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Holcim-PRB ready for the final round of The Ocean Race

by Team HOLCIM - PRB 12 Jun 2023 10:18 PDT 12 June 2023
Holcim-PRB - The Ocean Race © Sailing Energy / The Ocean Race

The stopover in The Hague promises to be a short one for the IMOCA crews taking part in The Ocean Race. After arriving yesterday, they will compete in tomorrow's In-Port race, before setting sail again on Thursday at 18:10 French time.

Benjamin Schwartz is settling into his skipper's routine, preparing this seventh and final leg with two new crew members: Annemieke Bes and Ambrogio Beccaria. The Dutchwoman, who trained in Olympic sailing, won a silver medal in Yngling at the Beijing Games before opening up to offshore sailing. She has already taken part in The Ocean Race aboard Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag in 2017-18. Annemieke was on board for the Leg 4 (when Holcim-PRB dismasted), and is back with the determination to give her all for this final leg.

Italian Ambrogio Beccaria is realizing his dream of taking part in a crewed round-the-world race with stopovers. Fresh from winning the CIC Normandy Channel Race aboard his Class40, Alla Grande Pirelli with Kevin Bloch, he arrives with his batteries charged with adrenalin for his IMOCA debut.

In addition to this "fresh blood" for the leg, Benjamin Schwartz will team up with Yoann Richomme. Together, the four sailors will try to give their best aboard Holcim-PRB and, above all, to make the most of the boat's potential, which they all admit they are still discovering. With a second-place finish in The Hague, the crew of the Swiss monohull have weakened their chances of overall victory in Genoa.

The Americans from 11th Hour Racing Team, winners in the Netherlands, have, on the contrary, strengthened their capital to hope to lift the cup in Genoa. But Benjamin Schwartz and the whole team are keeping a cool head. Two points behind the leaders, they know they won't be able to control all the parameters over the 2,200 miles between The Hague and Genoa. Of course, they're aiming to win this leg in Italy, and proved in the last one that they're capable of it, but a first-place finish won't be enough to take them to the top of the podium... The position of the other competitors at the finish will be decisive.

"Victory isn't just up to us any more. We just finished second on the previous stage. We should have finished ahead of them. But today, we need to finish ahead and put two boats between us and 11th Hour Racing Team. Fate will therefore decide whether or not we win against 11th Hour Racing Team, who occupy a solid position in the overall leaderboard. They haven't won the race yet, that's clear. We're going to do everything we can to put them behind. After that, we'll see whether or not any boats get in the way. It's something that's out of my hands, so it's true that it's not the optimal situation," analyses Benjamin Schwartz, before noting the qualities of the new members joining his crew: "We're bringing a bit of freshness to the team, with people who are as over-motivated as we all are. That can be our difference from the other crews, some of whom are really starting to push too much. On some boats, some crew members have done all legs. Honestly, physically and morally, I can tell you that it's very hard. So we're in a good position," adds the skipper of Holcim-PRB.

Benjamin Schwartz, Yoann Richomme, Annemieke Bes and Ambrogio Beccaria will be concentrating on what they can control: their race, their speed, their strategy and the right sequence of maneuvers. After all, this ten-day sailing leg is not going to be a smooth ride. A lot can happen in the English Channel, the Bay of Biscay, the passage of Gibraltar and then the Mediterranean sea.

On this final leg, Ambrogio Beccaria's knowledge of the local bay will be important. The Italian is delighted that this race will finish in his waters, and already proud to share this leg with those they consider the best.

"I tried to beat Yoann Richomme in the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe 2022 and in the end, he's beaten us all. It makes me happy to see his secrets and those of the other crew members... To see why they're the bests," comments the sailor, who is approaching this seventh leg with plenty of desire and optimism, even if the label of favorite is now for of 11th Hour Racing Team and no longer Holcim-PRB. "I think it's much easier not to be the favourite. When you're the favorite, it's always harder to perform at your level. Often when you arrive without the label of favorite, you give a lot more than you'd expect. So I think that's an advantage you can have," concludes the Milan-born sailor.

The four Holcim-PRB sailors will be joined by onboard reporter Julien Champolion for this final leg of the 2023 edition of The Ocean Race.

Quotes

Benjamin Schwartz, skipper: "It's another crew replacement. It's not what we'd ideally have liked. Of course, a bit of stability is always desirable to have as much automatism as possible as a team. But the situation is also fine as it is. We bring a bit of freshness to the team, with people who are as over-motivated as we all are. That can be our difference from the other crews, some of whom are really starting to pull their punches. On some boats, some crew members have done the whole race. Honestly, physically and morally, I can tell you that it's getting to them. So we're in a good position. Annemieke is starting to get used to the boat. Ambrogio will be joining us for his IMOCA debut. We've seen that in the last few projects he's sailed on, he's been punchy right from the start and has managed to get good speed. That's what we'll be asking him to do on this leg: to get the boat moving. Yoann and I are starting to get some good references on the boat, even if we still have a couple of small areas of uncertainty to work on. All in all, we've got a great crew to tackle this leg between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, with a finish in Ambrogio, Italy.

Ambrogio Beccaria: "When I first got the call to come aboard Holcim-PRB, I didn't feel ready. I don't have any IMOCA experience, and for me, The Ocean Race is the Grail, it's mythical! But this year, there's the finish in Genoa, so I finally seized the opportunity to join the crew. Holcim-PRB is one of the best with Yoann Richomme on board... I tried to beat him on the Route du Rhum - Destination Guadeloupe 2022 and in the end, he crushed us all. I'm delighted to see his secrets and those of the other crew members... To see why they're the bests. I'm discovering all the team members in competition mode. But that's really what I like about sailing too. In our sport, you have more opportunities to sail against someone than with someone. It's impressive what Holcim-PRB has achieved since the start in Alicante. Because the race is so intense! It's impressive to be able to settle into this continuity. The long stage in the south left its mark on me. For a long time, they weren't far from winning even that one. It would have been almost total domination. But then the boat was dismasted, which reshuffled the cards a bit, even though we know that can happen in this type of project. Luck changes, and you just have to deal with it. As for this seventh leg, I think it's a lot easier not to be the favorite. When you're the favorite, it's always harder to perform at your level. Often when you arrive without the label of favorite, you give a lot more than you'd expect. So I think that's an advantage you can have.

Annemieke Bes: "We have a really solid crew of new faces for me. I'm really looking forward to sailing with all of them. I've already sailed with Benjamin, and it was always super nice. The boat is in a good shape, the people too. This one is going to be a bit longer than Leg 6 but it's very exciting because there is all to play for and we're going to do everything that's in our power to win the race. And we still have a chance to win the whole race so it's very exciting. "

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