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 Genova, Italy today.
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 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 Genova, 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 7 to 10 knots of southeasterly sea breeze.
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 Ocean 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 Team 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.
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 the 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 two and three, and in their homeport inshore race in Cascais.
Richomme’s crew had put in several weeks of Atlantic training prior to The Ocean Race Europe start from Lorient, France on Saturday May 29, 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.
“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 Genova 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 standings
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
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
Genova Coastal Race Results
1. 11th Hour Racing Team — 3 points
2. Offshore Team Germany – 2 points
3. LinkedOut — 1 point
4. CORUM L’ Epargne
5. Bureau Vallée
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
7. The Austrian Ocean Race Project
Main image © Sailing Energy/The Ocean Race