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New research from The Ocean Race Europe has found microplastics, and in particular microfibres, to be prevalent across the length and breadth of Europe.

All 36 water samples collected around the continent — including in the Baltic Sea, the English Channel, along the Atlantic coastline and in the Mediterranean Sea — were found to contain microfibres.

These tiny plastic fibres enter the environment from manufacturing, washing and wearing synthetic clothes. Fibres also originate from car tyres, ending up in the sea after heavy rain and run-off, as well as from ​​fragmented fishing gear and lines.

The data, which was captured by sailing teams competing in the first edition of The Ocean Race Europe, found that on average Europe’s seas contain 139 microplastic particles per cubic meter.

Most of these particles (83%) are microfibres, with the remaining being fragments from the degradation of larger plastic items such as plastic bottles, packaging and microbeads in toiletries. Three of the samples (two from the Channel and one from the Mediterranean Sea) contained microfibres exclusively.

Ambersail-2 in The Ocean Race Europe | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceAmbersail-2 in The Ocean Race Europe | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

The Ocean Race measured microplastics in the last edition of the round-the-world race in 2017-18 in a pioneering move that combined racing and science. This summer, the race teamed up with scientific bodies GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel and Utrecht University to discover more about the source of the microplastics by analysing whether they are fibres or fragments.

Dr Aaron Beck, senior scientist at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, who coordinated the analysis of the microplastic samples, said: “The data clearly show that microplastics are pervasive in the ocean and that, surprisingly, the major component of these microplastics are microfibres.

“Previous research has typically focused on detecting fragments, rather than fibres, so this new data is significant and highlights the value of collaborations with partners like The Ocean Race that help us better define the make-up and distribution of microplastics in the surface of the ocean.”

The Ocean Race says its data is contributing to the development of a map of plastic in the ocean and helping inform understanding of how microplastics transfer into marine ecosystems. Microfibres are the type of microplastic that are most frequently eaten by marine species and therefore of concern for ocean biodiversity.

The Ocean Race Europe took place in May and June 2021, starting in Lorient in North West France and finishing in Genova, Italy.

Data was collected over a six-week period in May and June 2021 during The Ocean Race Europe and its prologue. Two teams, Ambersail-2 and AkzoNobel Ocean Racing, carried scientific equipment onboard to capture samples of microplastics as they raced, while a third boat, 11th Hour Racing Team, took measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2), sea temperature, PH levels and salinity, which are key indicators of climate change.

AkzoNobel Ocean Racing in The Ocean Race Europe | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceAkzoNobel Ocean Racing in The Ocean Race Europe | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

The data gathered in the race showed the Baltic Sea to have the highest levels of microplastics in Europe, with 230 particles found per cubic metre, on average double the amount found in the Mediterranean (112 particles per cubic metre) which is considered a hotspot for plastic pollution.

Dr Beck said: “The high abundance of microplastic in the Baltic Sea compared to the Mediterranean Sea is unexpected. Factors such as the time of year that the data is collected can have an impact on the distribution of microplastics. The more data we can gather, from different areas and seasons, the better we can understand the source of the plastics and where they end up.”

The ocean plays a critically important role in climate regulation. It has absorbed over 90% of man-made excess heat since the 1970s and absorbs a quarter of human made carbon CO2, helping to effectively mitigate climate change. However, this absorption causes the ocean to become more acidic, which has an adverse effect on marine life.

Measurements of dissolved CO2 captured during The Ocean Race Europe by 11th Hour Racing Team have been submitted to the Surface Ocean Carbon Dioxide Atlas (SOCAT), which provides data for the Global Carbon Budget, a yearly assessment of CO2 that informs targets and predictions for carbon reduction.

It is vital that scientists understand the levels of CO2 in the ocean to form an accurate budget and keep the world on track to stay within the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The CO2 data were also analysed by EuroSea, a European Commission-funded programme that improves the ocean observing and forecasting systems. Carbon dioxide levels were found to be highest in the Mediterranean, as a consequence of warm temperatures and very little wind.

11th Hour Racing Team in The Ocean Race Europe | Credit: Amory Ross/11th Hour Racing/The Ocean Race11th Hour Racing Team in The Ocean Race Europe | Credit: Amory Ross/11th Hour Racing/The Ocean Race

Simon Weppe, science lead at The Ocean Race said: “Climate change and plastic pollution have, in mere decades, caused a drastic decline in the health of the ocean. Through The Ocean Race’s unique collaboration between sailors and ocean research organisations, we are helping to grow understanding of these dire issues.

“The more we know of the scale of these problems the better placed we are to take action to combat them; this is crucial, as the state of the seas and the fate of the planet are completely interlinked.

"It's vital that governments act on the scientific evidence to protect and restore our ocean and all that depends on it. The race for the ocean is a race we must win.”

The Ocean Race Europe scientific data collection activity was endorsed by the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, a global movement to unlock the knowledge needed to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health and create improved conditions for sustainable development of the ocean.

The Ocean Race’s innovative science programme has been developed in collaboration with 11th Hour Racing, premier partner of The Ocean Race and founding partner of the Racing with Purpose sustainability programme.

The Ocean Race Europe Science Report can be viewed HERE.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

Class leaders Offshore Team Germany (GER) and Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team (POR) have been confirmed as the respective IMOCA and VO65 winners in the inaugural edition of The Ocean Race Europe after an exciting final day of coastal racing in Genoa today, Saturday 19 June.

The atmosphere on the pontoons was ripe with anticipation and nervous energy this morning as the 12 competing crews from around the world departed the dock in northern Italy for the final time on the new three week-long multi-stage professional yacht racing event.

The points spread was close at the top of the seven-boat VO65 and five-boat IMOCA 60 fleets, and with bonus points up for grabs for the top three finishers in each class in the planned 90-minute sprint race around the Gulf of Genoa, the final standings remained open.

Windless conditions at the scheduled start time of 1200 CEST/1000 UTC forced the race committee to postpone until a new breeze arrived and racing finally got underway at around 1340 local time. Racing took place in seven to 10 knots of southeasterly sea breeze.

Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team bested the VO65s in both the coastal sprint and the race overall | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceMirpuri Foundation Racing Team bested the VO65s in both the coastal sprint and the race overall | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

The VO65 start was a congested all-action affair, with two boats — Sailing Team Poland (POL) and The Austrian Ocean Race Project (AUT) — having to tack around after being forced outside the committee boat end of the start line, and three others — AkzoNobel Ocean Racing (NED), Ambersail-2 (LTU) and Team Childhood I (NED) — having to restart after being called over early by the race committee

But staying clear of the melee going on all around them was the overall VO65 class leaders Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team, led by Yoann Richomme, who sailed off the line unfettered and into a clear lead.

Despite some nervous moments on the final run to the finish where they made an uncharacteristic sail handing error while hoisting the A4 spinnaker and came under attack from Bouwe Bekking’s Sailing Poland, ultimately the Portuguese team held on to their early advantage to take the coastal race win and seal overall victory in The Ocean Race Europe.

Sailing Poland’s second-place inshore race finish was enough to elevate them to second overall, tied on points with the now third-placed Dutch entry AkzoNobel Ocean Racing, led by Australian Chris Nicholson.

