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The Ocean Race comes to Cape Town, celebrating US Sailing's Rolex awards

by David Schmidt 15 Feb 08:00 PST February 15, 2023
12 February 2023, Team Holcim - PRB approaches Cape Town © Sailing Energy / The Ocean Race

Old Man Winter may still have North America firmly in his clutches, but his sometime-frosty grip hasn't done much to stop the sailing news cycle. For those of us who are thoroughly sick and tired of this winter (my protest flag has been flying since the winter solstice), this is almost as reassuring as the added daylight that we are all enjoying as we move closer to the vernal equinox (and, eventually, to sailing's high season).

Let's start with the 2023 edition of The Ocean Race, where the five-strong fleet of IMOCA 60s have been racing from Cabo Verde to Cape Town, South Africa. After 17 days, 19 hours, no minutes, and nine seconds, Team Holcim-PRB, which is led by skipper Kevin Escoffier, took line honors. They were followed across the line by Biotherm, which is led by skipper Paul Meilhat, and 11th Hour Racing, which is led by skipper Charlie Enright.

Impressively, less than four hours separated first-placed Team Holcim-PRB from last-placed GUYOT environment - Team Europe, which is led by skipper Robert Stanjek.

So much for the era when entire days separated the winning boat from the final straggler.

While Team Holcim-PRB no doubt enjoyed a great and well-deserved celebration ashore in Cape Town, the reality is that their win was anything but assured. In fact, up until the final 40-some miles, it was unclear if they would even make the podium, as four boats—Biotherm, 11th Hour Racing Team, Holcim-PRB and Team Malizia—were all contending for the bullet. But, Escoffier, who has won this race before as a crewmember, picked the winning lane.

"Biotherm had a huge night last night but for us, we knew we had to find the leeward (northern position) before the Cape Town coast," said Escoffier in an official race communication. "We did a lot of sail changes and work to get this position. It took until about 40 miles from the finish line to get where we wanted to be and hold it to the end."

While the finishing gun has only sounded twice in this edition of this fully crewed around-the-world contest, both bullets have gone to Escoffier and his Holcim-PRB crew.

As for the Americans, who finished less than a half hour outside of the money, Enright, who is on his third lap of the planet as a race skipper, wisely took the long view.

"We are a little disappointed with a third place after 17 days, but the bigger picture to take home is that we sailed the boat fast and well, and I think that bodes well for the future," said Enright in an official race communication. "This race is a marathon and not a sprint, and we have a big [double-]pointer coming up with Leg Three, [which goes] through the Southern Ocean."

Leg Three represents more than just double points. This ultra-marathon of offshore sailing will take crews from Cape Town to Itajai, Brazil, for a distance of 12,750 nautical miles. This is by far the longest single leg in this proud race's history; prior to this monster leg, the longest push had been from New Zealand to Brazil. Crews will pass all three of the planet's great capes—the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin, and Cape Horn—to port, sans a planned stop.

Moreover, 12,750 nautical miles is a long time to live inside of an enclosed cockpit with the bow of one's vessel striking a popped-wheelie position thanks to the yachts' rules-compliant foiling systems. (Call it a warning sign of my gathering years, but this is a leg that I, for one, am content to follow from ashore, a nice cup of hot coffee in hand. Switch the boats from semi-foiling IMOCA 60s to ULTIM trimarans or Volvo Open 70s, however, and I strongly suspect my youthful enthusiasm for saltwater-infused suffering would quickly rebound.)

Sail-World congratulates all five teams for such tight and competitive sailing, and we are already ordering our coffee beans ahead of Leg Three's start (Sunday, February 26).

Meanwhile, much closer to home, Daniela Moroz and Ravi Parent were recently selected as the winners of US Sailing's 2022 Rolex Yachtswoman and Yachtsman (respectively) awards.

While readers of this newsletter know that Moroz is a true wunderkind when it comes to kite foiling (2022 marked her sixth Kite Foil World Championship title), Parent is newer to the national sailing spotlight.

That said, his spot was well-earned: In 2022, Parent won the A Class Worlds, the F18 Worlds, and the F18 Europeans. This marks his first time being recognized as US Sailing's Rolex Yachtsman of the year, and, as such, he collected his first Rolex timepiece.

Moroz, however, can practically open a watch shop: this is her fourth time winning US Sailing's prestigious Rolex Yachtswoman of the year award, giving her enough Rolex timepieces to strap a watch to every appendage.

Please join us at Sail-World in lifting a glass to these fine sailors.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt North American Editor

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