The adventure has begun: Offshore Team Germany got off to a successful start in The Ocean Race Europe. After a well-timed manoeuvre at the start, the crew around skipper Robert Stanjek led the fleet of five Imoca yachts through the first waypoint on the 1300 nautical mile course from Lorient/France to Cascais/Portugal.
In the field of the three newest Imocas “Bureau Vallée”, “Corum L’Érpargne”, and “LinkedOut” as well as the “11th Hour Racing”, which has been brought up to the latest standards with intensive modifications, the German “Einstein” is the inferior boat according to paper form. But every yacht has its conditions. According to the experts’ analysis, these should be light winds for the “Einstein” as the only Imoca without foils. Exactly these conditions prevailed at the start of The Ocean Race Europe. And Robert Stanjek at the helm, navigator Benjamin Dutreux, Pit Annie Lush as well as grinder Phillip Kaüske knew how to use these conditions in the starting phase of the first leg.
Together with the seven VO65s, the five Imocas were sent out on the course. Stanjek chose the position directly at the starting ship. In glassy seas, the crews crept across the line at four, five knots of boat speed – with clear advantages for the highly rigged VOR65s, who quickly manoeuvred their way into the top positions. As the only Imoca in the field, “Einstein” was able to keep up with the VO65s until the first gate, passing the gate in fourth position overall and as the first Imoca.
When it was time to enter the Bay of Biscay, the fleet took a southerly course with rough winds. Boat speeds quickly jumped to 12, 13 knots and the Imoca fleet passed the VO65s. But the foilers among the Imocas could not yet show their advantages. Although Offshore Team Germany had to relinquish the top position in the class, they did not let themselves be shaken off by the favourites, Team “11th Hour Racing”, and stayed with the leader until shortly before sunset, with a gap of around one nautical mile, and fought with “Corum L’Érpargne” and “Bureau Vallée” for third place.
The rest of the race will take the fleet west into the open Atlantic. Halfway between the European mainland and the Azores, the race committee has set a virtual waypoint before the race heads from there to the gates of Lisbon, to Cascais. The leg is thus stretched to about 1300 nautical miles. The supposed offshore sprint thus becomes a multi-day marathon after all. The conditions are likely to be very variable. The fleet is expected to arrive on 1 or 2 June. On Saturday, 5 June, the Mirpuri Foundation Sailing Trophy, the Coastal Race off Cascais, is scheduled before the second leg to Alicante, Spain, on Sunday, 6 June. The final point of The Ocean Race Europe is Genoa/Italy.