Legends reunited at The Ocean Race
Published on June 27th, 2023
Genova, Italy (June 27, 2023) – The 50th Anniversary Legends Regatta, a unique gathering of some of the world’s most iconic ocean racing yachts of the last several decades, gathered as part of ‘Genova, The Grand Finale’ – the concluding stopover of the 2023 edition of The Ocean Race.
The event also brought together some of the legends of races past, including 1997-98 winning skipper on EF Language, Paul Cayard (USA).
“It’s been a great day, all about bringing this band of people back together,” said Cayard. “Enjoying a bit of racing on the water and a barbecue in the evening. It’s pretty cool to be here. Sharing old stories from past races, hearing the story again of Paolo Martinoni being rescued from going overboard in the Southern Ocean. That guy is so lucky to be alive.”
Martinoni was also in Genova, and more than 40 years later his story of survival still inspires sailors today. Thirty years old at the time, the young Martinoni was racing on board the Italian yacht Rolly Go from New Zealand to Punta del Este, Uruguay, in the 1981-82 edition of the race. It was dark, sailing at night through the Southern Ocean, and the boat was flying downwind under spinnaker, and also with a J4 headsail.
“The spinnaker halyard broke and the spinnaker fell in the water so I went to try to get the sail back in,” he recalls. “But my back was caught by the sheet of the J4 and it lifted me overboard and I was in the water.”
The crew slowed the boat and started looking for their missing teammate. “They were looking with flashlights but they couldn’t see me. They got so close to me the boat almost sailed over the top of me. I caught a line in the water and held on. I was shouting, shouting, until they could find me. They wrapped a rope around my wrist and pulled me back on board.
“Seven minutes in the water. Seven minutes when I thought life was going to die, and I was thinking, I’m too young for this to happen. I have a life still to live, but I thought it was over in those moments. I am one of the luckiest people alive. After that, two wives, four children, I’ve had a good life. It’s good to be back with old friends here, the people who have shared in this adventure.”
Two British legends from the very early days of offshore racing were reunited at the Legends Regatta, sharing jokes at each other’s expense. For all the fact that Sir Robin Knox-Johnston won the Golden Globe, the first ever round-the-world sailing race in 1969, Sir Chay Blyth was keen to remind Sir Robin that he had taken the ‘easy’ way around the planet, the traditional east-bound passage through the Southern Ocean with the wind and waves carrying a boat downwind.
“I was the first to go the other way round, what [Sir Francis] Chichester described as ‘the impossible route’. Much harder than anything Sir Robin ever did,” laughed Sir Chay, who raced in the 1973-74 and 1981-82 editions of the race.
Sir Robin, who skippered the maxi Heath’s Condor in the 1977-78 race, said he was happy to have raced in the amateur days of the Whitbread Round The World Race.
“Sailors did it because they wanted to win, that was it, they weren’t doing it to get paid, and that suited me. But with the new generation of boats, I think it’s fascinating what’s going on with foils, that’s changed things a lot. So has carbon fibre, satellites, the game has changed totally.
“In some ways it’s very exciting, in other ways I think where’s the teamwork, where’s the crew work that got that sail change done? We weren’t hiding down below all the time looking at a computer, we were on watch, up on deck, sailing. I think in a way we had better days.”
The legends of the future who have been sailing in this edition of the race may disagree with this… but they can make that argument at their reunion 50 years down the line.
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.