The second leg of The Ocean Race Europe from Cascais/Portugal to Alicante/Spain offered the crews of the Imoca fleet the full range of joys and sorrows in offshore sailing: gale force winds and hard waves against, total calm and the search for the little breeze, collisions, defects, lack of sleep. In the end, it was another close fight for the podium. A fight that Offshore Team Germany was able to win after fourth place in leg one. The team around skipper Robert Stanjek (Berlin) crossed the finish line in second place behind “LinkedOut” (France), proving that the non-foiler can keep up with modern competitors – despite some technical problems along the way.
The excitement after the start, when the favoured team of “11th Hours Racing” collided with a small motorboat and returned to the harbour with a damaged foil (nobody was injured on the yacht or on the motorboat), had to be quickly shaken off by the other crews on this second of three legs. For the race headed rapidly south, past Cape San Vincente towards Gibraltar. Here was the expected hard headwind with 40 knots at times and a hard wave that gave the leading crews a good shake as they crossed the strait on the African coast along the traffic separation area. Meanwhile, “11th Hours Racing” came from behind without the port foil that had been removed in Cascais, but with good conditions and finally caught up with the fleet in the Mediterranean.
Offshore Team Germany, meanwhile, was plagued with completely different problems. “It was a really eventful few hours,” reported grinder Phillip Kasüske, clearly tired from the boat. “We had a good start with a fast downwind ride. Between Portugal and Spain it was tricky. In the Strait of Gibraltar we had strong headwinds and had to dodge the constant shipping traffic. Unfortunately, we also bumped into what we think was a very large shark. This knocked our starboard centreboard backwards and left slight damage to the lead.” In Alicante, this damage will now have to be examined in more detail. However, the handicap could be mastered until the finish in Alicante.
But it did not remain with this damage. For in the stormy conditions of Gibraltar there were further losses.”We lost our wind electronics, so we no longer have any wind data available,” Robert Stanjek reported after the tough passage of the strait. “The only thing we can still retrieve is our boat speed. We now have to steer ourselves throughout, as we can no longer use the autopilot. That’s really tough, especially at night when you can only rely on boat speed data.”
The OTG also had to cope with two badly placed tacks that led the crew into the doldrums, slipping back from temporary leadership to fifth place. Although the competitors had built up a small lead in the meantime, the team with Stanjek, Kasüske, Annie Lush and Benjamin Dutreux did not give up, fought their way back and even managed to climb back onto the podium on the third night.
The last leg towards Alicante then became a nail-biter once again in the weak wind. While “LinkedOut” (France) was heading for a safe victory, “Corum L’Épargne” (France) was looking for luck close under land. Further out to sea, the German “Einstein” and “Bureau Vallée” (France) and “11th Hour Racing” (USA) had a close speed match. The course of the “Corum” finally proved to be a mistake. The French had to let go.
While “LinkedOut” celebrated its victory off Alicante at 1.44 pm, “Einstein”, “11th Hours Racing” and “Bureau Vallée” emerged against the sunlight. And the white boat of the OTG team had the bow in front.
While the US team did not miss the missing foil in the light winds and provided pressure, the French could not catch up. But also “11th Hours Racing” could not pass anymore despite their strong comeback after the start collision. At 2:03 p.m., Robert Stanjek, Phillip Kasüske, Annie Lush, Benjamin Dutreux and Onboard reporter Felix Diemer celebrated second place on the second leg of The Ocean Race after fourth place at the start and victory in the Coastal Race in Cascais. LinkedOut”, “11th Hour Racing” and OTG are now tied at the top of the overall standings with nine points each.