15/01/23 - Alicante (ESP) - Team Malizia at The Ocean Race - Alicante stopover - Leg 1 Start © Ricardo Pinto / Team Malizia
Opening day of The Ocean Race brings challenges
The opening 24 hours has been challenging, but not unexpected. After running into a quiet spell overnight, during which both fleets concertinaed the forecast has played out its threat with strong winds and big seas sweeping across the Alboran Sea.
In the IMOCA fleet, after an impressively dominant performance from Biotherm (FRA) Paul Meilhat's team found themselves trapped in very light winds, unable to keep pace with competitors that had taken alternative routes.
By the morning, 11th Hour Racing Team was leading the field as Charlie Enright's crew hugged the Spanish coastline to stay in the flatter water.
"As is often the case (on the first day) it has been far from straight-forward," said 11th Hour Racing Team's Simon Fisher.
"Multiple transitions, a lot of sail changes, but we've come out in good shape, we're leading the fleet, and we're into the pressure."
And in the increased wind pressure, conditions were becoming extreme. Back at race control in Alicante, where all the competitors' data is monitored and logged 24 hours a day, the American flagged team and Kevin Escoffier's Holcim PRB (SUI) were sailing upwind at 14knots in 40-knots of wind.
Shortly before starting the leg Holcim PRB's crew member Sam Goodchild outlined their approach to the first leg.
"Our mantra is definitely to keep it simple," he said. "While we've all sailed the boat separately, the four of us have only sailed together as a crew on this boat three times before the first leg, so there's a good reason for keeping it simple. We are also going to be looking at the other teams, what they're doing and what their performance is. We're not going to tie ourselves in knots trying to chase them around and trying to cover everyone else, because on the first leg, we don't really know where we sit."
For Viva México (MEX) the team suffered a torn mainsail forcing them to postpone racing and head for Almeria where they were looking to either repair or replace the damaged sail.
"It puts us in a tough situation because right now we cannot repair it here and we are looking at our options," said skipper Erik Brockmann. "We were really trying to get out of Gibraltar as soon as possible because the weather gets worse later on and this six to eight hour delay puts us in a tougher situation. The good thing is everyone is safe and the boat is good."
While most of the VO65 fleet were staying close to the Spanish coastline in an effort to remain in flatter water, Ambersail 2 chose to take a flyer from the fleet when the breeze was light and cross the Mediterranean, presumably to avoid being trapped in light winds to the north. Their gamble took them close to the North African coastline but when they tacked onto port to head back the breeze had veered putting them on the wrong side of the shift. As they headed back towards the north their flyer didn't appear to have paid off. Their route had also taken them across the windiest part of the Mediterranean, now they were committed to more.
Rankings at 1600 GMT - 16 January 2023
1. 11th Hour Racing Team, 1652 miles to finish
2. Team Holcim-PRB, 2.3 miles to leader
3. GUYOT environnement - Team Europe, 18.1 miles to leader
4. Team Malizia, 20.4 miles to leader
5. Biotherm, 24.9 miles to leader
1. Ambersail 2, 1665 miles to leader
2. WindWhisper Racing, 1.6 miles to leader
3. Mirpuri Foundation Race Team, 1.6 miles to finish
4. Team JAJO, 6.7 miles to leader
5. Austrian Ocean Race - Team Genova, 7.4 miles to leader
6. Viva Mexico, suspended racing, 38 miles to leader