As this article goes to press, the fleet of five foiling IMOCA 60s participating in The Ocean Race are docking out and preparing to begin the second of seven legs in their race around the world. After experiencing a wide range of conditions, ranging from gale-force upwind sailing shortly after the start in the Mediterranean to fast running and reaching down the Atlantic, the second leg of the race is expected to begin in much lighter conditions. Leg 2 will take the five teams from the Cape Verde Islands toward the equator and into the South Atlantic before a finish in Cape Town, South Africa.
Leading the standings after one leg is the Holcim PRB team led by French skipper Kevin Escoffier. Having brought up-and-coming rock-star Englishman Sam Goodchild onboard, among other amazing sailors, the team seemingly has boat speed for days and is expected to again set the benchmark for the class. Not far behind Holcim PRB on Leg 1 was American entry 11th Hour Racing. Skippered by Newport, Rhode Island’s Charlie Enright, the team found themselves somewhat hampered during the first leg after they tore their J3 jib on their radar dome when tacking in high winds in the Mediterranean. Having made repairs to the sail during the Cape Verde stopover, the team should again be back up to full strength and will see their crew lineup bolstered by the inclusion of female phenom Justine Mettraux, who replaces Francesca Clapcich for Leg 2.
The third-place team on Leg 1, Team Malizia, will include replacement crewmember Yann Elies. Elies will fill in for injured skipper Boris Herrmann, who reportedly suffered a leg and foot burn on Leg 1. (Crewmember Will Harris will fill the role of skipper for this leg.) Yann Elies is one of the best offshore sailors and IMOCA specialists on Earth and will almost certainly provide a bit of a spark plug to Team Malizia.
Fourth-placed Biotherm got off to a phenomenal start in the flat waters of Alicante, but fell off the pace and then suffered when they chose an inshore option that saw them sailing in lighter winds during Leg 1. Look for skipper Paul Meilhat and the rest of the team to be extra-motivated to prove their relatively lackluster performance to be a fluke.
Last place in the first leg was Robert Stanjek’s Guyot environnement – Team Europe, the only boat in the fleet that is not brand-new. Originally built as Hugo Boss for Alex Thomson for the 2016 Vendée Globe, the boat was designed specifically to be a bit narrower and more easily driven than some of her rivals and could prove to be a wild card in the forecast lighter conditions for the start and into the doldrums.
While the IMOCAs were first into Mindelo, Cape Verde Islands, and stole the lion’s share of the media attention, the fleet of six VO65s competing in the VO65 Sprint Race have now all reached Cape Verde. The last to arrive was Viva Mexico, which finally reached the finish after ripping their mainsail in the Mediterranean and stopping in Almeria, Spain, to pick up a replacement.
In the end, the Polish WindWhisper Racing Team claimed first place, while Team Jajo and the Austrian Ocean Racing Team rounded out the podium after Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team had to retire due to missing a mark on the course while leaving Gibraltar and not exonerating themselves. The six teams competing in the VO65 Sprint Cup will start racing again on June 5 in Aarhus, Denmark. Follow along on Leg 2 of The Ocean Race at www.theoceanrace.com.
Listen to this week’s Good Jibes podcast with 11th Hour Racing’s COO Bill Erkelens here.