The IMOCA Open 60 of Offshore Team Germany (OTG) has made a strong comeback on the racecourse. In the Rolex Fastnet Race, the crew of the “Einstein” with skipper Robert Stanjek and navigator Conrad Colman crossed the finish line ranked16th of 390 yachts. More important than the success on the racecourse, however, was the knowledge that could be drawn from the offshore debut after the complete refit of the yacht. Even with the old sails and still without foils, “Einstein” proved to be a high-performance competitor and showed that an IMOCA Open 60 can be sailed to its potential with a crew of just five. The performance was well-received by the IMOCA Class and the team of the “The Ocean Race”, who inquired about the crew’s experience at sea as the around the world stage race will use this crew configuration in 2021-22.
“It was a successful test. I am very happy – about the performance of the boat and the whole team”, said team manager Jens Kuphal, who was aboard as an onboard reporter, after the 605 nautical mile-long ride. “It was a fantastic moment to ride around the rock in the middle of the night. A great moment for any sailor – but in this case also for Einstein. After more than six years of waiting, it now has returned to the regatta course.” From Cowes through the Solent and the English Channel out into the Irish Sea, around the famous Fastnet Rock and back to Plymouth in southern England, the yacht mastered a wide variety of conditions – from calm in the English Channel to stormy conditions in the Irish Sea. “Einstein” proved her speed out on the water: As the only IMOCA in the IRC field, the OTG team started 75 minutes after the other 20 classmates sailing double-handed. After a sailed time of 2 days, 3 hours, 28 minutes and 33 seconds Robert Stanjek, Conrad Colman and the rest of the crew Annie Lush, Ian Smyth and Phillip Kasüske were over the finish line as ninth IMOCA leaving behind some foilers of the first generation.
The mixture of Colman’s and Lush’s circumnavigation experience as well as Stanjek’s, Lush’s and Kasüske’s training in Olympic classes proved to be very successful. “It turned out that it’s not only the boat that counts, but also how to sail it,” Kuphal said and was thrilled at the last miles before the finish when the “Einstein” team overtook three competitors thanks to better tactics. Even yachts like the powerful VO65 “Team Brunel”, which had a lead of almost one hour at Fastnet Rock, finished 22 minutes behind the OTG crew. “The Olympic training pays off here. Annie Lush worked hard on the trim and pushed the boat in every phase as Phillip Kaüske steered the IMOCA almost like a Finn”, adds Kuphal.
In the home port of Gosport near Southhampton, OTG Technical Project Manager Joff Brown received the crew satisfied. His right-hand man, Boat Captain Ian Smyth, was positive about the boat: “The team worked very well. There is little that should have been done differently. We drove a very good speed. I’m curious to see how the performance with foils will be. I’m looking forward to it.”
For Robert Stanjek it was the first real opportunity to push “Einstein” after the previous test runs “We wanted to get a feeling for the new Ocean Race setup with a crew of five. It’s very intense because five crew isn’t a large team. Everyone has to fight. You have to have very good energy management. We have done well, the boat has shown that it has potential. I’m very happy – with the crew and with the hardware.” Annie Lush could only agree: “I am very tired but very happy. We sailed together in this configuration for the first time and pushed each other to the top. There’s always room for improvement, but we didn’t make any fundamental mistakes. I’m happy to be on board.” Even Phillip Kaüske, who is accustomed to the highest physical efforts from his Olympic campaign, had to catch his breath after the finish: “It’s so much more exhausting than I expected. But we made it to the finish and sailed super on top of that. It’s really awesome on the boat – fast, and there’s always something to do.”
IMOCA expert Conrad Colman, finisher of the Vendée Globe 2016/17, paid tribute to the rebuilding of the yacht, “We had a mix of everything: strong wind and light wind, upwind and downwind. And crucially: We had reaching conditions and made a spectacular discovery. Einstein’ loves reach conditions. It was such fun sailing the boat.” Although the New Zealander made a career as a solo sailor, he was enthusiastic about the crew work: “The Fastnet Race gave us an insight into what the Ocean Race will be like. Basically, it still feels like solo sailing with this crew, but we have a lot more hands to pull the sheets, more people to discuss tactics with. You can motivate yourself and work together in the decisive moments. If that’s the case at the Ocean Race, it will be fun.”
The first regatta test for the Offshore Team Germany and the “Einstein” has been passed, now it’s time to sharpen the profile as an IMOCA team with a full crew: “The Fastnet Race was the first milestone. From here we will go step by step to be at the start line of ‘The Ocean Race’ in Alicante in 2021“.