First indications positive for IMOCA teams preparing for The Ocean Race

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IMOCA teams for The Ocean Race

The Defi Azimut provided a first taste of competition for five teams preparing for The Ocean Race start in January.

Five IMOCA teams who have confirmed their participation in The Ocean Race 2022-23 took to the waters off Lorient, France this past week at the Defi Azimut Lorient Agglomération – the first event on the IMOCA calendar to include fully crewed racing.

The event was thus a first opportunity for teams to line up, check in on speed and reliability and get a measure of their competition ahead of the start of The Ocean Race on 15 January in Alicante, Spain.

© Eloi Stichelbaut / Polaryse / The Ocean Race

11th Hour Racing Team secured a third place in the Speed Runs, before winning the 48 Hour Azimut The Ocean Race (crewed division) and taking 11th place in Sunday’s Tour de Île de Groix.

“It’s been a great five days here in Lorient and a really enjoyable mix of racing, from the short speed runs to the offshore 48 hour race and the half-spin around Groix today. We’ve had a really clean regatta and we tried to make decisions as if we were racing in The Ocean Race,” said skipper Charlie Enright.

“Obviously I’m pleased with the result, as it’s tough training by ourselves and we have no benchmark against other teams. Taking part in The Défi Azimut has given us this opportunity, which has been really insightful.”

For Boris Herrmann’s Team Malizia – Seaexplorer, the week was highlighted by a third place finish in the 48 hour race and a fourth place in Sunday’s Tour de Île de Groix.

© Eloi Stichelbaut / Polaryse / The Ocean Race

“I’m very satisfied with the race,” Herrmann said after finishing the 48 hour contest. “It’s the first time we have had our competitors around and that gives us the information to learn if we are on the right angles and speed and is the boat fast or not. Until you line up with someone else, you never really know and I’m very satisfied as it seems like the boat has the potential and now it’s up to us to get to this potential quickly!!”

Guyot environnment – Team Europe, led by Benjamin Dutreux and Robert Stanjek, had a successful second place finish in the 48 hour race, despite only training together for a few hours earlier in the week.

© Eloi Stichelbaut / Polaryse / The Ocean Race

“It’s been our first week of training on this boat and the race served to get to know the hardware after we sailed on a non-foiler (and won the IMOCA division!!) at The Ocean Race Europe. And I have to say: a foiling IMOCA is amazing,” Stanjek said. “We still have to develop the team now. That will be a learning process that will extend up to the start of The Ocean Race.”

The newest boat to compete, having just been launched, was Paul Meilhat’s Team Biotherm. After a 10th place finish in the Speed Runs, Meilhat elected to retire from the 48 hour event after completeing most of the course, racing some 500 miles before technical issues forced an early end to the race.

© Eloi Stichelbaut / Polaryse / The Ocean Race

“These past two days of racing have been valuable and rewarding for the crew and it was crucial to be able to participate in this 12th Défi Azimut,” Meilhat said as he announced he would head back to the team base to keep working up his boat. “These 500 miles covered in race configuration are very positive for us all.”

The fifth IMOCA confirmed in the race is Holcim PRB and skipper Kevin Escoffier elected to compete in single-handed mode as he prepares to take on the Route du Rhum in November, ahead of The Ocean Race.

© Eloi Stichelbaut / Polaryse / The Ocean Race

Escoffier had an impressive fifth place finish in the 48 hour race which featured 24 competitors.

Teams will now turn their attention back to preparation for The Ocean Race, with new boats finishing their commissioning and crew training starting in earnest