Coastal racing in the Gulf of Genoa on Saturday 19 June | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceCoastal racing in the Gulf of Genoa on Saturday 19 June | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

Meanwhile, the battle for the overall top spot in the IMOCA class was decided in a near photo finish for second place in the coastal race between Robert Stanjek’s Offshore Team Germany and Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut.

Offshore Team Germany had led around the first two legs of the triangle-shaped race course, but dropped to second early on the final downwind leg behind the American-entry 11th Hour Racing Team after a poorly executed tack rounding the second mark of the course.

Approaching the finish, the German boat was under threat from the rapidly advancing LinkedOut — a team they would have to beat to avoid being relegated to third overall. The spectators on the water and watching on the worldwide live video feed held their breath as the two yachts were overlapped at the finish line but with Offshore Team Germany just holding on to win the race and the overall series by the smallest of margins.

“I’m super-happy. I’ve prepared this team for four or five years and I’m so happy we managed to do so well,” Stanjek said dockside after racing.

“My idea to build a successful team for The Ocean Race was to combine Olympic sailors with offshore experienced sailors and this is what we executed and it proved to be successful. We’re getting stronger every day, there are no egos on board, everyone is listening and it’s a good learning atmosphere. I’m very proud of the team.

“We learned heaps about the boat, about the profile of the race, how to manage the watch system on board, communications; it’s much more than just getting the win, we are taking a lot of lessons home with us.”

Today’s win for 11th Hour Racing Team moved them up to second place overall in the IMOCA class, one point ahead of the French crew on LinkedOut who dropped to third overall.

“We showed a lot of fight today and that shows a lot about this group,” said skipper Charlie Enright. “I’m proud of what we did.”

For the Portuguese Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team, the VO65 class victory is the result of a composed and consistent performance that saw the team collect maximum points on offshore Legs 2 and 3, and in their homeport inshore race in Cascais.

The IMOCA 60 and VO65 fleets in port in Genoa | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceThe IMOCA 60 and VO65 fleets in port in Genoa | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

Richomme’s crew had put in several weeks of Atlantic training prior to The Ocean Race Europe start from Lorient, France three weeks ago, and as the only team in the VO65 fleet to invest in a new sail wardrobe they began the race as favourites — a mantle they comfortably lived up to.

“Job done. Mission accomplished,” said Richomme from on board immediately after the finish. “I think we like to make things hard for ourselves. We lost the kite on the first hoist, and I thought we were going to end up getting passed by two boats. But we managed to get it back up in the air again.

“From the start we were leading — it was a tough one because all the boats around us were over the line, so it was quite tense.

“We could not have finished on a better note, winning this last coastal race here in Genoa. It was the best way for us to make sure we would win the event overall, so we are thrilled.

The crowds came out to see the final action of The Ocean Race Europe’s inaugural edition | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceThe crowds came out to see the final action of The Ocean Race Europe’s inaugural edition | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

“It’s been a big effort to get to here… The hard work and the training and everything we did in Cascais for months paid off. The whole crew has been fantastic. There’s a lot of talent in that crew and I think we managed to use it as best as we could.

“I think The Ocean Race Europe is a great concept; I think it should be run every year. I think it should be a month long, around Europe, very intense ­— this is the best format we can have for racing. I think having a race that links countries in Europe just makes so much sense.”

Following racing there will be an official prize-giving ceremony this evening at the event village in Genoa where the winning teams in the IMOCA and VO65 class will be presented with a trophy to celebrate their achievements in the inaugural edition of The Ocean Race Europe.

The Ocean Race Europe — Final Leaderboards

IMOCA

  1. Offshore Team Germany — 16 points
  2. 11th Hour Racing Team — 15 points
  3. LinkedOut — 14 points
  4. CORUM L’Epargne — 7 points
  5. Bureau Vallée — 5 points

VO65

  1. Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team — 21 points
  2. Sailing Poland — 17 points
  3. AkzoNobel Ocean Racing — 17 points
  4. Team Childhood I — 12 points
  5. The Austrian Ocean Race Project — 10 points
  6. Viva México — 9 points
  7. AmberSail-2 — 9 points

Genoa Coastal Race Results

IMOCA

  1. 11th Hour Racing Team — 3 points
  2. Offshore Team Germany — 2 points
  3. LinkedOut — 1 point
  4. CORUM L’Epargne
  5. Bureau Vallée

VO65

  1. Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team — 3 points
  2. Sailing Poland — 2 points
  3. Viva México — 1 point
  4. AkzoNobel Ocean Racing
  5. Team Childhood I
  6. AmberSail-2
  7. The Austrian Ocean Race Project
Published in Volvo Ocean Race
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After three weeks of intense offshore and inshore action that has seen The Ocean Race Europe’s 12-boat fleet race over 2,000 nautical miles from France to Italy, with stops in Portugal and Spain, the event’s inaugural edition will come to a climax tomorrow with a final coastal day race in Genoa.

All-important bonus points are on offer for the top three finishers in the IMOCA and VO65 class (three points for first, two for second, and one for third) and with the podium positions on the overall race leaderboard so tight, Saturday’s coastal race looks set to decide the final rankings in both classes.

Before the IMOCA fleet left Lorient at the end of June, few might have expected Robert Stanjek’s older-generation, non-foiling Offshore Team Germany IMOCA to be in first position when the race reached Italy.

But the crew of the German-flagged yacht — which uses straight daggerboards rather than the larger, more advanced foil systems of the other four newer IMOCAs — has sailed a canny race.

The German team took their medicine when they knew they had to, like in the fast-reaching conditions on Leg 1 in the Atlantic when they were outgunned by the foilers, but also rammed home their own design advantage at every opportunity possible.

Genoa in Italy is hosting the finale of the inaugural The Ocean Race Europe | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceGenoa in Italy is hosting the finale of the inaugural The Ocean Race Europe | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

A win in the Cascais coastal race, a second place on Leg 2 into Alicante and a stunning victory in the unpredictably light-airs third leg through the Mediterranean to Genoa sees them now at the top of the IMOCA standings with 14 points.

“I’m very happy with what we’ve achieved so far,” Stanjek said. “Now we need to prepare for the coastal race, just as we have for the other legs, and we will see what happens.”

However, the two other highly competitive podium-placed teams — Frenchman Thomas Ruyant’s second placed LinkedOut (FRA) on 13 points, and Charlie Enright’s third-placed American-entry, 11th Hour Racing Team on 12 points — will be going all out to snatch overall victory in what is being viewed as the first test of the fully crewed potential of the new generation foiling IMOCAs.

Ruyant, the Class 40 winner in the 2010 Route du Rhum and sixth-place finisher in the Vendée Globe 2020-21, is highly a competitive sailor and will be psyching his crew up for tomorrow’s final tilt at the overall IMOCA 60 top spot.

Although they struggled on the inshore course in Cascais, the French crew has been on the podium in all the offshore legs — third on Leg 1, first on Leg 2, second on Leg 3 – and will be hoping for foiling conditions on the Gulf of Genoa tomorrow afternoon.

Similarly, the crew of the third-placed United States entry 11th Hour Racing Team — who sailed in race mode across the Atlantic from their home base in Newport, Rhode Island to compete in The Ocean Race Europe — are on 12 points and will have their eyes fixed firmly on an overall victory in the Italian coastal sprint.

