Five of The Ocean Race IMOCA teams prepare to compete

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Five of The Ocean Race IMOCA teams prepare to compete in Lorient in the Défi Azimut

Anticipation is high in the days leading up to the Défi Azimut regatta, which will take place next week in Lorient (France), and in which five of the IMOCA teams entered for The Ocean Race 2022-23 will face off against each other. yes for the first time.

Four of the participating yachts, Charlie Enright and Mark Towill’s 11th Hour Racing Team (USA), Boris Herrmann’s Team Malizia (GER), Benjamin Dutreux’s GUYOT environnement – ​​Team Europe (FRA/GER) and Robert Stanjek, and Paul Meilhat’s Biotherm (FRA), will sail with four crew members (including at least one woman), as well as an additional On-Board Reporter (OBR) whose role is to communicate about their crew’s work in words, pictures and video. .

For his part, French skipper Kevin Escoffier has chosen to sail his IMOCA Holcim – PRB solo.

The city of Lorient is renowned as the spiritual home of the IMOCA class, and the popular annual six-day event, to be held from September 13-18, has attracted a total of 29 boats for its 12th edition. The entry list includes many of the biggest names in the class, including the top three skippers of the 2020-2021 Vendée Globe: Yannick Bestaven (FRA), Charlie Dalin (FRA) and Louis Burton (FRA).

The Défi Azimut opens on Wednesday with a day of speed trials on a one nautical mile course between Lorient and the nearby island of Groix. The regatta will have a World Cup-style single-elimination format, with the teams grouped in the first rounds and then the qualifiers competing one-on-one in the following rounds. For The Ocean Race boats, this format offers a valuable opportunity to measure themselves against their opponents in terms of raw speed.

The following day, the fleet embarks on a 48-hour high-seas regatta on a course that heads out into the Atlantic around a series of virtual waypoints, before returning to Lorient on Saturday. For the four fully crewed teams from The Ocean Race, this will be the first and last time they will compete together on the high seas before the 14th edition of the round-the-world race begins on January 15, 2023 in Alicante.

With this scenario in mind, the two days at sea will be as important for the observation of the rivals as for the result, and it is expected that the crews will watch each other closely to try to gather useful information on technique, set-up and performance. of his rivals.

The final day on Sunday will focus on a timed fleet race around the 15 square kilometer Groix Island. With 29 boats and a record time of just one hour, eight minutes and 10 seconds (set by the French skipper Vincent Riou with the PRB in 2015), this regatta will be a frantic fight in which tactical or execution errors will have no place. of the maneuvers.

Paul Meilhat, skipper of the new IMOCA Biotherm, reckons his boat, which was launched last week in Lorient, may not be fully ready, however he and the team are excited to get involved.

“I am very happy that we can take part in this fully crewed regatta as a warm-up for The Ocean Race. The truth is that it is easier to take a boat that is not fully ready with four people than if you go alone. I also think it’s a great way for us to start our story with The Ocean Race together as a team.”

Malizia team co-skipper Will Harris (GBR) said that Boris Herrmann’s team was looking forward to taking on the other IMOCAs entered for The Ocean Race for the first time.

“We’ve seen some of the other boats out on the water, but we’ve never actually engaged them,” Harris explained. “This is the moment where we will see if we are competitive or if we have a lot more work to do.”

GUYOT environnement – ​​Team Europe team manager Jens Kuphal said the event will be an important milestone for the team, which is a potent combination of Olympic sailors and ocean racing experts.

“We have high expectations for Défi Azimut because it is the first time that our sailors will sail as a crew. For us it is like the starting point of the whole campaign, so it is a special moment.”

11th Hour Racing Team skipper Charlie Enright said his team is really looking forward to competing with the other IMOCAs in The Ocean Race.

“The Défi Azimut is the only time that all the boats will face each other in a competition format before The Ocean Race starts in January. The format is great. You relax with the speed races, which are fun, and then there is the 48-hour race, which is the most relevant to what all the competitors have ahead of us.”

“The Round Groix regatta is especially useful for us because it gives us the opportunity to train on the ship with the entire crew.”

Despite opting to compete solo in Défi Azimut, Holcim – PRB French skipper Kevin Escoffier commented that he was happy to compete in front of the rest of the IMOCA crews in The Ocean Race.
“I chose to do it solo because I wanted to get some solo training on the boat before the Rum Road. But for sure I will keep an eye out for our friends and rivals from The Ocean Race teams.”

All boats will carry GPS during the event, so fans can follow the action online on the event website. The 48-hour regatta tracking will also be on theoceanrace.com