11th Hour Racing Team – the American contender for The Ocean Race 2022-23 – has unveiled an ambitious schedule for 2021 which will see the syndicate compete in The Ocean Race Europe as well as fielding two crews in the 2021 IMOCA offshore series.
The team’s plan for the coming year include four events:
• The Ocean Race Europe A four-week tour around the continent in May through mid-June, with two Classes – the IMOCA 60s and VO65s.
• Rolex Fastnet Race Starting on Sunday, August 8 in Cowes on the Isle of Wight a new course for this classic race takes the fleet around the Fastnet Rock at the southern tip of Ireland and finishes (for the first time) in Cherbourg, France.
• Défi Azimut A 48-hour offshore race and a short dash around the island of Groix off the Brittany coast in France taking place in September.
• Transat Jacques Vabre The legendary transatlantic race from Le Havre, France setting off on October 24.
“Our immersion into the offshore IMOCA world continues for 2021,” commented the team’s CEO Mark Towill. “As of now, the plan is to be training and racing with two boats this year, dependent on the boat build schedule and any impacts related to COVID-19.
“With the start of The Ocean Race delayed by one year, we’re taking the opportunity to gain valuable experience in the heart of the offshore sailing world, being based in France for longer periods. Our racing in 2021 will be focused on short-handed sailing, to maximise opportunities to line-up against other IMOCA teams.
11th Hour Racing Team also announced the recruitment of Swiss sailor Justine Mettraux as co-skipper alongside Simon Fisher onboard the team’s training boat 11.1 – better known as the former Hugo Boss 6.
Although vastly experienced as an ocean racer and a past-winner of The Ocean Race Fisher said double-handed sailing would be a new challenge, but one he was excited to take on.
“It’s something I have always wanted to do but never quite managed to make happen so it’s great to finally get the opportunity, Fisher said. “It’s going to be a steep learning curve – I spoke to Charlie after his first double-handed race in the Transat Jacques Vabre [in 2019] and he said it was the hardest thing he had ever done!
“Being just two of us onboard, it ramps the responsibility up, but I am looking forward to the challenge. I just hope I do as well as I would like to do. Sailing with Justine is great, she is unflappable, calm and of course very experienced – I’m going to be learning loads and I couldn’t be happier to be paired with her.”
Likewise, Mettraux said she was keen to get started.
“I’m really looking forward to joining the team,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for me, not only to be sailing on a current IMOCA 60 but a new edition boat as well. Partnering with SiFi is something I’m really happy about – it’s going to be a good mix. I have more experience of short-handed sailing, but he has a lot of experience in The Ocean Race and is one of the best navigators there is, as well as a great sailor. I’m looking forward to getting to work.”
Meanwhile, team co-founder Charlie Enright will pair up again with French ocean racer Pascal Bidégorry to train and race aboard the new 11th Hour Racing Team IMOCA 60, which is set to launch in July.
“Depending on the final stages of the build and commissioning, we anticipate entering both boats in the Rolex Fastnet, Défi Azimut and the Transat Jacques Vabre,” Towill explained.
Bidégorry said he was delighted to be back with 11th Hour Racing Team and looking forward to the prospect of sailing with Enright once again.
“It’s exciting to be part of this project particularly being involved with my old friends at MerConcept and how we are approaching the technical challenges and sustainability opportunities around the build of the new boat,” he said. “It will be a busy period in the build-up to the Transat Jacques Vabre and one I’m really looking forward to.”
Likewise Enright said relished the chance to rack up more offshore miles with his French co-skipper with whom he finished fourth in the 2019 Transat Jacques Vabre in which thy finished fourth.
“To be sailing alongside someone so experienced is a great way to learn. I’m looking forward to getting back out on the water with him again this year,” Enright said.
The build of the new 11th Hour Racing Team IMOCA 60 is being managed by MerConcept and CDK and overseen by build manager Wade Morgan. The team’s sustainability manager, Damian Foxall based himself in France for several weeks at the end of last year to oversee the sustainability innovations, practices and implementation associated with the construction process.
“Wade is now onsite in Port La Forêt as the process of bringing the hull and deck together begins,” said Enright.
“It’s always a mix of nerves and excitement at this point, for the decisions we made over 18 months ago to come good. COVID-dependant, we aim to be in France late-February and seeing the progress ourselves: it can’t come soon enough.
“We are all itching to get back out on the water again after this justifiably-enforced period of shore leave. The work has been relentless and there have been plenty of late night and early morning trans-Atlantic calls and meetings with the team in France overseeing the boat build.
Rob MacMillan, Co-founder and President of 11th Hour Racing said he was proud of the work that the team as a whole has achieved “both from a competitive and environmental perspective with performance and sustainability integrating seamlessly.”
“The prospect of launching a new IMOCA 60 and having two equally talented teams training and racing later in the year on the international offshore circuit is incredibly energising,” he said. “As an organisation and a sponsor dedicated to inspiring solutions for the ocean, 2021 sets a remarkable milestone that merges a decade of impact achieved through our work with a new decade for the ocean fuelled by global collaborations.”
11th Hour Racing Team Schedule 2021
• February-March Full team training in Port La Forêt, France
• May-June The Ocean Race Europe
• July Launch and commissioning of new IMOCA 60
• August Rolex Fastnet
• September Défi Azimut
• October Transat Jacques Vabre
Main image © Amory Ross | 11th Hour Racing