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The Ocean Race Europe: First boats round Point Alpha, now foiling fast to Cascais

by Richard Gladwell/ 31 May 19:45 PDT 1 June 2021
The Ocean Race Europe. Leg 1 from Lorient, France, to Cascais, Portugal. On Board 11th Hour Racing Team © Amory Ross / 11th Hour Racing / The Ocean Race

The first boats, both IMOCA60's, have rounded Point Alpha, a virtual mark located 480nm to the west of Cape Finisterre at the entrance to the Bay of Biscay.

11th Hour Racing, skippered by Charlie Enright (USA) was first around at 01.39.29UTC followed by LinkedOut skippered by Thomas Ruyant (FRA) 10minutes later at 01.49.18UTC, or 2nm astern.

After the rounding the two boats followed slightly different courses with 11th Hour Racing sailing higher, and gained .5nm by 0300hrs UTC - based on a distance to finish basis.

A third IMOCA60, Corum skippered by Nicolas Troussel (FRA) rounded Point Alpha about 90 minutes later with a fourth Bureau Valle skippered Louis Barton (FRA) rounding 20minutes later.

The first VO65, Mirpuri skippered by Yoann Richomme (FRA), rounded at 0412hrs UTC and was just over 50nm behind 11th Hour Racing. AkzoNobel skippered by Chris Nicholson (AUS) was the second VOR65 around Point Alpha 25minutes behind Mirpuri.

From Point Alpha it is straight line sailing in moderate to fresh breezes, to Cascais with both the IMOCA60's and VOR65's sailing at approximately the same speed.

The first boat is expected to finish in about 24hours.

From race leader, 11th Hour Racing's OBR (On Board Reporter) Amory Ross (USA) filed this report, 150 nm out from Point Alpha as they chased then race leader LinkedOut, foiling at speeds of 32kts running them down and rounding Point Alpha.

"Checking in from onboard a very quiet boat! These short legs certainly promote the sprint mentality and after a relatively gentle exit out of Lorient, it has been a literal frenzy. There is some serious sleeping going on right now during this brief respite as we inch west towards the imaginary offshore waypoint.

"Finisterre is one of those notorious corners of the world where you can always expect a bit of weather, and sure enough, on cue it was straight into a sharp build in wind, two sail changes, a gybe and a reef, then tearing off into the night we went, LinkedOut ahead but in sight. Everybody was psyched. We’ve done a lot of sailing as a team before, but alone. There’s nothing quite like the adrenaline-fueled chase for the lead.

"Boy was it a good chase. By virtue of two completely different boats and two completely different sail concepts, we traded positions all night sailing our own best angles. Sometimes we were high and they were low, then the breeze would change, we’d both ‘peel’ to something different, then they’d be high and we’d be low. We zigged and zagged around each other all night, often very close, spying navigation lights and spray through the window while foiling along at speeds of up to 32 knots. It was breakneck and exhilarating. Nobody slept. Everything we signed up for in that one little sampling. These boats are incredible.

"At daybreak the winds eased, as did our 25 knot averages. LinkedOut is well positioned below and bow out and we’ve been attempting to match their speeds all day. It has been a tremendous learning experience already, finally having someone else to line up against. Besides sleeping… we are experimenting. Small changes here and there, analyze the result. Redo. Some things work and some don’t but in general we learn something from each exercise.

"An hour or two of serenity is left before we get back to the big winds. We go headfirst into a front tonight before rounding the virtual mark – now 150 nautical miles away – turning around, and overtaking it again. Lots of intensity left but also lots of opportunity. It’s great to be racing again!"

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