The Ocean Race leader plans comeback

Published on May 12th, 2023

The current leader of The Ocean Race is on a ship due to their dismasting on the fifth day of Leg 4 from Brazil to USA. With the next leg to Europe starting on May 21, here is an update from the Holcim-PRB team on May 12, 2023:

The fourth leg of The Ocean Race concluded May 10 in Newport, with the victory of the American team 11th Hour Racing, finishing ahead of Malizia by about thirty minutes. Holcim-PRB skipper Kevin Escoffier came as a spectator to congratulate Charlie Enright and his crew upon their arrival at the pontoon.

Holcim-PRB, unfortunately, was deprived of this intense battle due to the dismasting incident that occurred on April 27th off the coast of Brazil. As a result, the current leader does not score any points for this leg, but their exceptional start to the race allows them to maintain the top position in the overall standings despite their withdrawal.

As the fifth leg approaches, Escoffier and his crew have a total of 19 points, with a one-point lead over 11th Hour Racing Team and Malizia, who are tied at 18 points.

In this context, the upcoming leg, which is worth double points, represents a crucial challenge for which the entire Holcim-PRB team has been relentlessly fighting since the dismasting incident. For the Swiss monohull, the countdown continues ticking, and the goal remains to be able to reach the starting line on time on Sunday, May 21st, at 2:15 PM local time.

Escoffier is well aware that timing is tight, and no setbacks can occur in the meticulously planned logistics. The good news for Holcim-PRB is the retrieval of the new mast from Lorient. It arrived on American soil May 10 and is currently being handled by the expert team, with the work to fully equip it already underway.

The IMOCA boat is still aboard a cargo ship, expected to reach Newport next Wednesday (May 17). The team will then have only four days to prepare Holcim-PRB for the race. The challenge remains achievable, and the energy of each team member is fully dedicated to this objective.

The skipper of the Swiss monohull is preparing with great focus, just as he did for the previous legs. Having been in Newport since May 10, he now awaits the arrival of his teammates in a few days, who will assist him in getting the best out of this fifth leg between Newport, USA, and Aarhus, Denmark.

Escoffier has chosen experienced sailors who are familiar with the boat for this transatlantic journey. Among them is Charles Caudrelier, the skipper of Gitana Team, who won The Ocean Race 2017-18. Alongside the recent winner of the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe 2022 onboard Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, there will be crew members who have already sailed aboard Holcim-PRB in The Ocean Race, including the British sailors Abby Ehler and Sam Goodchild. Yann Riou will take charge of photo and video production as an onboard reporter.

The crew selection was obviously important, as it has been for each of the previous legs and will be for the ones to come. For this leg, Escoffier wanted to assemble a strong core group and invited Caudrelier to share his experience and take on the role of navigator. The two men have known each other for a long time, and Escoffier was a crew member of Dongfeng Race Team skippered by Caudrelier during their victory in 2017-18.

“My idea was to reunite the core of the crew,” explained Escoffier. “Sam Goodchild will be returning after sailing on his IMOCA and has had a little rest. Abby is coming back in great shape and as motivated as ever. As for Tom, he has embarked on his own project and was no longer available. So, I called upon Charles Caudrelier, who will be the navigator on board.

“I chose Charles because he is someone I know very well, who is highly motivated, and who has great experience in The Ocean Race. We communicate well together, and he can contribute a lot in terms of performance on the boat. I think we both have a passion for technology and performance. We are also fully dedicated to the sport, and that is something I greatly appreciate. We have started working on the weather and discussing pilot settings, polars…”

Ehler and Goodchild have each already competed in two legs of The Ocean Race aboard Holcim-PRB, including the third leg in the southern oceans. Both of them are enthusiastic about returning to the blue and green monohull. Abby’s experience with three previous circumnavigations and Sam Goodchild’s extreme motivation will undoubtedly be valuable assets for this leg.

“They are two very good sailors who have already impressed me with their qualities and skills in the previous legs,” shared Escoffier. “For me, they are among the pillars of the crew. Together, we have completed three-quarters of the circumnavigation in terms of mileage” adds the skipper of Holcim-PRB.”

Escoffier is determined to perform well again after the setback in the fourth leg. “We are taking a fresh start, and although we didn’t finish the last race, our lead was comfortable enough to keep us in the lead of The Ocean Race.

“While the upcoming leg is important, I know that there are still 50% of the points to be earned until the finish in Genoa in July. So, we are only halfway through the race. And the pace is only going to accelerate. I know this from experience, so we need to stay focused.”

The fifth leg of The Ocean Race, covering 3,500 nautical miles, promises to be intense once again. Beyond the double points, the demands of this return journey to Europe will require the crew to be fully in sync with the boat and execute a perfect strategy in order to hope for a leading position in Denmark.

“I expect it to be cold,” admits Escoffier. “It’s a leg we don’t often do. I have already done several transatlantic crossings in this direction, but always to arrive in France. Going to Denmark will take us through the north of the British Isles. That completely changes the game in terms of weather strategy, and that’s something new for me. We will have to play around the ice limit, not far from Newfoundland. It’s going to be a very interesting leg.”

Leg Four Results
1. 11th Hour Racing Team, finished May 10 at 18:41:41 UTC (17d 02h 26min 41s)
2. Team Malizia, finished May 10 at 19:13:22 UTC (17d 02h 58min 22s)
3. Biotherm, finished May 11 at 12:04:38 UTC (17d 19h 49min 38s)
Retired – GUYOT environnement, (dismasted May 9)
Retired – Holcim-PRB, retired (dismasted April 27)

Race detailsRouteTrackerScoreboardContent from the boatsYouTube

Overall Leaderboard (after 4 of 7 legs)
1. Team Holcim-PRB — 19 points
2. 11th Hour Racing Team — 18 points
3. Team Malizia — 18 points
4. Biotherm — 13 points
5. GUYOT environnement – Team Europe — 2 points

IMOCA: Name, 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 (1900 nm) start: January 15, 2023
Cabo Verde – ETA: January 22; Leg 2 (4600 nm) start: January 25
Cape Town, South Africa – ETA: February 9; Leg 3 (12750 nm) start: February 26
Itajaí, Brazil – ETA: April 1; Leg 4 (5500 nm) start: April 23
Newport, RI, USA – ETA: May 10; Leg 5 (3500 nm) start: May 21
Aarhus, Denmark – ETA: May 30; Leg 6 (800 nm) start: June 8
Kiel, Germany (Fly-By) – June 9
The Hague, The Netherlands – ETA: June 11; Leg 7 (2200 nm) 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.

Held every three or four years since 1973, 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.

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