Yacht Racing World Newsletter – Issue 43
The Ocean Race – Team Update: 11th Hour Racing Team
In the year since Charlie Enright and Mark Towill’s 11th Hour Racing Team became the first of The Ocean Race IMOCA syndicates to launch their new boat the American squad has crossed the Atlantic no less than four times and racked up an estimated 20,000 nautical miles aboard the Guillaume Verdier-designed Mālama.
Despite accumulating such an impressive open ocean mileage, according to skipper Enright, it was only after the team’s recent fourth transatlantic that Mālama “finally started to feel like a boat and not a construction project”.
“These yachts definitely have a sweet spot after they are launched, tested, and become reliable,” he said. “We have put a lot of miles on our boat. We have sailed back and forth across the Atlantic and done some other training, as well as the Newport Bermuda Race.”
Enright said that the four Atlantic crossings – including his participation with French training skipper Pascal Bidégorry in the double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre race in November last year – had been key for the team to gather important performance data and to learn vital lessons about how to coax the best out of the US-flagged IMOCA.
Five of The Ocean Race’s IMOCA teams set to race in Lorient at Défi Azimut
Anticipation is building ahead of next week’s Défi Azimut regatta in Lorient, France when five of the IMOCA teams so far confirmed as entries in The Ocean Race 2022-23 will line up against each other for the first time.
Four of the five international teams – Charlie Enright and Mark Towill’s 11th Hour Racing Team (USA), Boris Herrmann’s Team Malizia (GER), Benjamin Dutreux Robert Stanjek's GUYOT environnement – Team Europe (FRA/GER), Paul Meilhat’s Biotherm (FRA) – will race with with four crew (including at least one female sailor) as well as an additional onboard reporter (OBR) whose role is to chronicle their crew’s performance in words, images and video.
Meanwhile, French skipper Kevin Escoffier has opted to sail his Holcim – PRB IMOCA in solo mode.
Lorient is acknowledged IMOCA’s spiritual home and the popular six-day annual event scheduled to take place from September 13 - 18 has attracted a total entry of 29 boats in its 12th edition. The entry list features many of the top name names in the class including the top three skippers from the 2020–2021 Vendée Globe: Yannick Bestaven (FRA), Charlie Dalin (FRA), and Louis Burton (FRA).
The Défi Azimut-Lorient Agglomération programme opens on Wednesday with a day of sprint speed trials along a one-nautical mile reaching course set between Lorient and the nearby Groix island. The racing will be based on football World Cup-style knock-out format with the teams grouped in the early rounds before the qualifiers race one-on-one in the later stages. For The Ocean Race boats this stage offers a valuable opportunity to gauge themselves against their opposition in terms of raw boatspeed.
The following day the fleet sets off on a 48-hour offshore race around a course that loops out into the Atlantic around a set of virtual waypoints before bringing the fleet back to Lorient on Saturday.
For The Ocean Race’s four fully-crewed teams this will be the first and last time they will race offshore together before the 14th edition of the around-the-world race starts on January 15, 2023 in Alicante, Spain.
The Ocean Race – Testing, testing, testing
In the weeks since Boris Herrmann’s Team Malizia syndicate launched its brand new IMOCA, Malizia - Seaexplorer, the team has been busy on and off the water getting to grips with their new boat.
We caught up with Team Malizia’s British co-skipper Will Harris – a well-established name on the French short-handed offshore circuit and a past member of The Ocean Race’s Race Experts group – to find out more about how the state-of-the-art VPLP-designed ocean racer has been living up to expectations.
Harris said that launching the boat on time – in fact on the very day originally committed to a year ago – had taken a major effort from the entire team, with at times up to 50 people working flat out to make it happen.
The on-time launch was, he said, an essential milestone in the team’s campaign for The Ocean Race.
“It was a massive step for us,” he said. “We first said we were going for The Ocean Race about two weeks after Boris finished the Vendée Globe 2020-21 and we knew the typical build time for a new IMOCA was about two years.“That meant that if we were going to have a chance to do the necessary testing and preparation for the race we would have to cut that down to 18 months. So last summer we set our sights on July 19th 2022 as the date we were going to launch on.”
Given the fact that Malizia - Seaexplorer is the first new build project the team has taken on and the complex nature of the construction of the latest generation IMOCA yachts, Harris said last month’s on time launch had probably surprised a few people.
The Ocean Race – In search of adventure
On the day that Biotherm Racing skipper Paul Meilhat oversaw the official launch of the team’s brand new foiling IMOCA in Lorient, France we take a look at the French sailor’s journey from Olympic campaigning to competing in The Ocean Race.
Although he was born far from the sea in Paris, Paul Meilhat was nevertheless introduced to the world of sailing at a very early age on the Brittany coast by his parents who were avid cruising sailors.
“I was born in May and my first summer was two months spent on our family's six-metre yacht. We sailed a lot offshore as a family on that small boat – I remember one time crossing from Corsica to Brittany. My parents were sailing in the seventies and eighties. Back then in France it was ‘Tabarly time’ – when yachting had really become really popular.”
From those early beginnings Meilhat developed a love of boats and the sea that led him into the racing world as a youth, starting in the singlehanded Optimist dinghy before moving on to the Laser and 49er classes.
Despite committing himself for several years to the quest for Olympic selection he never neglected his offshore roots and in parallel with his dinghy sailing Meilhat was a regular competitor in races back and forth across the English Channel – and even further afield.
“I did lots of cross channel races and plenty more around the western end of Brittany in the Finistère region. Then later I used to spend the winters training in Australia and I took part four times in the Sydney to Hobart Race.”