Swiss sailor Justine Mettraux is confident looking to Saturday’s race: “We did really well in the last coastal race in Cascais. We have to continue to work smoothly together as we’ve done so far and manoeuvre the boat well. This last part of the race is a very different exercise compared to the longer legs, but I think we will be good at this, and will definitely give our best for this final spurt.”

After a second place in leg one and in the Cascais coastal, the team was somewhat hamstrung by not being able to use their port foil after an incident at the start of the second leg from Cascais. However, Enright and his crew adapted well to their boat’s new configuration to finish third both in Alicante and in Genova.

In the VO65 class, the Portuguese entry Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team’s crew have lived up to their pre-race reputation as favourites.

The team — skippered by French solo ocean racer Yoann Richomme — led for much of Leg 1 from Lorient to their homeport Cascais before dropping to seventh in the final miles. Since then, however, Richomme’s crew has picked up maximum points, with wins in the Mirpuri Foundation Sailing Trophy coastal race, and on the second (Cascais to Alicante) and third (Alicante to Genova) legs.

More coastal racing in The Ocean Race Europe earlier this month | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceMore coastal racing in The Ocean Race Europe earlier this month | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

This dominant performance has accrued the Portuguese team 18 points, and yet their position atop the VO65 leader board is not assured.

“It looks very light, but hopefully we’ll have some good conditions to race,” Richomme said. “We’re fully prepared for this. It’s down to the little details in races like this as the level across the fleet is so good. It could play any way as it’s going to be a complicated one I’m sure.”

The crew of the Netherlands entry AkzoNobel Ocean Racing have harried the Mirpuri Foundation sailors throughout this first-ever staging of The Ocean Race Europe and currently sit in second place on 17 points after finishing fifth in Leg 1, second in the Cascais coastal race and second on the subsequent legs.

Led by Australian Chris Nicholson — an Olympian and veteran of five round-the-world races — the crew of the Dutch boat are gunning for overall victory and will be looking for any opportunity tomorrow to topple their rivals from the top spot.

Likewise, third-placed Sailing Team Poland (POL), skippered by Dutchman Bouwe Bekking — who finished third in the 2017-18 around-the-world edition of The Ocean Race — is on 15 points and therefore also within striking distance of overall victory.

The Ocean Race Europe boats in Genoa await their last chance to put points on the leaderboard | Credit: Cherie Bridges/The Ocean RaceThe Ocean Race Europe boats in Genoa await their last chance to put points on the leaderboard | Credit: Cherie Bridges/The Ocean Race

Meanwhile, fourth-placed Team Childhood I (NED), led by two-time America’s Cup winner Simeon Tienpont (NED), is on 12 points and well aware that a win in tomorrow’s inshore race could potentially elevate them into an overall podium place.

Extremely light winds are forecast in Genoa at tomorrow’s scheduled start times for the VO65s (1000 UTC/1200 CEST) and IMOCAs (1015 UTC/1215 CEST).

If conditions are too calm for racing, there could be a postponement on the water. Under the event rules, the latest possible start time on Saturday is 1400 local time (CEST). Should there be no coastal race, due to weather, the results after Leg 3 become the final results of The Ocean Race Europe.

As soon as possible after racing, a prize-giving ceremony will take place ashore, with prizes awarded to the top three teams in the IMOCA and VO65 classes.

Watch the Coastal Race Finale on all of the usual The Ocean Race platforms, including YouTube, Facebook and at www.theoceanrace.com

The Ocean Race Europe - Overall Leaderboard (after Leg 3)

IMOCA

  1. Offshore Team Germany — 14 points
  2. LinkedOut — 13 points
  3. 11th Hour Racing Team — 12 points
  4. CORUM L’Epargne — 7 points
  5. Bureau Vallée — 5 points

VO65

  1. Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team — 18 points
  2. AkzoNobel Ocean Racing — 17 points
  3. Sailing Poland — 15 points
  4. Team Childhood I — 12 points
  5. The Austrian Ocean Race Project — 10 points
  6. AmberSail-2 — 9 points
  7. Viva México — 8 points
Published in Volvo Ocean Race
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Offshore Team Germany — the non-foiling IMOCA 60 skippered by German Olympian Robert Stanjek — has pulled off a spectacular victory in the third and final offshore leg of The Ocean Race Europe.

After almost four days of racing since leaving Alicante, Spain on Sunday afternoon (13 June), the German team arrived in Genoa, Italy at 0936 UTC today, Thursday 17 June, having taken full advantage of their yacht’s superior light-wind performance compared to the four other foil-equipped entries.

Stanjek and his crew — navigator Benjamin Dutreux (FRA), Annie Lush (GBR), Phillip Kasüske (GER) and onboard reporter Felix Diemer (GER) — made an early split away from the rest of the fleet when they headed north soon after leaving Alicante.

At the same time, the four foiling IMOCAs — Charlie Enright’s 11th Hour Racing Team (USA), Louis Burton’s Bureau Vallée (FRA), Nicolas Troussel’s CORUM L’Épargne (FRA) and Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut (FRA) — elected to stay closely grouped on a more south-easterly route over the first 48 hours.

Despite some slowdowns in the light and patchy winds around the Balearic Islands, Offshore Team Germany were mostly able to make steady progress along the 600-nautical-mile course and at one point had opened up a close to 100nm lead over the chasing pack.

Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team celebrate their Leg 3 victory in the dock at Genoa | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceMirpuri Foundation Racing Team celebrate their Leg 3 victory in the dock at Genoa | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

That lead was eroded considerably in the last 36 hours as the foilers found some stronger breeze that allowed them to sail closer to their true potential. But when the German entry crossed the line in the Gulf of Genoa this morning, the chasing pack was still over 20nm away.

“Actually, it was not our plan to escape from the fleet, but sometimes things turn out a bit different than your plan it,” Stanjek said. “All our routings were north of the Balearics and so this was, for us, a clear call — and I thought some other teams would decide the same.

“We climbed up the Spanish coastline north and then we found a lane offshore with good pressure, and all of a sudden we lifted from the fleet like crazy. Within five or six hours the split was so massive and for us it was a gift. Since that moment, we were aware that we have to sail our own race because the difference between the fleet and us was already 50 miles.

“But this race was about so much more than the hardware,” Stanjek said. “I think one of the key factors to me was Benjamin [Dutreux] in this race. He’s a very good navigator, very clear and tough strategist. I think we both worked well together. It was probably me doing a little bit more the risk management on his advice — but he did a great, great job.

“And the whole team also stayed focused and awake. We had difficult parts in the race where everyone closed in, and we had no breeze at all. Sailing upwind in an IMOCA in three knots is not really fun.

“This is just the start of… let’s call it a second career. I’m not a standard offshore sailor. I’ve raced in the Olympic classes for a long, long time. But after the Olympics, I started to enjoy offshore sailing. So I hope this race will bring us closer to the start to the next Ocean Race. I can’t actually wait to to get to the starting line.”

Second place in the IMOCAs went to the blue-hulled LinkedOut, whose skipper Thomas Ruyant had been downbeat before the leg about his boat’s chances of performing well in the forecast ultra-light wind passage.

Nevertheless, Ruyant’s crew, who led the fleet offshore last night in search of more wind, were today able to overhaul the American 11th Hour Racing Team in a drag race on the approach to Genoa.

