK (GER) – skipper
Sébastien SIMON (FRA)
Anne-Claire LE BERRE (FRA)
Phillip KASÜSKE (GER)
Charles DRAPEAU (FRA) – OBR
TEAM MALIZIA (GER)
Will HARRIS (GBR) – skipper
Yann ELIES (FRA)
Rosalin KUIPER (NED)
Nicolas LUNVEN (FRA)
Antoine AURIOL (FRA) – OBR
Leg One Results
1. Team Holcim-PRB, winner leg one, finished – 5d 11h 01m 59s
2. 11th Hour Racing Team, finished – 5d 13h 50m 45s
3. Team Malizia, finished – 5d 16h 35m 21s
4. Biotherm, finished – 6d 8h 47m
5. GUYOT environnement-Team Europe, finished – 6d 12h 20m 37s
1. WindWhisper Racing, finished – 5d 16h 35m 21s
2. Team JAJO, finished – 6d 4h 52m 52s
3. Austrian Ocean Racing-Team Genova, finished – 6d 19h 13m 54s
4. Ambersail 2, finished – 6d 21h 49m 04s
5. Viva Mexico, finished – 8d 13h 50m 25s
6. Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team – Retired from leg
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
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.