Starting from Manhattan on 1st June 2014, the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race was the first event organised by Sir Keith Mills’ Lausanne-based company Open Sports Management since it acquired the commercial and marketing rights to the IMOCA class in October 2012.
Run in conjunction with the Fundació Navegació Oceànica Barcelona (FNOB), this 3,720 mile long doublehanded transatlantic race was conceived to provide exposure for the IMOCA class to North America, as well as being a valuable warm-up for this winter’s Barcelona World Race.
Five IMOCA 60s took part with French round the world racer legend Marc Guillemot competing with talented Figaro sailor Morgan Lagravière, who is to take over from Guillemot as Safran’s new skipper from 2015. British skipper Alex Thomson was entered aboard his latest Hugo Boss (ex-Virbac Paprec 3) with Spanish round the world sailor Pepe Ribes, but due to the arrival of his second child, Thomson made the decision to hand over to American skipper Ryan Breymaier. Their campaign was made no easier when they dismasted en route to the start. Fortunately the crew was able to repair the rig at record pace, making it to New York four days before the start.
The 10 race skippers - IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona 2014 - Open Sports Management
Spain was well represented by the race’s only mixed crew – Anna Corbella and Gerard Marin, both competitors in the last Barcelona World Race. Spain’s most capped round the world sailor Guillermo Altadill was back on board Team Neutrogena, which he originally skippered when it was launched as Estrella Damm in 2007. He was joined by José Muñoz, the first occasion a Chilean had ever competed in an IMOCA race.
The race was also the first outing for the newest addition to the IMOCA fleet, Spirit of Hungary, marking Hungarian Nandor Fa’s return to the class, following a 17 year absence, joined on board by Marcel Goszleth. Sadly due to delays to the boat’s launching, it only arrived into New York the day before the start. Spirit of Hungary took the start line but then immediately returned to port, and retired, the boat needed some maintenance and further preparation work to be ready for its ongoing programme.
Furthermore the race was the first occasion IMOCA 60s have carried media crewman on board in a major event, fulfilling one of OSM’s key objectives to improve the quality of the media material coming off the boats.
Event presence in Barcelona - IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona 2014 - Open Sports Management
Followers of the race got a taste of things to come in the Prologue from Newport to New York, the weekend before the start, when Team Neutrogena beat Safran Sailing Team by just one minute and 25 seconds.
On the Thursday before the start Hugo Boss claimed the Hugo Boss Watches Manhattan Charity Race Day, with a VIP crew including NFL tight end for the New Orleans Saints, Jimmy Graham.
On 1st June at 1200 local time Maite Fandos, Deputy Mayor of Barcelona and President of FNOB, fired the start gun, and the boats were off across the Atlantic. It was Hugo Boss that led the charge out of New York Harbour but come the first evening as the boats were sailing along the south side of Long Island, it was Safran that had taken the lead. With the exception of Gaes, which pulled ahead for 24 hours from lunchtime on day 2, it was Safran that would lead for the duration of the Atlantic crossing.
The route across the Atlantic wasn’t straightforward. Due to the proliferation of ice drifting down from the Arctic, the race committee set an ‘ice box’ with a southerly limit at 40degN – roughly the same as New York and Barcelona – a diversion south of some 225 miles from the great circle.
In the strong conditions heading into this on day four, the boats notched up their highest 24 hour runs of the race – with Hugo Boss putting in the biggest at 446.55 miles (average speed 18.6 knots) up until 05:30 on 5th June.
While the boats had been racing as a pack, along south side of the icebox, they divided with Safran and Hugo Boss heading southeast, Team Neutrogena and Gaes heading northeast. The latter paid with backmarker Team Neutrogena closing to within 21 miles of Safran.
Safran made the first of her significant moves passing the westernmost Azores Island of Flores. Having hung on before gybing north, the French IMOCA 60 stayed in stronger breeze the longest, extending her lead over second placed Hugo Boss to 86 miles. She then consolidated her advantage by then taking a position the furthest north, in stronger breeze, as the boats passed to the north of the Azores. Sadly the opposite was true for Gaes, which had been the first boat to gybe north, a move causing her to drop back to 150 miles behind the leader, from which ultimately she was never able to recover.