As the wind dropped away closer to shore, LinkedOut slipped across the Leg 3 finish line at a sedate seven knots with 11th Hour Racing Team completing the IMOCA podium places just minutes later.

Nearly three hours would pass before the two remaining IMOCAs crossed the line, with less than three minutes separating Bureau Vallée in fourth place and CORUM L’Epargne in fifth.

LinkedOut’s crew are all smiles at their second-place finish in the IMOCA 60 class | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceLinkedOut’s crew are all smiles at their second-place finish in the IMOCA 60 class | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

The points awarded to the top three IMOCA finishers in this leg mean that each of Germany, LinkedOut and 11th Hour Racing Team will have an opportunity to win The Ocean Race Europe with the right result in the Coastal Race on Saturday.

Earlier today, it was the Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team earning a spectacular come from behind win in the VO65 class over AkzoNobel Ocean Racing and Sailing Poland.

It was pitch black in Genoa when the Portuguese team, led by eminent French offshore skipper Yoann Richomme, finished the leg at 22:51:57 UTC late Wednesday night, after around three-and-a-half days of racing.

Hours earlier, Richomme’s crew — who started leg three tied on 11 points with AkzoNobel Ocean Racing at the top of the VO65 leaderboard — had been in third place, 10nm behind the longtime fleet leader Sailing Poland (POL), skippered by Bouwe Bekking (NED), and four nautical miles adrift of the second placed Netherlands entry Team Childhood I, led by Dutchman Simeon Tienpont.

Sensing that the breeze along the Italian coast would fade away as night fell, the Portuguese team made the bold decision to tack away from the fleet in search of new wind further offshore. It was a move that looked risky initially, especially given that their heading initially appeared to be taking them away from the finish line.

11th Hour Racing Team on the final approach | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race11th Hour Racing Team on the final approach | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

Ultimately, though, the gambit paid huge dividends as they were eventually able to tack back towards Genoa in the best breeze of the evening, and within a couple of hours had leapfrogged themselves into the lead.

“What a comeback!” Richomme exclaimed shortly after the finish. “A crazy, crazy leg — it felt like two weeks of sailing. We fought hard. We knew that until the finish it wouldn’t be over because Genova is complicated. It’s more of a game of chess in these conditions than proper sailing.

“The crew was amazing, we kept on fighting all the way, very calm. Team Poland moved into the lead with a tiny move near Mallorca and we thought we would never get them back.

“But we knew there was a little move to do in the Gulf of Genoa. We knew it was the favoured side, but then all the others kept on moving inside the bay. We thought it wasn’t going to happen for us and then suddenly things turned.

“We knew we were in the right position, but we didn’t expect to overtake Team Poland and win it — we thought we would be fighting for second.”

Also benefitting from the offshore route was Chris Nicholson’s AkzoNobel Ocean Racing. The Netherlands team was in fifth place before heading offshore in parallel with Mirpuri, but soon moved up to second as the new breeze brought them powering in from the southeast at speeds over 13 knots, overtaking Erik Brockmann’s Viva México (MEX), Team Childhood I and Sailing Poland to take second place.

“This was a big relief,” Nicholson said moments after stepping off the AkzoNobel boat. “We got ourselves behind early on in this leg and when that happens all you hope for is another chance. Fortunately, there was plenty of opportunity to be had today and we grabbed hold of several of them.

“There was plenty of thought that went into it. Our routing and everything we had told us to go the way we did go. But sailor’s instinct would have sent us closer to the shore. For once, I listened to the science, and in the end we chose what we thought had the best chance of success.”

In contrast to the excitement aboard the first two finishers, there will be disappointment for the Sailing Poland crew who had led the VO65s since early in the leg, but as a result of the late-stage reshuffle dropped back to third place and crossed the line just before 3am UTC.

Next was Team Childhood I some 80 minutes later, with Viva Méxio in fifth (04:46:44 UTC), Ambersail-2 in sixth (05:25:48 UTC) and tThe Austrial Ocean Race Project trailing in seven place, more than nine hours behind the leader (07:53:39 UTC).

Bureau Vallée in light airs making slow but steady progress to their forth-place finish in Genoa | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team consolidates its position at the top of the leader board on 18 points, with AkzoNobel Ocean Racing second on 17 points.

This sets up Saturday’s final coastal race — where points will be awarded to the top three teams only (3 points for a win, 2 points for second, 1 point for third) — as a showdown to decide the overall VO65 class standings in the inaugural edition of The Ocean Race Europe.

For the weary sailors, Friday holds the promise of a quieter day of scheduled, local pro-am sailing.

But the pressure stays on as today’s results mean both the IMOCA and VO65 podium positions for The Ocean Race Europe — and the winners of The Ocean Race Europe trophy — will be decided on Saturday 19 June.

Tune into live coverage of the coastal race in Genoa on The Ocean Race YouTube and Facebook platforms as well as www.theoceanrace.com before 11am IST on Saturday (start time TBC).

Published in Volvo Ocean Race
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Another 24 hours of light-wind racing out on the Mediterranean on the third and final leg of The Ocean Race Europe saw both the VO65 and IMOCA 60 fleets compress significantly today, Wednesday 16 June, as they push towards the finish line in Genoa, Italy.

In the five-boat IMOCA 60 class, the trailing group of four foilers — 11th Hour Racing Team (USA), LinkedOut (FRA), Bureau Vallée (FRA), and CORUM L’Épargne (FRA) — started to make better progress in new breeze, eating considerably into the leg-long lead established by the non-foiling Offshore Team Germany (GER) skippered by Robert Stanjek (GER).

At 0000 UTC this morning, Stanjek and his crew — navigator Benjamin Dutreux (FRA), Annie Lush (GBR), Phillip Kasüske (GER), and their onboard reporter, Felix Diemer (GER) — were 97 natural miles/180km ahead of the pack.

A moment to reflect on board 11th Hour Racing Team | Credit: Amory Ross/11th Hour Racing/The Ocean RaceA moment to reflect on board 11th Hour Racing Team | Credit: Amory Ross/11th Hour Racing/The Ocean Race

This afternoon at 1600 UTC/1700 CEST that lead had been more than halved to 45nm as the American-flagged 11th Hour Racing Team — made up of skipper Charlie Enright (USA), past winners of The Ocean Race Pascal Bidégorry (FRA) and Simon Fisher (GBR), Swiss round-the-world sailor Justine Mettraux and onboard reporter Amory Ross (USA) — leads a charge from the foilers in new breeze that has seen the yachts accelerate to consistent double-digit speeds for the first time in 48 hours.

“We’re trying to push hard for sure,” said Stanjek from on board the German boat. “But it’s just very tricky on this coastline. Overall, I’m very happy with the sailing on a big lead over the rest of the fleet. We just have to sail our race and bring it home safe. But we have to stay focussed — it’s not a given.”

“Well, we’re sailing these ocean-going machines inside the Mediterranean Sea, so it's very complicated,” said 11th Hour Racing Team’s Charlie Enright.

