Offshore Team Germany (OTG) took advantage of the moderate conditions in the Bay of Biscay to stay ahead of the favoured Imoca class teams at the start of the first leg of The Ocean Race Europe, even without foils. In the meantime, the team around skipper Robert Stanjek even took the lead of the field with the ten-year-old “Einstein”. However, when rounding Cape Finisterre, the north-western tip of Spain, the OTG had to lose contact with the field for the time being. Under ideal foil conditions with around 20 knots of wind from a wide angle, the foiling Imocas jumped away towards the west – to the virtual rounding mark in the Atlantic. But the “Einstein” kept the gap within limits, almost catching up with the competition again in speed on Monday morning with a gap of 45 nautical miles.
The start of the first leg of the race at noon on Saturday was the moment for the “Einstein”: the 1300 nautical mile leg of the race began with extremely light winds off Lorient/France. And OTG skipper Robert Stanjek knows from his Olympic career what it means to position himself at the start. He chose the point at the starting ship, always had the fleet in view and controlled the field. The “Einstein” was the first Imoca to pass the gate, from where the way was cleared for the rest of the leg. Of course, this first hour had little significance for the further leg to Cascais/Portugal, but it was the opportunity to present the German colours in the live broadcast of the start via Eurosport to 50 countries.
But it was not just the one great moment for the “Einstein”. For one and a half days, the non-foiler kept the pressure on the favoured Imocas high. Although the leading “11th Hour Racing” (USA) as well as the pursuing French teams “LinkedOut”, “Bureau Vallée” and “Corum L’Èpargne” are from the latest generation of Imocas or have been brought up to the latest standard at great expense (“11th Hour Racing”), they were unable to generate an advantage until Cape Finisterre. On the contrary: In the meantime, the “Einstein”, for which foils will only be constructed after the race, took the lead every now and then – much to the delight of skipper Stanjek and the team leadership: “We had a very, very good first night, were not only able to keep up with the other new Imocas, but also took the lead for a few miles. Now we are heading straight for the waypoint. Great sailing, no problems at the moment, great leg for us so far,” Robert Stanjek reported from the Bay of Biscay. Team manager Jens Kuphal echoed the same sentiment: “The team is doing very well, they put in a perfect performance at the start. We are very proud. It is clear that the other Imocas will have a clear advantage in the conditions now prevailing on the Atlantic. But the performance in the first day and a half gives us a lot of confidence for the further legs.”
The first leg takes the fleet of five Imocas and seven VO65s to a virtual rounding mark in the Atlantic (halfway between mainland Europe and the Azores) and from there to Cascais in Portugal. Just under half of the distance has been covered after two days. The race will continue from Cascais to Alicante, Spain, before the Mediterranean-only leg to Genoa, Italy, will conclude The Ocean Race Europe.
The Ocean Race Europe is the first opportunity for comparison under competition conditions for Offshore Team Germany. The goal is to take part in The Ocean Race around the world, starting in autumn 2022. The experience gained from the European offshoot of the big race will flow into the construction of the foils. With the yacht built in 2011 and acquired five years ago, the OTG has a strong basis for a foiling imoca. The first impressions confirm the previous strategy of the German team, which is paving the way with a solid yacht after the conversion to foils so that the German colours are once again represented in highly professional ocean sailing 20 years after the victory of the “Illbruck” in the Volvo Ocean Race 2001/02.