02 July 2023
The WeBuild In-Port Race in Genova sees the last starts and finishes in the VO65 Sprint and an epic the around the world race for the IMOCAs.
The last day of racing in this 14th edition of The Ocean Race took place at the Grand Finale in Genova on Saturday afternoon.
Sunny skies, very light and shifty winds and enthusiastic crowds on shore and on the water were the order of the day as this six month, around the world odyssey came to a close.
It was a day of celebration as well as competition with the afternoon and evening set aside for awards night and prizegiving ceremonies.
11th Hour Racing Team skipper Charlie Enright was delighted to be able to deliver a race win after all the effort it had taken to get his IMOCA ‘Mãlama’ repaired after it was hit by GUYOT environnement – Team Europe soon after the start of Leg 7 in The Hague.
“Our shore crew worked night and day for three days straight to be able to get us back on the water and able to take part in this Grand Finale In-Port Race,” he said. “To be able to compete – and win the race today in Genova – we couldn’t ask for a better way to complete our lap of the planet and to show our thanks to everyone who has supported our campaign for the past few years.”
The race win ensured 11th Hour Racing Team would take the double victory – a win in the offshore around the world race, as well as the In Port Race Series.
IMOCA Webuild In Port Race Report
There was very little wind for the scheduled start of the IMOCA In-Port Race and after a brief delay, the start got away at 1415 hours.
All four boats were late to the start, but Team Malizia was first to cross the line and take the early lead in just 3 knots of wind.
Team Holcim-PRB started further to windward and seemed well placed initially. But as the fickle breeze shifted further to the right, the Swiss boat looked increasingly stranded. After poor starts from Biotherm and 11th Hour Racing Team, the French and American teams started to close the gap on the early leader, Team Malizia.
By Mark 1, Paul Meilhat’s Biotherm had closed the gap on the lead and was overlapped with Boris Herrmann’s boat. The black German boat managed to hold on to the lead but now the chase was on, with Biotherm in hot pursuit and Charlie Enright’s crew on 11th Hour Racing Team not far back in third. Benjamin Schwartz and Team Holcim-PRB were struggling to stay in touch with their rivals, the green boat a long way back in fourth place.
Around Mark 2, Malizia rounded up on to the breeze and were on port tack upwind. Biotherm tacked away from the leader to create a split and see if the French boat could find anything better than the Germans.
Eventually the Germans tacked too and on the next cross, Meilhat had closed distance on Herrmann. However Germany was still in the lead as the fleet drifted upwind, battling to keep the boats moving in almost no breeze.
Meanwhile, 11th Hour Racing Team decided to keep things simple, leaving the tacking duel to the front two while Enright kept his boat tracking on port tack on the city side of the race course. Hooking into more breeze on their side of the course, it looked like the Americans would move into the lead as their boat speed touched 6 knots, their rivals still looking slow further out to sea.
With the wind showing little sign of improving, the race was shortened at Mark 3. Now the outcome of the race would be decided on a port-starboard convergence between the Germans and the Americans to see who would cross ahead.
In the end, it was 11th Hour Racing Team who eased across the finishing line to steal the race win from Team Malizia, who had led for so long but had to settle for second. Biotherm held on for third place, which was good enough to lift the French to third overall ahead of Team Holcim-PRB in the In-Port Series.
The VO65s took to the race course first on this last day of The Grand Finale in Genova, in light winds of 3 to 6 knots.
As the seconds counted down to the start, all five teams were looking late on their time-on-distance judgement. Bearing in mind how an extra metre at the start can turn into hundreds of metres of advantage further along the race track, it was a missed opportunity for everyone.
Mirpuri/Trifork Racing Team (DEN/POR) was looking in a solid and safe position at the windward end of the line and accelerated up to speed nicely.
WindWhisper Racing Team (POL) has tended to dominate the pin end of the line but this time skipper Pablo Arrarte was beaten to the punch by Team JAJO (NED). Jelmer van Beek looked vulnerable initially, but he had the advantage of being the most leeward boat.
This enabled van Beek to turn away from the breeze by an extra couple of degrees, breathing extra power into the sails on a day when every ounce of additional oomph was vital.
Team JAJO began to stretch its early advantage, as WindWhisper Racing Team started to slip into the backwash of the big VO65 rig ahead of them.
The Dutch led around the first mark, followed by Mirpuri/Trifork Racing Team whose windward start had served Roberto Bermúdez de Castro and his crew well. Next around were Austrian Ocean Racing / Team Genova but finding a better puff of wind behind them were Viva México who capitalised on a deeper downwind angle to get inside rights at the next turning mark.
Erik Brockmann’s team gybed the Mexican boat nicely on the inside of Gerwin Jansen and the Austrians and México sneaked into third place as they set out on the third leg of the course.
Meanwhile WindWhisper had struggled to find clear air on the first leg out of the start, and really struggled to get around the first mark. The Polish team furled its headsail as it luffed up towards the breeze in a desperate bid to avoid hitting the mark. Arrarte and Co. did indeed avoid the mark but now had to play catch-up.
There was a slim possibility of the dominant Polish team losing their In-Port Race crown to Team JAJO if Arrarte failed to finish inside the time limit.
With the wind looking unlikely to improve and, if anything, get even lighter, the race committee shortened the race course after 30 minutes of competition. Team JAJO finished exactly 60 seconds ahead of Mirpuri/Trifork Racing Team, with the Mexicans third, Austria fourth and WindWhisper bringing up the rear but well inside the time limit.
This means WindWhisper narrowly retains the top of the In-Port leaderboard despite Team JAJO closing the points gap.
Jelmer van Beek was rightly happy with Team JAJO’s performance which all stemmed from that accurately executed start at the pin end of the line. “A light and tricky day and not much breeze, but we had a really good start. They say you’re only as good as your last race, and we won the last race! It’s nice to finish like this. Time for a holiday now but I love this race, it was a great experience.”
Paolo Mirpuri, founder of the Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team, was on board his VO65 for the race and enjoyed the experience: “We had a very good start, the teamwork went well. We managed to keep it close and very happy to get second place today.”
Erik Brockmann was delighted to get another podium finish for Team México in Genova: “Even though it was light it’s always intense. We managed to maintain our position and to overtake a boat and got another podium in Genova. Couldn’t be happier to finish The Ocean Race like this.”