The first test for the Guyot Environnement – Team Europe has been mastered. At the Défi Azimut, the team with the two co-skippers Benjamin Dutreux and Robert Stanjek took the opportunity to measure themselves against the other Imoca teams in preparation for The Ocean Race 2023. The sprint race off Brittany and the two-day-leg in the Bay of Biscay to and from Lorient, France, is traditionally the preparation for solo sailors for the Route du Rhum. This year, however, it also formed the first meeting of the crewed Imocas, who will start the world race off Alicante/Spain on January 15. With the proven crew of Benjamin Dutreux, Robert Stanjek, Annie Lush and Phillip Kasüske, the French-British-German team sailed to second place behind the 11th Hour Racing Team with skipper Charlie Enright.
The first showdown of Imoca crews served mainly to familiarize Guyot Environnement – Team Europe with the foiling Imoca, which Benjamin Dutreux took over after The Ocean Race Europe. “I can’t wait to live this story with the team, it’s huge. It is a dream to do it so I am very happy. Now we just need to go fast and learn about this foiling boat. It is the first year for me on a foiling boat. I started four months ago and it’s the first week for the team – so we need to learn quickly.”
Exhausted but happy, Robert Stanjek returned to Lorient after two days in the Bay of Biscay: “Our first week of training on this boat and the race served to get to know the hardware after having sailed on a non-foiler for The Ocean Race Europe. And I have to say: A foiling Imoca is a blast. The boats hold up unimaginable forces, in certain conditions moving on the Imoca is a challenge that can’t be done without knee pads in a crouched position and some bumps.” But the exhilarating foil passages make up for the hardships, Stanjek says. “I’m amazed at how stable the boat sails when you have it on the foils. But every flight is followed by a hard landing. On the second night of the Défi Azimut, we foiled through the night on a reach course. The wave was still upwind after a wind shift, so we flew through a tunnel of spray. A brutal experience!”
The takeaway: the proven yacht, previously sailed by 11th Hour Racing, handled the conditions well, showing potential. “We still need to develop the team now. This will be a learning process that will extend into The Ocean Race,” Stanjek says. “Very impressive performance from 11th Hour Racing Team to take a dominant win.”
For Guyot Environnement – Team Europe, further preparation for the January 15 start in Alicante will begin after the Route du Rhum. “The crew will use the yacht’s return from the Caribbean for intensive training on the Atlantic,” reports team manager Jens Kuphal. “After the return directly to Alicante, the Imoca will be intensively checked through and prepared for the start in final training sessions,” says Kuphal.