11 boats are assembling in Alicante, Spain this week in final preparation for the start of The Ocean Race 2022-23. And the activity on shore is ramping up as well, with Alicante’s Ocean Live Park opening on Saturday 7 January.
This is the 14th edition of the iconic around-the-world, fully-crewed, offshore race and will be the first to feature the high-tech, foiling, nearly flying, IMOCA boats. The VO65 fleet, having previously competed in two around the world events, will now take on a shorter challenge, competing for the inaugural The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint Cup, which features three stages of racing that match Legs 1, 6, and 7 of the around the world race.
For the five IMOCA crews putting the final touches together in preparation for the race start, this is a key week, leading into the In Port Race on 8 January, before the Grand Depart for Leg One of The Ocean Race – Alicante to Cabo Verde – on 15 January.
The line-up on the start line features five strong IMOCA teams:
- 11th Hour Racing Team (USA); skipper Charlie Enright
- Team Malizia (GER); skipper Boris Herrmann
- Team Holcim-PRB (SUI); skipper Kevin Escoffier
- GUYOT environnement-Team Europe (FRA/GER); skipper Benjamin Dutreux
- Biotherm Racing (FRA); skipper Paul Meilhat
It’s an especially busy time for the four IMOCA teams who competed in November’s Route du Rhum event. Following a delivery back to the Mediterranean in December, each of these boats have been going through a refit and upgrades to prepare for fully crewed racing, and then must undergo a measurement process.
“It has been a huge amount of work for our team,” said Holcim-PRB skipper Kevin Escoffier. “Helpfully we have people with a bit of experience with The Ocean Race, which makes it easier to get organised on the sport and technical side. I’m very proud of where we are in such a short time.
“We are looking forward to getting in the water again today and getting out sailing again. These boats are incredible and I’m looking forward to learning how far we can push the boats with a full crew. There are five great teams, five great boats and plenty of very good sailors in the fleet, so we know it will be important to start well and the learning curve will be very important to get a good result when we come to the finish in Genova.”
For 11th Hour Racing Team, the final build up to the start has been planned well in advance, with the team arriving in Alicante just in time to ring in the New Year and now looking to put the finishing touches on preparations.
“Our team has already been through the extensive measurement process, so this last stage is a formality,” said sailor Jack Bouttell after arriving in Alicante. “The boat is sorted, the team is sorted, and we couldn’t have done anything more to be ready for the start. In every project I have ever worked on, the magnitude doesn’t hit you until you’re in the starting port. That’s always the point when you realise what an amazing opportunity lies ahead. I think I’m in this transitional phase right now where I am excited and apprehensive, the stress of the start hasn’t quite crept up on me yet.”
Four of the IMOCA teams are now based at the marina off Ocean Live Park in Alicante, with GUYOT environnement-Team Europe expected to arrive on Friday, having been given dispensation from Race Management to continue their boat preparations in Barcelona into this week.
The VO65 fleet competing in The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint is now six deep with the last-minute addition of the Austrian/Italian entry last week:
- Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team (POR); skipper António Fontes
- WindWhisper Racing Team (POL); skipper Pablo Arrarte
- Team JAJO (NED); skipper Jelmer van Beek
- Ambersail 2 (LIT); skipper Rokas Milevicius
- Viva México (MEX); skipper Erik Brockmann
- Austrian Ocean Racing – Team Genova (AUT/ITA); Gerwin Jansen
Five of the VO65s are now based in Alicante, with the Austrian/Genova team due to arrive on Tuesday following a delivery down from Genova and Viva Mexico moving into the port later on Monday. The Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team was first to arrive last week, followed by WindWhisper, Team JAJO, and Ambersail 2 on Monday morning.
“It’s nice to be back and to arrive here in Alicante to see the event flourishing with a high number of entries in the race,” said Rokas Milevicius, the skipper of Ambersail 2. “This is the most exciting time for us. We’ve put in a lot of effort over the past months to finally get the Lithuanian flag on the start line. We’re looking at the other boats on the dock here, trying to see who has the upper hand. For us, we have a young, enthusiastic team. It’s sailing, anything can happen and I’m really looking forward to the start.”
Alicante’s Ocean Live Park will open on Saturday 7 January ahead of the In Port Race for both fleets scheduled for Sunday 8 January. The VO65 In Port Race will be first at 1400 CET followed by the IMOCA In Port Race at 1600 CET.
All of the racing from Alicante can be seen live on Warner Bros. Discovery platforms, including Eurosport, as well as via www.theoceanrace.com. Full “How to Follow” details for worldwide viewing options will be released later this week.