© Charles Drapeau / Guyot environnement - Team Europe / The Ocean Race

© Charles Drapeau / Guyot environnement - Team Europe / The Ocean Race

The Ocean Race: Robert Stanjek, ready for the Guyot renaissance

Sailing boat

19/04/2023 - 09:10
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After dropping out of leg 3 to repair structural damage to their IMOCA, the Guyot environnement - Team Europe crew is ready to race!

Robert Stanjek is still hurting after GUYOT environnement – Team Europe was forced to pull out of Leg 3 of The Ocean Race. Downwind sailing is generally considered to be the most exhilarating part of the sport, and the German was looking forward to racing in “the longest downwind leg of my life”. It would also have been his first rounding of Cape Horn.

The dream ended just three and a half days into the leg when skipper Benjamin Dutreux and the rest of the crew were forced to turn the boat around as large parts of the hull started to delaminate from repeating slamming as the IMOCA bounced from wave to bone-shaking wave.

“At the very beginning, it felt super scary,” said Stanjek. “Like, the noise was very crispy and when you see a big floor panel moving up and down almost eight centimetres, that’s pretty scary. And you don't even know how the outer skin of the hull is looking.

“We put a lot of heavy equipment on this panel to put some pressure on it, to stop it moving up and down. But we worried, what would happen if it all opened up? I don't know if the pumps would have managed to work against it [the water ingress], and if things could have gone really wrong for the boat.”

© Gauthier Lebec / Guyot environnement - Team Europe / The Ocean Race
© Gauthier Lebec / Guyot environnement - Team Europe / The Ocean Race

The crew slowed the boat, ran a full check, closed all the hatches and made sure the lifejackets and survival suits were within easy reach, should the worst ever have happened.

As they drew closer to Cape Town, the waves and the wind subsided and the immediate concern for the boat dissipated. Long before Guyot hit the dock, plans were well underway for making the necessary repairs, to beef up the underside of the hull which had taken such a beating.

If there was any consolation to the retirement from Leg 3, it did at least afford some quality time for Stanjek back at home in Germany with his wife and two young children. “The kids are a good distraction, they help you take your mind away from things. There’s not much time for living in the past,” he laughs. “So I got over it, but I remember, for the first six or seven days I was home, I didn’t once look at the tracker. It was, still is, very painful. I mean, we are missing a very important piece of this circumnavigation. The chances to go to that part of the world don’t come along that often.”

Eventually Stanjek started to involve himself in the race again, following the progress of his friends and fellow competitors from the opposite side of the world. “I communicated with them a bit on WhatsApp, and sent them all a big congratulations when they rounded Cape Horn. They had quite a good fight going on out there.”

© Charles Drapeau / Guyot environnement - Team Europe / The Ocean Race
© Charles Drapeau / Guyot environnement - Team Europe / The Ocean Race

Now Stanjek is looking forward to being part of the fight again, not just an onlooker. With more than half of the race points still available, Guyot can still make an impact on the scoreboard. “I'm pretty sure if we manage to bring in some solid results, this disaster will wash away a little bit. Not just for us, but for our partners, for the tech team, for the sports team.

“Everybody is a little bit disappointed, but I think this race is also about whether you can do some solid, successful single legs as we as on the overall scoreboard. We are all very much looking forward to the coming legs, we’re motivated and focusing on the strong sides of the team. We have analysed our mistakes and we have worked out ways of improving. We have good sailors on the team, we have less hours of wear on the sails, the boat is fixed and back together. Let’s bring it on!”

 Andy Rice

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