Some of the best sailors and teams in the world will take up the challenge of The Ocean Race Europe next month, racing in stages from Lorient, France to Genova, Italy.
The teams will compete in two classes: the one-design, record-breaking VO65 fleet and the innovative, no-limits, IMOCA class. Female sailors will feature on every crew in the race.
Seven teams are expected in the VO65 class, including entries from Austria, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, and Portugal. All the teams are seeing this event as the first stop on the road to the 2022-23 edition of The Ocean Race, which will mark the 50th anniversary of the race.
In the European event, new sailors will be making their competitive debut, alongside race veterans like eight-time competitor in The Ocean Race, Bouwe Bekking, who was recently announced as skipper of Sailing Team Poland.
“I think The Ocean Race Europe is a superb way to show the world that Poland is an important up and coming market, while recognising that sustainability and respect for the environment will be key elements to successful growth,” Bekking said.
“From what I can see, many of the other VO65 teams will be taking a similar approach to what we are doing at Sailing Team Poland, by bringing in some experience and some young blood too. We have guys like myself, Pablo Arrate, Jens Dolmer, Aksel Magdhal, with a few races under our belt.
“But we’re also bringing in some great young Polish sailors – men and women – who have good achievements in Olympic classes or smaller offshore events and this is their chance to learn and grow and experience The Ocean Race.”
There will be at least five entries in the IMOCA fleet, representing France, Germany and the USA, with a possibility of up to two more teams still to confirm participation.
“We’re really looking forward to getting to grips with racing our IMOCA in a fully crewed mode,” said LinkedOut skipper Thomas Ruyant.
“It changes everything, from the way the boat handles with the extra weight of the crew, to our ability to do manoeuvres more efficiently, which also has an impact on your tactics. So it’s a lot to take in. We’re scheduling some solid training throughout May ahead of the start, to be as prepared as possible to put in a strong performance.”
The Ocean Race Europe will start from Lorient, France on May 29, with stops in Cascais, Portugal and Alicante, Spain before the finish in Genova, Italy, three weeks later. Each of the offshore legs will be scored equally. There will be two coastal races during stopovers where bonus points will be available to the top three finishers.
The Ocean Race Europe – important dates
May 29 – Leg Start – Lorient, France
June 5 – Coastal Race – Cascais, Portugal
June 6 – Leg Start – Cascais, Portugal
June 13 – Leg Start – Alicante, Spain
June 19 – Coastal Race – Genova, Italy
Each offshore leg will last approximately three to four days depending on distance and weather conditions. The coastal races will have a target time of three to five hours.
The VO65 and IMOCA fleets will be competing in separate divisions for their own The Ocean Race Europe trophy.
Prior to the race start in Lorient, four of the northern-European based VO65 teams will be sailing in The Ocean Race Europe Prologue, with stops in Klaipeda, Lithuania; Gdynia, Poland; and Stockholm, Sweden.
In addition to the on the water action, The Ocean Race Europe will support a robust sustainability programme, including education initiatives, on board science data collection, and social and environmental policy roundtable events aimed at driving solutions towards ocean health and reducing the impact of climate change on the ocean. Teams will be encouraged to fully participate through The Ocean Race Guardians Award for best sustainable practice.
Race organisers will have a strict Covid-19 protocol in place, including testing and small group ‘bubbles’ that limit interaction between sailing teams and outsiders.
The Ocean Race Europe – provisional list of entered teams
Austrian Ocean Race Project (AUT)
Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team (POR)
Sailing Team Poland (POL)
Viva Mexico (MEX)
VO65 – team six – confirmed – to be announced
VO65 – team seven – confirmed – to be announced
11th Hour Racing Team (USA)
Bureau Vallée (FRA)
CORUM L’Épargne (FRA)
Offshore Team Germany (GER)
Main image © Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo AB