The first boats entered the Strait of Gibraltar, the entrance to the Mediterranean at lunchtime on day 12, in heinous conditions, upwind into gale force easterlies with a lumpy unpredictable sea. Sadly Safran was not among them, after her skipper Marc Guillemot was injured while working on the foredeck of his bucking yacht.
As Marc Guillemot described it: 'There was a bad sea state and 30-35 knots and at one stage a big wave caused the boat to rise up. I rose up with it and the boat then slammed down quicker than me and I crashed down onto it, falling on the side of the headsail furling drum.' With Guillemot injured, co-skipper Lagravière steered Safran to the Spanish port of Puerto Sherry in Cadiz from where Guillemot was taken to hospital. He was subsequently diagnosed as having broken four ribs and one displacement.
With Safran out, the lead passed to Hugo Boss, Ribes and Breymaier suffering equally miserable boat breaking conditions while dodging shipping and fishing nets off the Moroccan coast. But the silver IMOCA 60 was far from having it her own way. Exiting the Strait, Team Neutrogena was just 13 miles behind after more than 3,000 miles of racing and on board Guillermo Altadill was determined not let the Hugo Boss crew claim an easy victory.
Unfortunately circumstances conspired against both Team Neutrogena and some way behind them, Gaes. The wind shut down off the Spanish coast making progress slow going. And on the final day when the breeze filled in, it did so with a vengeance. During a 50 knot gust on the morning before they finished Hugo Boss was literally tossed on her side with the mast in the water, where it remained for three minutes.
Just over three days after entering the Mediterranean, Hugo Boss ghosted into Barcelona in light winds. Both Ribes and Breymaier appeared thin and exhausted. 'It feels great to have gotten here,' Breymaier admitted. They said that they had been struggling throughout the race due to the newness of their partnership and lack of time on the boat, and had to spend much time having to fix various things on their boat, distracting them from the racing.
At the time Team Neutrogena was just 11 miles behind her long term rival, but this extended to four hours and 11 minutes in the dying evening breeze off Barcelona.
'It looked like we were faster and we hoped to catch Hugo Boss if they got becalmed,' said Guillermo Altadill. 'There were a couple of moments when there was no wind which they were faster out of.'
Gaes in turn arrived the following day, 19 hours after the race winner. Like Hugo Boss and Team Neutrogena, Anna Corbella and Gerard Marin’s boat will be competing in the Barcelona World Race later this year and her crew had been using the event for valuable training. In this respect both crew said they had learned a lot.
'We had good moments in the Atlantic with good waves that we had not experienced while training,' commented Corbella, adding that there was nothing like racing, across the full range of conditions against some of the top IMOCA 60 teams, to help prepare them for the doublehanded non-stop round the world race.
Sir Keith Mills, Founder and Chairman of OSM (Open Sports Management), concluded: 'I am very pleased that this has been such a successful event - we had five IMOCA 60 race boats, 10 skippers, five nationalities, three media crew members - and we raised the profile and interest in the Ocean Masters World Championship significantly across media, sponsors and general public. I am looking forward to the next events, including the Route de Rhum and of course, the Barcelona World Race starting at the end of this year.' Final results for the IMOCA Ocean Masters New York to Barcelona Race:
1.- Hugo Boss - Pepe Ribes (ESP) - Ryan Breymaier (USA)
Finish at Barcelona: 15-06-2014, at 20h 54m 30s local time
Time taken from New York: 14d 02h 44m 30s
2.- Team Neutrogena– Guillermo Altadill (ESP) - José Muñoz (CHI)
Finish at Barcelona: 16-06-2014, at 01h 05m 17s local time
Time taken from New York: 14d 06h 55m 17s
3.- Gaes Sailing Team– Anna Corbella (ESP) – Gerard Marín (ESP)
Finish at Barcelona: 16-06-2014, at 15h 53m 45s local time
Time taken from New York: 14d 21h 42m 45s
Retired: Safran – Marc Guillemot (FRA)-Morgan Lagravière (FRA)
Retired: Spirit of Hungary – Nandor Hace (HUN)- Marcell Goszleth (HUN)