The crew of skipper Robert Stanjek has reached Genoa as the first Imoca of The Ocean Race Europe after days of solo sailing in the Mediterranean Sea, after struggling for every metre and successfully defending a huge lead. The team thus achieved a surprising stage victory in the circuit of offshore professional teams on the 600-nautical-mile stretch from Alicante/Spain to Genoa/Italy. OTG has now taken the sole lead in the overall standings and can already look forward to a podium finish at the premiere of this race when the award ceremony is celebrated in Genoa on Saturday after the final Coastal Race.
The final leg of The Ocean Race Europe, sailed for the first time, opened the door wide for success for the only non-Foiler in the Imoca field. The pronounced high-pressure weather conditions in the Mediterranean along the entire route from Alicante to Genoa and thus the light winds nullified the supposed advantage of the ultra-modern foilers of the competition around “LinkedOut” (France), “11th Hour Racing” (USA), “Corum L’Épargne” (France) and “Bureau Vallée” (France). This left the game open, depending on weather routing and the right cards in the wind poker.
The routing of OTG navigator Benjamin Dutreux (France) provided for a routing in the north of the Balearic Islands. And so the crew of the German “Einstein” set a tack immediately after passing the waymark off Alicante and headed towards the coast. At first, “Corum L’Épargne” also chose the route close under the coast, but then decided to follow the other Imocas onto the open Mediterranean. This opened the wide gap between the OTG and the rest of the fleet shortly after the start.
It was a deliberate choice of the previously devised route, not a deliberate decision to split. Nevertheless, the “Einstein” was thus left to its own devices, but found the better wind in the north of the Balearic Islands. While the competing fleet got stuck first south of Mallorca and then again between Mallorca and Menorca, the OTG team was able to extend its lead to around 100 nautical miles by Wednesday morning.
However, the distance did not offer any security. And so the team pushed their yacht as soon as the flat wind allowed. Briton Annie Lush in particular is a meticulous worker on trim and challenged her team mates with grinder Phillip Kasüske to constantly correct the sails. Not a metre was to be lost, concentration never waned – despite oppressive and sometimes standing heat on the boat. But the lead evaporated on Wednesday like water in the Mediterranean.
With more pressure, the pursuers came up, 100 nautical miles became a little more than 30 nautical miles apart as “Einstein” cruised close under the French mainland coast in the course of Wednesday. But during the night, “11th Hour Racing” and “LinkedOut”, who are fighting for the overall victory with OTG on Saturday, were also slowed down. So before the final beat towards Genoa this morning, it was a 40 nautical mile cushion that Robert Stanjek and crew took with them on the bearing to Genoa. It was impossible for the competition to catch up. So there was jubilation and joy on board the “Einstein” at the finish at 11:36 a.m. – coupled with exhaustion and relief after a long, nerve-racking leg.
The race-deciding Coastal Race will start on Saturday for the Imocas at 12.15 pm. The winner will receive three points for the ranking, the two runners-up two and one point. In the overall standings, OTG leads the classification with 14 points and thus one point ahead.