On board The Austrian Ocean Race Project | Credit: Stefan Leitner/The Austrian Ocean Race Project/The Ocean RaceOn board The Austrian Ocean Race Project | Credit: Stefan Leitner/The Austrian Ocean Race Project/The Ocean Race

“There's not a lot of wind and they don’t go well in not a lot of wind. So you need to squeeze every ounce of performance out of them or you may never get started again if you stop. And we’ve done more manoeuvres in this leg probably than we have in the rest of the race combined already. So it’’s really tricky. And you got to stay on your game.”

There’s more of that to come, with another night of light winds and calm areas forecast before the IMOCA fleet finds its way to Genoa tomorrow, Thursday 17 June.

But further ahead, the seven VO65s continue to make the best of light-to-moderate conditions with the entire fleet of identical one-design yachts now within 100nm of Genoa.

Sailing Team Poland was still in front this afternoon, albeit with a dramatically reduced lead over their nearest rivals, second-placed Team Childhood I (NED) and Mirpuri Foundation racing Team (POR) in third.

The Polish-flagged yacht, skippered by Dutch serial round-the-world racer Bouwe Bekking, has led the VO65 class for the majority of this third leg from Alicante in Spain and at one point was 27nm/50km ahead of the pack. Since yesterday that advantage has been pegged back to just over 7nm at time of publication, and at one point was less than 5nm.

With just over 35nm still to race to Genoa, some 40nm separates the VO65 leader Sailing Team Poland from seventh-placed The Austrian Ocean Race Project (AUT), which is currently the fastest in their class.

The Polish team’s nearest rivals — Team Childhood I, skippered by Simeon Tienpont (NED), and the Yoann Richomme (FRA)-skippered Mirpuri Foundation Ocean Racing — are between 7 and 8nm behind and ready to pounce.

Facing the elements on board Ambersail-2 | Credit: Aiste Ridikaite/Ambersail-2/The Ocean RaceFacing the elements on board Ambersail-2 | Credit: Aiste Ridikaite/Ambersail-2/The Ocean Race

But with the chances high of a breeze shutdown tonight on the approach to Genoa, at this stage none of the chasing fleet can be ruled out of a leg-three podium position.

“We managed to get away from Mallorca and Minorca with the Polish, although they were leading by 10 miles and managed to pull away from the rest of the field by almost, you know, 20 miles…” said Yoann Richomme on board the Mirpuri Foundation boat. “Luck can turn and it’s still a long leg to Genoa.”

“There’s still a lot to fight for,” said navigator Will Harris with the fourth-placed AkzoNobel Ocean Racing. “We’ve got Poland who were 22-23 miles ahead of us last night; now that’s down to 13 miles. So we’ll see kind of how the opportunities come up. But still a whole load of snakes and ladders to play before we get to finish.”

Forty winks for the crew on board VO65 leaders Sailing Poland | Credit: Ewa Fijoleck/Sailing Poland/The Ocean RaceForty winks for the crew on board VO65 leaders Sailing Poland | Credit: Ewa Fijoleck/Sailing Poland/The Ocean Race

Latest estimates predict that the earliest arrivals in Genoa would be near midnight tonight, but there is significant uncertainty in that ETA. If the wind holds as it is, the leading VO65s could arrive over two hours earlier.

But if the wind dies out as forecast, the boats could be drifting, becalmed, within just miles of the finishing line well into the morning hours.

There will be live coverage of the finishes in Genoa on The Ocean Race YouTube and Facebook platforms as well as www.theoceanrace.com. Track the latest fleet positions on The Ocean Race website HERE.

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The crews competing in The Ocean Race Europe have spent a second restless night out on the Mediterranean searching for wind to help them along the race’s third and final leg from Alicante to Genoa.

Racing in two classes – seven identical one-design VO65s and five development rule IMOCA 60s – the crews representing nine countries made a fast exit from the Spanish mainland last Sunday afternoon in 15-knot winds and under clear skies.

Since leaving Alicante, both classes have made stop-start progress due to patchy winds and large glassy areas of total flat calm littering the route to Italy.

On board with Viva Mexico on the third leg | Credit: Jen Edney/Viva Mexico/The Ocean RaceOn board with Viva Mexico on the third leg | Credit: Jen Edney/Viva Mexico/The Ocean Race

The VO65 class has made the best collective progress so far, having made it past the Spanish islands of Mallorca and Menorca overnight, and into some welcome fresher northerly breeze filtering out across the Mediterranean from the French interior.

The leading pair — Sailing Team Poland, skippered by Bouwe Bekking (NED), with Norway’s Aksel Magdhal as navigator, and Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team led by Yoann Richomme (FRA) with fellow Frenchman Nico Lunven navigating — benefitted from being first into the new breeze and considerably extended the gap between them and the chasing pack.

However this afternoon (Tuesday 15 June) the Polish boat has been going it alone after Mirpuri slipped back and found themselves in a battle for second with Team Childhood I.

11th Hour Racing Team finds some speed | Credit: Amory Ross/11th Hour Racing/The Ocean Race11th Hour Racing Team finds some speed | Credit: Amory Ross/11th Hour Racing/The Ocean Race

There was relief on board that Dutch-flagged vessel, skippered by two-time round-the-world racer Simeon Tienpont (NED). The crew had bet everything on an alternative northern passage past the Balearic Islands, but yesterday had struggled to find any meaningful wind along the northwest coast of Mallorca.

Speaking today from the foredeck of the Team Childhood boat, Lars van Stekelenborg said: “We’re all sailing east and into a tricky area again as fast as we can and then we’ll have to see what happens when we get there.”

In the IMOCA 60 class, the northern route taken by Robert Stanjek’s non-foiling Offshore Team Germany has continued to pay dividends.

“We never planned to split from the other IMOCAs,” said Stanjek. “But all of our weather routings were all north of the Balearics. So to us it was obvious we go this way to the coastline. Some of the others did as well. But then somehow we found a lane where we were lifted brutally away from the fleet.

“Within a few hours the separation was so big… It was never our plan to split, but a chance opened and we took it. And now it is like two different races. Four of the IMOCAs are south and they are sailing their race and we have to sail ours.”

Since yesterday evening the German yacht has managed to pull away into an 82-nautical-mile lead over the four foiling IMOCAs — Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut in second, Charlie Enright’s 11th Hour Racing Team in third, Louis Burton’s Bureau Vallée (FRA) in fourth,and Nicolas Troussel’s CORUM L’Epargne (FRA) fifth.

Time to rest on board CORUM L’Epargne | Credit: CORUM L’Epargne/The Ocean RaceTime to rest on board CORUM L’Epargne | Credit: CORUM L’Epargne/The Ocean Race

“All of the foiling IMOCAs are close together [this morning] off the coast of Mallorca,” said Pip Hare on Bureau Vallée. “Offshore Team Germany went north of the Balearic Islands, which was a punchy move and it looks like it may pay off for them — they’re looking good.

“We’re all battling it out on the south side, though. It’s very close racing. We’ve had complete [wind] shutdowns and then at one stage we were doing 16 knots upwind. It’s great. Let’s see where it goes!”

Despite today’s better breezes and the large separation seen in both fleets, the wind is expected to drop away again, which may result in both fleets compressing before the end of Leg 3.

Twilight on board Ambersail-2 | Credit: Aiste Ridikaite/Ambersail-2/The Ocean RaceTwilight on board Ambersail-2 | Credit: Aiste Ridikaite/Ambersail-2/The Ocean Race

“Leading into the light air zones is always tricky as the boats behind have more speed and manoeuvrability and can wait for us to slow down before they try another way to attack,” admitted Sailing Poland navigator Aksel Magdahl.

