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Selden 2020 - LEADERBOARD

First months of IMOCA training on Malizia-Seaexplorer

by Will Harris 8 Oct 2022 06:04 PDT
Day 2 of sailing, the boat was fully flying! © Antoine Auriol | Team Malizia

It has been a whirlwind few months since the launch of Malizia-Seaexplorer and the time has absolutely flown by. We've covered approximately 6,000 Nm in training so far are learning more everyday about how to sail the boat faster.

The first days sailing we were blown away. We managed to get fully foiling with the entire boat out the water on day 2 while sailing downwind. A mode that we didn't even dream of with our previous boat. To see the smiles on the team faces was a great feeling after all the hard work and stress of designing and building the boat. We definitely breathed a sigh of relief after these 2 days.... SHE FLYS!.... and had a bit of a party to celebrate.

Then it was time to get stuck into training. We have mostly aimed at doing 24-hour sails. It gives you enough time to sail in certain conditions for a few hours and adjust and play with settings to find the optimal speeds. This is the fun bit, discussing with the crew and watching the numbers while you adjust foils, sails and autopilot to see what gives you the fastest speeds.

The trainings also help to see how the life onboard works out. What handles, bunks, screens etc can make our life easier onboard without adding too much weight. Once the boat comes back on the dock you usually find various problems with the systems whether it be a bit of chafe in ropes, sails, composites the need rethinking to make sure they wouldn't break in a longer race.

It's not been the easiest months on the water. In your head once you put the boat together you hope everything will work perfectly first time, but this is almost never the case. We have had to rethink and adjust so many systems in order to get them reliably working. It's a time-consuming process but is also the most important part, since we need to finish the races first before we can win them....

We also had two big events in September. Firstly, the Christening of the boat in Hamburg, Germany an 800-mile sail from our base in Lorient. It took us 4 days to sail there, navigating through the busy English Channel and North Sea, full of shipping traffic, oil rigs and windfarms.

But the arrival in Hamburg was incredible! It felt like half the city came out to wave us into the city centre. A flotilla of over 100 boats accompanied us up the river Elbe before we docked next to the Elbphilharmonie with thousands of supporters surrounding. It was the first opportunity to really see how much Boris had drawn the attention to Offshore sailing in Germany during the Last Vendee Globe.

We also took part in the Defi Azimut race, which was our first opportunity to line up against the other boats competing in the Ocean Race. A 48-hour race around the Bay of Biscay saw us sailing downwind in some big breeze before coming back upwind to the finish. Foiling downwind is a great feeling, although it kept us quite on edge for the first part of the race. The whole boat is being thrown around and it feels like the boat could pitch into a gybe or loose control with the slightest mistake. We didn't get much sleep the first night as we got used to these conditions.

Although the racing stayed close, it was clear that 11th Hour Racing who have been training fully crewed for over a year had the advantage. Learning to sail a boat designed for short-handed sailing will take some getting used to. However, we had a close race with Guyot who after being ahead of them or most of the race, overtook us in the final morning.

With this first taste of crewed IMOCA competition, I have the feeling The Ocean Race is going to be some awesome racing. An entire lap of the planet on foiling boats. We can really push the boats now 24/7 compared to solo sailing where you often sail slightly more reserved in the longer races.

It's now one month until the start of the Route Du Rhum, where after this we won't return to our base in Lorient until next July after the Ocean Race. That means we've got a lot of preparation the next few weeks to be on the road for a long time. We are packing all our spares and food for the entire Ocean Race now so we don't have to deal with this during the stopovers and can instead focus on recovery and performance.

With a last final push these next few weeks on the water, we should feel like we are getting closer to being 'fully tested' which is a huge step since launching the boat. I can't wait for the trip back from Guadeloupe to Alicante too. Our first Transatlantic crossing as a crew!

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