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Charles and Charlie add more star quality as they join The Ocean Race for the Transatlantic dash

by Ed Gorman / IMOCA Globe Series 20 May 2023 00:02 PDT

We are all familiar with "super-subs" in football - star players who come on for a cameo and perhaps score a winning goal - and that's what's happening in two of The Ocean Race teams ahead of the start of Leg 5 on Sunday.

"Charles" and "Charlie" are coming aboard for the 3,500-nautical mile sprint across the Atlantic, from Newport to Aarhus in Denmark - that's former Volvo Ocean Race-winning skipper Charles Caudrelier joining the crew of Holcim-PRB, and two-time IMOCA Globe Series champion Charlie Dalin joining the 11th Hour Racing Team.

Between them these two have won or made the podium in just about every major offshore solo or double-handed race, while Caudrelier scaled the heights of fully-crewed ocean racing as skipper of Dongfeng Race Team during the 2017-18 edition of this event.

They have arrived in Newport at an interesting time as the four boats taking part in this leg prepare for battle on a classic course that features another encounter with the Gulf Stream and then the-often-foggy Grand Banks, and a stage that could see the crews battling light airs as they push hard up against the ice exclusion zone.

Caudrelier says the weather routing for the leg is divided between models that show a relatively fast passage and others that predict The Ocean Race fleet will get caught up in light winds in the early stages and trapped along the ice exclusion limit as they hunt for breeze. As for the significance of this cameo, the winner of the 2022 Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe in the Ultim class, says this appearance in The Ocean Race should not be taken as a sign that he might come into IMOCA himself as a solo skipper.

For 11th Hour Racing Team this is a critical juncture as the entry skippered by Charlie Enright seeks to impose itself on this race after an indifferent start and following its victory into Newport on Leg 4 from Itajai in Brazil. The US-flagged outfit is now just one point behind leaders Holcim-PRB and tied in second place with Boris Herrmann's Team Malizia.

If Dalin is going to have to hit the ground running with the Americans, the same can be said of Caudrelier, who steps aboard Kevin Escoffier's boat after its dismasting on Leg 4 and then the huge logistics effort to get the boat to Newport in time to step a new mast ahead of Sunday's start. They still have their noses in front in the overall ranking, but the Holcim-PRB crew will be racing back to Europe with a new mast and with almost no time to test it.

Caudrelier is not too worried about this, noting how impressed he has been by what he called the "amazing mood" and "amazing spirit" of Escoffier's team, both on the water and on shore. "Yeah it will be ready," he said of the boat, which will sail with its new rig for the first time today. "It's a new mast so some of the set-ups can be different and we only have Friday to find solutions, but I think that because they are a very professional team, they know exactly how to trim the mast and how to trim the sails, and it will be ready."

Of course Caudrelier is used to being the skipper with Escoffier among his crew, and it's fair to say the older man is enjoying the chance to sail without the pressure of leading on his shoulders. He says that if you do two Volvo Ocean Races with anyone - as he did with Escoffier - you either end up hating each other or, as in this case, becoming good friends.

"It's easy for me because the pressure is all on him," said Caudrelier, the skipper of the Maxi Edmond de Rothschild. "It's on his shoulders and I am just here as a crew to help him and I have had lots of pressure being a skipper - which is a huge one - and it is probably easier for me to come as a crew than as a skipper. That's why I am here. I am fresh. I haven't sailed for a few weeks and I didn't do the last four legs. I know this race slowly destroys you physically and mentally, so I am happy to bring some new blood to the team."

Over at 11th Hour Racing Team, Dalin whose new IMOCA, named Macif-Santé Prévoyance, will be launched next month, spent Thursday settling into his adoptive team who, he says, have given him a very warm welcome to their home port in Rhode Island. The former Apivia skipper is well aware that he is joining a group of people who have been through some hard times already in this race.

"Exhaustion is definitely something to take more and more into account when thinking about this leg, with the boats getting worn out and the sailors getting more and more tired," he told the Class. "On that point, I think 11th Hour Racing Team is doing really well on logistics and boat maintenance as they go round. And they keep the sailors in shape as well, so they are doing well on that too."

On this leg Dalin also feels the crew he is joining may need to save its energy for the closing stages. "We have seen quite a lot of close finishes in the previous legs, so it could happen again this time round, especially if you are sailing in a weather system because they tend to slow down once they get close to Europe," he said.

For Dalin, Leg 5 is a chance to finally sail in a race he has followed for years after working as part of the shore and reserve sailing team for Ericsson in the 2008/09 race. "I'm really happy to finally sail in the race as a sailor, so it's very exciting," he said.

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