“We will just have to be patient and not start giving away too much to cover the boats behind, otherwise the lead will slip quickly.”

Track the latest fleet positions on The Ocean Race website HERE.

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The 12 international teams competing in The Ocean Race Europe have been dealing with light and stubborn breezes on their first night at sea after setting off yesterday (Sunday 13 June) on the inaugural event’s third and final leg from Alicante, Spain to Genoa, Italy.

Pre-start weather forecasts predicted light winds throughout the leg and overnight the five-boat IMOCA 60 and seven-boat VO65 fleets made slow progress away from Alicante with boat speeds rarely breaking 10 knots in the benign conditions.

Despite the slow pace of the action, sailing fans have been glued to the race tracker after breakaway moves from two teams have split both fleets as they pass the Balearic Islands today (Monday 14 June).

In the IMOCA 60s, the crew of Robert Stanjek’s non-foiling Offshore Team Germany (GER) made an early commitment to taking a northern route by tacking away immediately after rounding the final mark of the course off the Tabarca islet, close to Alicante.

On board with Ambersail-2 | Credit: Aiste Ridikaite/Ambersail-2/The Ocean RaceOn board with Ambersail-2 | Credit: Aiste Ridikaite/Ambersail-2/The Ocean Race

“The need to stay in the breeze that we have means that we’re not always sailing the optimum heading,” said Annie Lush from Offshore Team Germany. “But it’s been about finding an angle that works for the wind we have.”

Likewise, in the VO65s, when it was clear that the bulk of the fleet was positioned to pass south of Ibiza, the Dutch-flagged Team Childhood I — skippered by double America’s Cup winner Simeon Tienpont (NED) c— hose to stay north of the rhumb line course in search of better winds. It didn’t pay immediate dividends.

“We went through a very light night, yesterday wasn’t really our plan to pick the shore but we felt it was good to play this side for a little longer,” Tienpont said. “By then we were committed to a route to the north while the rest went south.

“We have a lot less wind than them at the moment, but they still have to cross the light wind area to come up to the north… There are a lot of differences between the weather forecasts, but fingers crossed, we’re here, the fleet is there, and we need to make the best out of it.”

Today at 1840 UTC/2040 CEST as the teams pass south of the largest Balearic island, Mallorca — still in painfully light wind conditions — Offshore Team Germany still held a healthy 11.6-nautical-mile lead over the nearest IMOCA 60 LinkedOut, with CORUM L’Epargne (FRA) and 11th Hour Racing Team (USA) battling for third another 7nm behind and Bureau Vallée (FRA) trailing the leader by 24.7nm.

“This is not going to be the fastest leg for sure,” said LinkedOut skipper Thomas Ruyant. “It’s typical Mediterranean conditions and it’s going to be complicated to find the fastest way to Genoa. But we’re staying focused and determined despite the light conditions. It’s a real test of our patience!”

In the VO65s, hugging the coast of Mallorca, Bouwe Bekking’s Sailing Team Poland (POL) remain first with Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team (POR), skippered by Yoann Richomme, just 4nm behind.

AkzoNobel Ocean Racing are a further 10nm adrift, while the racing is tight at the back some 20nm behind the leader between Team Childhood I in fourth, Ambersail-2 in fifth, The Austrila Ocean Racing Project in sixth and Viva México in seventh.

On board current VO65 class frontrunners Sailing Poland | Credit: Ewa Fijoleck/Sailing Poland/The Ocean RaceOn board current VO65 class frontrunners Sailing Poland | Credit: Ewa Fijoleck/Sailing Poland/The Ocean Race

“Mirpuri is right behind us and they have a bit more speed than us so we just have to keep sailing smart,” Bekking said earlier. “It’s just a matter of finding the best pressure lanes.

“It’s really tricky. There’s a huge high-pressure system and we have to cross that ridge. All in all I’m pretty content with where we are. It’s better to be first than last!”

With wind conditions in the region likely to remain light and fickle for the rest of the week, no one can say for sure whether the north or the south route will turn out best by the time the teams arrive in Genoa, where they are expected on Thursday (17 June).

More immediately, the focus for all the crews will be on somehow keeping their boats moving as they pick their way carefully through the myriad of wind holes strewn across the waters of the Mediterranean overnight.

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The third and final offshore leg of The Ocean Race Europe got under way today in Alicante, Spain where the 12-boat international fleet of yachts — representing nine countries and crewed by sailors from around the world — set off into the Mediterranean, bound for Genoa in Italy.

The Ocean Race Europe fleet arrived in Alicante on Wednesday 9 June after a three-day second leg from Cascais in Portugal, having previously raced there from Lorient, France on Leg 1.

In contrast to the predominantly breezy conditions the crews experienced on the first two legs, the weather forecast for Leg 3 calls for light winds throughout the 600-nautical-mile/1,100km passage to Genoa.

The points spread among the top three teams in both the VO65 and IMOCA 60 classes could not be closer as the fleet left Alicante for the final offshore stage on the new professional yachting event.

The fleet sails out of Alicante at the start of Leg 3 to Genoa, Italy | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceThe fleet sails out of Alicante at the start of Leg 3 to Genoa, Italy | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

In the seven-boat VO65 class, Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team (POR) and AkzoNobel Ocean Racing (NED) are in first and second, tied on 11 points, with Sailing Team Poland (POL) in third, just one point behind.

Remarkably, the scores in the five-boat IMOCA 60 class are even tighter, with the top three teams — LinkedOut (FRA), Offshore Team Germany (GER) and 11th Hour Racing Team (USA) — all sitting on nine points.

Although the focus may be mainly on the podium teams, there are several other crews in either class with enough points to challenge for overall victory, given a strong performance on the leg to Genoa.

With so much resting on the outcome of Leg 3, the atmosphere on the pontoons in Alicante was understandably tense as the crews left for the final stage of the three-week event.

Racing out of Alicante at the start of Leg 3 to Genoa, Italy | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceRacing out of Alicante at the start of Leg 3 to Genoa, Italy | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

“It’s going to be tight all the way to the end,” said Thomas Ruyant, the skipper of LinkedOut, the nominal leader in IMOCA. “The race likely won’t even be decided on this leg, but on the coastal race in Genova.”

Adding to the pressure, particularly for the skippers and navigators, was the uncertainty of the weather forecasts for the coming week. Even as the boats left the dock there was no clear indication of which side of the three Balearic Islands — Ibiza, Mallorca and Minorca — the fleet should pass.

“There are options to the far right, the far left, even in the middle,” Ruyant continued. “It will be hard work for the navigation options for sure.”

“It’s going to be very tricky,” confirmed Spanish navigator Juan Vila — an America’s Cup and round-the-world racer who has been drafted in by the Viva México VO65 crew for Leg 3.

“There’s a big decision to make whether to go south or north of the Balearic Islands and when to cross a ridge of high pressure — that’s basically light winds — around Ibiza and Mallorca,” Vila said.

“There could be some big splits north and south as the [weather] models keep changing their minds — one day they tell you to go north, the next day they tell you to go south. So we will just have to see what we get.”

