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The battle for the Ocean Race begins this Sunday, January 8, as the fleet prepares for the first In Port Race in Alicante. The race will have two separate regattas for two different boat classes.
- 14:00: Start of the VO65 In-Port Race
- 16:00: Start of the IMOCA In-Harbor Race.
Although Ocean Racing has always been very much about the operation and performance of ocean crossings, the In-Port Race Series has long been beloved and has become an integral part of the race’s DNA.
The 2022-23 edition features In-Port racing in seven stopover cities around the world, where fans can get an up-close look at the teams competing on the short coastal track.
Although intra-port competitions do not count towards the team’s points total, they play a large role in the overall standings. Indeed, the classification of the In-Port Racing Series will be used to decide between the teams in the event of a tie at the end of the race worldwide.
It is usually held close to the coast so fans can enjoy the action from land. In-harbor races are often fast and intense events that test the boating skills of sailors.
Weather permitting, each team takes three guests during In-Port competitions. Although they are not allowed to help steer the boat during the regatta for safety reasons, these privileged few find themselves at the center of the action and one of them, a particularly lucky one, may be designated as such by the captain. take the helm on the last leg of the regatta.
Winning at the start is often the key to victory. Chief Race Officer Bill O’Hara opted for a reach start, meaning boats will start with about a 90-degree crosswind. O’Hara, a former Olympic competitor for Ireland, explains: “IMOCAs are not designed for close range manoeuvres, so it makes no sense to reach.” “Furthermore, it gives the IMOCAs the best chance to stand on foil that we have ever seen in the history of the race. »
O’Hara plans a rectangular course with at least two laps and an estimated time of 45 minutes for the IMOCA fleet, which will set off at 4 p.m. “If we have moderate wind, say 10 knots, then I think the first leg will be 1.5 nautical miles (nm), then 0.5nm downwind leg, 2nm new reach, upwind. 0.5 nm, then a final leg of 0.5 nm to return to the start/finish line. »
For the VO65s, which depart earlier at 2 p.m., O’Hara plans a squarer course to allow for more tactical maneuvering on the water, jams and gybes with boats that are easier to handle in closer situations.
According to O’Hara, the weather forecast on Saturday, January 6 was good for Sunday’s race. “Weather models are predicting gusts of over 10 knots, with gusts of up to 15 knots, which will intensify in the afternoon. Looks like there might be some good wind! This should be enough for the IMOCAs to pick up speed on reaching courses and start foiling, reaching speeds in excess of 20 knots.
As the maneuvers in IMOCA are difficult, winning at the start will be more important than ever for this fleet. If you are not an expert in racing, it will be difficult to judge the approach to the line at the starting point. The GUYOT environment is full of Olympic-level talent. Annie Lush represented Great Britain in the women’s event at the London 2012 Olympic Games, alongside former All-Star world champion Robert Stanjek, and the Olympic gold medalist was none other than Spain’s Tamara Echegoyen, GUYOT’s teammate.
Susann Beucke may be new to the world of offshore racing, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic silver medalist in the 49erFX will bring valuable experience to Kevin Escoffier’s crew at Team Holcim – PRB. 11th Hour Racing’s Francesca Clapcich also has an Olympic background, having represented Italy twice at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics.
Small boat expertise comes from two-time French Paralympic champion Damien Seguin aboard Biotherm, skippered by Paul Meilhat. Malizia skipper Boris Herrmann will rely on his background in the 505 boat to remember the tactical maneuvers that will be crucial during the start of the In-Port Race.
VO65s will want to cross the start line in good shape. You should expect aggressive maneuvers before you start positioning yourself. Like the IMOCA crews, the VO65 fleet is packed with world-class small boat talent. Tokyo 2020 Laser Radial Olympian Magdalena Kwaśna is ready to touch skipper Pablo Arrarte and Poland’s Windwhisper Racing Team.
Former Lazer Radial competitor Tania Elías Calles, a four-time Olympian from Mexico, joins skipper Eric Brockmann at Viva México. Brockmann is used to closing out the competition, having himself become the J/70 keelboat world champion and captaining the Mexican teams in the Extreme Sailing Series.
Ambersail 2 is piloted by Lithuania’s London 2012 Olympian Rokas Milevičius – who became the first Lithuanian sailor to compete in The Ocean Race when he competed for Team Brunel in 2014-15. Milevičius’ Olympic experience should keep him in good shape on the starting line. Olympic experience is also present in the Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team with Antonio Fontes. Hugo Rocha holds an Olympic bronze medal in the 470, Diogo Cayolla is a three-time Olympic representative for Portugal, and Francisco Cruz competed in windsurfing at the Olympics for Argentina.
The Dutch JAJO team is full of youth and bravado, but its secret weapon to bring some age and experience is Dutchman Bouwe Bekking, an eight-time veteran of The Ocean Race. Gervin Jansen’s Austrian Ocean Race, driven by Team Genova, is the least experienced of all the crews. A clean start from Jansen, leaving the other teams to make mistakes, would probably be a good strategy for their first In-Port as they look to capitalize on their lack of race experience.