When his Olympic campaign came to an end he quickly switched gears to focus on the highly competitive Figaro circuit – the classic French proving ground for all aspiring ocean racers. Meilhat quickly discovered that it was the adventure aspect of racing solo offshore that most attracted him to this kind of sailing. His first Figaro race, he recalls, was from Nice in the south of France across the Mediterranean to Istanbul, Turkey.
Swedish J Class Svea wins comfortably at Maxi Worlds in Porto Cervo
A Mistral wind with gusts to over 30 knots thwarted efforts to run racing on the final day of the 2022 Rolex Maxi Yacht Cup on Sardinia's Porto Cervo. Although the spectacular race fleet of nearly 50 Maxi yachts, including four J Class yachts, headed out to a more sheltered area to the south of Porto Cervo and a course was planned, a few minutes before the start sequences began the NW'ly was averaging 25-28kts. With the forecast for the wind only to build, the prudent decision was taken to return the fleet to the harbour.
Winning four races from this week's five starts the overall J Class winner is the Swedish flagged Svea. Co-owned and co-skippered by three passionate Swedish sailors Niklas Zennström, Filip Engelbert and Hjalmar Winbladh, with past double Maxi world championship winner Zennström steering this week, Svea triumphed with a margin of seven points.
With no racing today there was no opportunity for what could have been an engaging showdown match for second place between Velsheda and Ranger. Ranger, like Svea, are newcomers to the J Class this season and finish as runners-up to Svea by only a single point whilst the original, 1933 Charles Nicholson designed Velsheda takes third.
After winning early July's Superyacht Cup Palma on their debut as a team, after only nine days of training together, Svea, with Bouwe Bekking calling tactics and Steve Hayles as navigator, now take the pinnacle 2022 regatta title, sailed over two windward-leeward contests and three coastal races contested across a typically varied Porto Cervo diet of windspeeds and directions, from six to nine knots on the opening days culminating with Thursday's spectacular coastal race in a brisk Mistral.
Svea's performance was a cut above, as the results table shows. They started consistently well and sailed clean and smart, usually making the most of the leader's inherent advantage of racing in clear air, but defending when they had to.
One of Svea's owners enthused, "It has been an amazing week, amazing weather and in yachting it is about making as few mistakes as possible, and I think we made very few mistakes. We sailed very cleanly with good starts, and these boats need big, big groups and so getting everything to work is difficult. You win as a team. We all work together and help each other. There is a great ambience on board. This venue, the competition, the classes - this regatta is the top of the top. And as Swedes we are proud to be very much custodians for this historical heritage."
He continued, "The word is majestic. These boats are 180 tons and it is tight racing. It is so different. You need to get used to the anticipation and a few more turns on the wheel, you really have to work hard. We did not have expectations, this year was a learning curve, we just wanted to learn to sail the boat and so here we have overachieved."
SGP Insider – Kiwis on top again as French Riviera delivers knife-edge racing on opening day at France Sail Grand Prix
Gusty winds up to 30 knots on the waters off St. Tropez made for a thrilling day of racing on the opening day of the France Sail Grand Prix today.
With the nine international crews fighting to keep control of their foiling F50 catamarans throughout the day’s three races it was two time America’s Cup winner Peter Burling’s New Zealand SailGP Team who excelled in the fresh-to-frightening conditions with a 1,4,1 scoreline that sees them top the leaderboard tonight.
Two points adrift in second is Jimmy Spithill’s much-improved American team who started well all day and went on to sail three relatively trouble free races, despite the challenging conditions.
Third overall for the day are the reigning SailGP champions Tom Slingsby’s Australia SailGP Team who had to scramble to repair their boat after a huge nosedive on the final reaching leg of the first race. They came back strong to win race two and a seventh in the final race sees them five points behind the Americans and just one in front of the hometown team, Quentin Delapierre’s France SailGP Team.
There may well have been some strong words exchanged on the dock tonight between Slingsby and Burling with the Australian blaming his Kiwi rival for causing the crash down un-necessarily as the pair reached neck and neck to the finish at breakneck speed. Fearing that Slingsby was about to overtake to windward Burling put in a strong luff that in an effort to avoid the leeward boat resulted in the Australian boat nose diving spectacularly and burying its bows up to the mast.
“All this damage for something so stupid,” a disgruntled Slingsby told SailGP commentator Stevie Morrison as the Aussie shore crew and SailGP tech team staff raced to repair numerous holes in the boat’s front fairings.
SGP Insider – Redemption day as Spithill’s USA crew finally emerges victorious in St Tropez
In conditions that could not have been more of a contrast from yesterday’s fast and furious racing which took place in winds up to 30 knots Jimmy Spithill and the United States SailGP Team took their first event win in SailGP after a day of nail biting light wind racing in St. Tropez, France.
The American team sat in second place in the standings after yesterday’s extreme day on the water but had to change gears overnight to deal with painfully light winds in the six to eight knot range today that saw the nine boat fleet upgraded to the 29 metre wings and light wind foils.
The first race of the day saw Spithill in assertive form at the start to control the windward end of the line despite pressure from British skipper Ben Ainslie to leeward. These two were the fastest off the line and despite having to make an ultra-wide turn at mark one it was the USA crew that made the best of the downwind leg to round the right hand (looking upwind) gate mark in first.
The light winds on the first beat saw the crews having to choose between trying to foil at a lower angle but a higher speed, or sailing slower and higher by flying just the windward hull. The US crew and Peter Burling’s New Zealand crew stuck to displacement mode to round the windward gate in first and second with the British making early gains by foiling before switching to displacement mode to round third.
With the clock ticking down towards the 14-minute time limit, even with the race shortened to finish at the next leeward gate, it was touch and go whether the Americans would make it there in time to ensure the race counted.