Third-placed in the VO65s, Sailing Team Poland skipper Bouwe Bekking (NED) said his team were up for the challenge on a leg which he believed would not be decided until finish line in Genoa.

“It’s going to be a long race, but it’s going to be fun, too,” Bekking said. “We know the score is wide open and lots of teams can end up on the leader board in Genova.”

Mirpuri sails out of Alicante at the start of Leg 3 to Genoa, Italy | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceMirpuri sails out of Alicante at the start of Leg 3 to Genoa, Italy | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

Simon Fisher, the British navigator with the American 11th Hour Racing Team, said the IMOCA fleet would have to choose between trying to find gradient wind out to sea, or rely on picking up thermal winds closer to land.

“Do we use the gradient to try and make as much progress as possible, and then see what develops?” Fisher said. “Or do we commit early on to dealing with sea breezes and land breezes? That [the second option] is obviously going to be a messy and fairly long affair, battling up the coast.

“So I think it's going to be an interesting leg and looking at how the different teams decide to deal with, that's going to be fascinating.”

The course for Leg 3 took the fleet away from the start line off the Alicante city front, first upwind to the Alicante exit mark where the yachts bore away towards mark two, located off the nearby Tabarca Island. From there the crews are now free to choose their own fastest routes north through the Mediterranean to Genoa.

The V065s at the start of Leg 3 | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceThe V065s at the start of Leg 3 | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

Conditions were near perfect with 8-12 knots of breeze and sunny skies as the VO65 class set off first at 1300 CEST/1100 UTC, followed 20 minutes later by the five IMOCA 60s.

In the VO65s, AkzoNobel Ocean Racing made the best of the first beat, taking an inshore route that saw them lead at the Alicante exit mark, with Mirpuri Foundation Sailing Team in second and Viva México third.

In the IMOCA 60, class Robert Stanjek’s Offshore Team Germany (GER) took full advantage of their non-foiling configuration to rocket up the first beat to lead at the Alicante exit mark from 11th Hour Racing Team (USA), skippered by Charlie Enright, in second, and Louis Burton’s Bureau Vallée (FRA) in third.

But as soon as the foiling IMOCAs were able to hit their angle and lift out of the water, the Germans were left behind. Stanjek and his crew can take solace in the fact that light, upwind conditions are forecast to return soon.

The IMOCA 60s at the start of Leg 3 | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceThe IMOCA 60s at the start of Leg 3 | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

Based on the forecast for predominantly light winds, the crews are expected to take up to four days to complete the course, and are estimated arrive in Genoa on Thursday 17 June.

The final points scoring opportunity of The Ocean Race Europe will be a coastal sprint race in Genoa scheduled to take place on Saturday 19 June when bonus points will be awarded to the top three finishers in each class.

With the leaderboard so close, it is likely this coastal race will be decisive in determining the winners of the inaugural edition of The Ocean Race Europe.

Track the latest fleet positions on The Ocean Race website HERE.

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The second leg of The Ocean Race Europe finished in Alicante, Spain early this morning (Wednesday 9 June) with the Mirpuri and LinkedOut teams at the top of their respective classes after three days of tight racing between the 12 international crews since they left Cascais, Portugal on Sunday afternoon (6 June).

Leg 2 proved to be a challenging affair with the professional ocean racing teams facing a wide range of conditions along the 700-nautical mile course which finished in the home port of The Ocean Race, which is also the start venue for the round-the-world race in October 2022.

Conditions on the leg ranged from fast downwind sailing in the Atlantic on the first day and night along the Portuguese coast to battling gale-force headwinds in the Strait of Gibraltar on day two, and culminating with light-wind, ghosting conditions for the final night in the Mediterranean Sea.

The VO65 one-design yachts proved to be versatile across all these weather conditions, with all seven making it to Alicante by midday local time Wednesday, around 11nm/20km ahead of the five IMOCA 60s.

The first VO65 home was Portugal’s Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team who managed to prevail following a prolonged cat-and-mouse battle with Netherlands team AkzoNobel Ocean Racing which had been looking to pounce since the fleet entered the Mediterranean on Monday.

LinkedOut on the final approach | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceLinkedOut on the final approach | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

Before dawn today the pair drifted the final miles to Alicante under the cover of darkness and on mirror-flat seas. The Portuguese yacht crossed the line just before sunrise at 0336 UTC/0536 CEST — a little under half an hour ahead of the Dutch team.

Although the final 24 hours of close quarters match racing had been nerve-racking for the two sleep-deprived crews, both skippers admitted the sailors thrived on the intensity of the racing.

“It was a long fight with Akzo,” said Yoann Richomme (FRA), skipper of the Mirpuri Foundation crew. “We manged to overtake them yesterday afternoon and then managed to hang on to our lead after that, which was very tough.

“We got very little sleep; the whole crew is very tired now. It was a full-on spinnaker run until the south of Portugal, then some strong upwind stuff through Gibraltar, and then straight into some light wind sailing. We were doing a manoeuvre — changing sails or something — every hour, so it was hard to get any rest.”

Both Richomme and his rival skipper Chris Nicholson on AkzoNobel Ocean Racing admitted to being relieved to finish the leg ahead of the chasing pack, unlike on Leg 1 when these two crews led virtually all the way from Lorient before cruelly being overtaken in drifting conditions in the final miles to Cascais.

Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceCredit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

“You knew at any stage on this last day that it could end badly,” Nicholson said on the pontoon today.

“We have been chasing Mirpuri for a long time — we were in the lead for a little bit of it — but there were so many occasions where things went good, and then things went bad. We got to within a mile of these guys at the finish, when they had stretched it out to five miles a few hours before hand. You learn, you just never, never give up.”

The Leg 2 results see these two teams top the overall VO65 standings. Both are on 11 points, but Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team claims first place by virtue of the tie-break rules, which favour the most recent result.

The third spot on the overall podium goes to Sailing Poland who led the fleet out of the Strait of Gibraltar but struggled for speed in the lighter winds.

This morning though they came from behind to snatch third place by overtaking both Erik Brockmann’s Viva México and Simeon Tienpont’s Childhood I (NED) in the final miles to the finish.

“Childhood and the Mexicans had a little private battle, and that was our chance to come up on the right of them and then we passed them,” Bekking said, describing the finish. “We led the leg for a long time, especially in the windy part. So I think we deserve third place.”

In the IMOCA fleet, Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut crew successfully defended what had been almost an entire leg-long lead against final-hour challenges from a trio comprising Robert Stanjek’s non-foiling IMOCA, Offshore Team Germany (GER); the American 11th Hour Racing Team, skippered by Charlie Enright (USA); and Louis Burton’s French foiler Bureau Vallée.

The Leg 2 results have created a three-way tie in the IMOCA 60s, with LinkedOut, Offshore Team Germany, and 11th Hour Racing Team, filling the respective podium positions on Leg 2 — all tied on nine points apiece.

“It’s cool that we’re all on equal points — anything can happen! It’s not going to be easy,” said LinkedOut sailor Clarisse Clemer.

Analysing the Leg 2 performance, she noted: “We had a good start, we were fast and we managed to go to the right places on the water and so it all worked out. We didn’t expect to have no wind at times during this last night, so we were a bit nervous, and in the end it was tense and close, there was a bit of pressure on board.”

