We are now in the final month leading up to The Ocean Race, with teams assembling at the starting port of Alicante. Five IMOCAs and six VO65s according to the event website but with two of the VO65 teams not yet having a website link from the main site.
Much has been made of the move to the IMOCAs but they are still not as sophisticated as the Super 60s would have been. Proposed by VOR management before the start of the last race and then reneged on by Volvo AB which was at least part of the reason for Mark Turner’s departure. If one remembers the Super 60s had a foil on their rudder and a proposed canting rig yet here we are two races later and a similar boat is the weapon of choice by the organizers.
I also doubt the move away from one design being able to produce racing as close as it has been in the last two races. In fact, no lesser a skipper than race winner Ian Walker stated that had 2014 not been one design it was unlikely that Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing would have returned, of course, I have been wrong before.
The course can be found at the following:
ROUTE – The Ocean Race 2022-23
The first to declare and hit the water is 11th Hour Racing which will benefit in the early part of the race from that time on the water. Skippered by the experienced Charlie Enright they should do well if they can avoid hitting anything. Their boat was the first to hit the water that was specifically designed for the Ocean Race. Designed by Guillaume Verdier who did the initial work on the shelved Super Sixty it has already proven to be a fast boat. Definitely a team to watch and should be right up there at the start.
GUYOT Environnement – Team Europe is another team promoting the environment and ships the experienced Annie Lush along with Benjamin Dutreux who has just completed the Route Du Rhum in 8th place and will be co-skipper with Robert Stanjek.
Team Malizia, another team with the ‘climate message’ is skippered by Boris Herrmann who finished 24th in the recent Route Du Rhum. It was noticeable that the team’s ultimate goal was the 2024 Vendee Globe
Biotherm skippered by Paul Meilhat (Route Du Rhum 6th) is another team led by a skipper with the ultimate aim of the 2024 Vendee Globe but does have a team member (Anthony Marchand 4th with Mapfre in 2014-15) who has lapped the marble before.
Holcim – PRB A 4th placed finish in the Route Du Rhum for skipper Kevin Escoffier places him at the top of the form guide for this race. Add to that two Volo Ocean Races under his belt where he earned the nickname “Mr Fix It” and was part of the team (Dongfeng Race Team) which claimed a dramatic victory into Den Haag in the last edition he is the only skipper in the fleet that already ‘has the T-Shirt’. He also knows only too well the dangers of the Southern Ocean having had to abandon his previous boat when the bow folded and was rescued by Jean Le Cam.
So my money would be on Escoffier’s team although strangely those team members remain to be announced, the Ocean Race website is somewhat sketchy in a number of areas compared to its predecessor.
A race of different challenges compared to previous editions, gone is the constant fire-hosing teams experienced in the earlier editions but crew tiredness will be a different matter with the workload of constantly going fast shared out amongst fewer people adding to the challenge of the 12,000+ plus Southern Ocean leg where preserving the boat may be more important than with the virtually bullet-proof VO65 of the previous two editions.
The Ocean Race will also have a junior event in more ways than one with 6 teams declared for “The Sprint Cup” which was only introduced on 1st December.
A bit confusing is the status of the VO65s with one part of the Ocean Race website stating they will compete in a third lap of the planet while the Press & PR department confirmed just yesterday that they will only race over legs 1, 6 & 7 of The Ocean Race course (including in-port events) and can be seen as an opportunity for younger sailors to gain some sea miles or padding the number of boats at the involved stopovers depending on your point of view.
At the time of going to press I have not had confirmation one way or the other.
It all kicks off on 8th January 2023 in Alicante with the in-port race with the first points going on the board followed by a leg 1 start on January 15th. – Shanghai Sailor.