Bureau Vallée makes haste to the finish line in Alicante | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceBureau Vallée makes haste to the finish line in Alicante | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

But in the event, the French team was just able to hold off a hard challenge from Offshore Team Germany, the only one of the five IMOCAs to be in a non-foiling configuration.

With an older generation boat and his newly formed crew, German skipper Robert Stanjek, says he’s pleased with the results as his team is still on the steepest part of the learning curve.

“We are still learning heaps about the boat,” Stanjek said. “Even in this leg we were faced with racing without instruments through the night, and then the tricky light wind conditions, so it’s a huge learning curve. And of course we are also learning about our team and the different skills we bring to the table so I’m happy with where we are.”

Having arrived in Alicante a full day ahead of the ETA predicted by weather models before the fleet left Cascais, the teams now have some extra downtime to rest their bodies and repair their boats before the start of the third and final leg of The Ocean Race Europe to Genoa, Italy on Sunday 13 June.

With such a close leaderboard at the top of both the IMOCA and VO65 classes, there is a lot at stake on leg three, with the reasonable possibility that the final results could be decided by the outcome of the coastal race in Genova — which assigns bonus points to the top three finishers in each class.

Offshore Team Germany celebrate their second-place finish in the IMOCA 60 class | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceOffshore Team Germany celebrate their second-place finish in the IMOCA 60 class | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

Leg 2 Provisional Results

VO65:

  • Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team (POR) – 7 points
  • AkzoNobel Ocean Racing (NED) – 6 points
  • Sailing Poland (POL) – 5 points
  • Viva México (MEX) – 4 points*
  • Team Childhood I (NED) – 3 points
  • The Austrian Ocean Race Project (AUS) – 2 points
  • Ambersail-2 (LTU) – 1 point

IMOCA 60:

  • LinkedOut (FRA) – 5 points
  • Offshore Team Germany (GER) – 4 points
  • 11th Hour Racing Team (USA) – 3 points
  • Bureau Vallée (FRA) – 2 points
  • CORUM L’Épargne (FRA) – 1 point

Overall standings after Leg 2

VO65:

  • Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team (POR) – 11 points
  • AkzoNobel Ocean Racing (NED) – 11 points
  • Sailing Team Poland (POL) – 10 points
  • The Austrian Ocean Race Project (AUS) – 9 points
  • Team Childhood I (POL) – 8 points
  • Ambersail-2 (LTU) – 7 points
  • Viva México (MEX) – 6 points*

IMOCA 60:

  • LinkedOut (FRA) – 9 points
  • Offshore Team Germany (GER) – 9 points
  • 11th Hour Racing Team (USA) – 9 points
  • CORUM L’Épargne (FRA) – 6 points
  • Bureau Vallée (FRA) – 3 points

*The Race Committee is checking Viva México for a possible infringement of the TSS (traffic separation scheme) which may have an impact on their score in Leg 2.

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Weather conditions for The Ocean Race Europe fleet have moderated considerably from yesterday’s fierce headwinds winds that funnelled against them through the Strait of Gibraltar.

However, despite the Mediterranean’s gentler breezes and flatter seas, the high intensity of the racing remains undiminished as the closely packed fleet closes in on the Leg Two finish in Alicante, Spain — now expected tomorrow morning, Wednesday 9 June, a day ahead of schedule.

The screaming winds that pounded the yachts for most of the day in the strait eventually gave way to ultra-light Mediterranean zephyrs yesterday evening, offering a chance for the sailors to rest a little and take stock of any damage to their boats.

While some faced a more difficult passage than others, the fleet appears to have made it through the notorious strait relatively unscathed — a testimony to the sailors’ seamanship and the resilience of the IMOCA and VO65 classes, which are both designed to race around the world.

“You do all this tacking with 35-plus knots of wind in Gibraltar to gain zero-point-something of a mile, and then at the end you're all floating in the Med within a mile of each other,” lamented Jolbert van Dijk, the Dutch navigator aboard The Austrian Ocean Race Project VO65.

The crew of Louis Burton’s IMOCA 60 Bureau Vallée (FRA) had a torrid time yesterday as they passed the Cap Spartel lighthouse close to Tangiers on their way into the strait. The tackline on their J2 headsail suddenly exploded, and in the ensuing chaos the mainsail was damaged, costing the crew a lot of time to get the boat back in full racing mode.

CORUM L’Épargne racing in Leg 2 | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean RaceCORUM L’Épargne racing in Leg 2 | Credit: Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race

Meanwhile, the crew of the American 11th Hour Racing Team IMOCA 60 has continued to make impressive progress on their quest to close down the rest of fleet since restarting several hours late yesterday due to damage to their port foil incurred in a collision with the anchor line of a moored boat.

They closed to within 35 nautical miles/67km on the approach to the Strait of Gibraltar yesterday. Today (Tuesday 8 June), having made quick work of the strait, the team managed to overhaul the non-foiling Offshore Team Germany, are are sitting in fourth place, 17nm off the lead.

“I think we did a pretty picture-perfect job carving it up with 30 to 40 knots and two reefs and the J3, crossing the channel a couple times,” said skipper Charlie Enright (USA). “Eventually we went north of the TSS [traffic separation zone] and snuck in kind of under Tarifa.

Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team currently lead the VO65 class to Alicante | Credit: Martin Keruzore/Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team/The Ocean RaceMirpuri Foundation Racing Team currently lead the VO65 class to Alicante | Credit: Martin Keruzore/Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team/The Ocean Race

“We seemed to get back up to speed after Gibraltar quite well. Just shaking reefs, sail changes, stuff like that. So, closing the gap, I don't know if it's going to be enough, but we're pushing hard. It's all we can do and, you know, if we make it close and hopefully we can make it exciting at the end.”

At the front of the VO65 class, there is a familiar scene with the two front-running teams for most of the first leg from Lorient to Cascais — Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team (POR) and AkzoNobel Ocean Racing (NED) — once again match-racing for the lead.

At 1400 UTC/1600 CEST this afternoon, the Portuguese crew — led by French solo racing skipper Yoann Richomme — had edged ahead of the Dutch boat skippered my multiple world champion and round-the-world sailor Chris Nicholson from Australia.

Just seven nautical miles (11km) behind lies Sailing Team Poland, skippered by serial round-the-world racer Bouwe Bekking (NED).

In the IMOCA 60s, Thomas Ruyant’s LinkedOut (FRA) crew continue to hold on to the lead as they have for almost the entirety of the second leg. Sixteen nautical miles (30km) behind them, the pack has compressed with a fraction of a nautical mile separating second-placed Bureau Vallée from Nicolas Troussel’s CORUM L’Épargne (FRA) in second and, with the hard chasing 11th Hour Racing Team (USA) a further only one nautical mile adrift.

On board Bureau Vallée at twilight | Credit: Bureau Vallée/The Ocean RaceOn board Bureau Vallée at twilight | Credit: Bureau Vallée/The Ocean Race

With a little over 100nm/185km still to race to Alicante, there is the very real prospect of an ultra-close finish to the leg, perhaps even a repeat of what was seen at the end of leg one in Cascais.

Current weather routing estimates suggest the leaders could now reach Alicante as early as 0700 UTC/0900 CEST tomorrow. Track the latest fleet positions on The Ocean Race website HERE.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race
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