They were at sea for more than four days, with 1,300 nautical miles in their wake, with 100 nautical miles between the competitors in between, and in the end it was a finish like the Dragon Regatta on the Alster. Separated by only a few metres and seconds, the yachts of The Ocean Race Europe crossed the stage finish in Cascais. Offshore Team Germany fought tooth and nail against the superiority of the foiling Imocas in the final sprint, chose the position in the middle of the field on the final stretch and slipped off the podium in the end when a gust lifted „LinkedOut“ (France) onto its wings and pushed it past the German yacht. Only shortly before, the „Corum L’Erpagne“ (France) and the „11th Hour Racing“ (USA) had crossed the finish line. However, skipper Robert Stanjek and his crew were not disappointed. They had sold themselves so dearly with the yacht of the older generation, as nobody would have expected on this Atlantic leg from Lorient/France to Cascais/Portugal.
The sky over Cascais had turned grey and a light drizzle had set in when the five Imocas and the seven VO65s of the premiere of The Ocean Race Europe set off for their first finish. Visibility was only a few hundred metres as the sails broke through the haze on a broad front. Close under land at the Imocas, „Corum L’Érpagne“ and „11th Hour Racing“ had positioned themselves. At first, the US team seemed to hold the trump cards. But a touch too close to the Cascais rocks, the wind left them. „Corum“ scampered through and secured the victory of this first of three stages.
The battle for third place on the podium became a parallel of the winning duel. The white „Einstein“ with the German colours in the black sail rushed in, seemingly had „LinkedOut“ safely under control. But the wind was too unstable. Again and again, the team of Robert Stanjek, Phillip Kasüske, Annie Lush and Benjamin Dutreux lost the pressure. „LinkedOut“ caught it better. The blue racer suddenly jumped on the foils, passed and secured third place with a five-second lead.
„I’m blown away. A great race, a very intense race. In certain conditions we had to realise that the foilers are sailing in a different league. We ourselves absolutely performed at the limit and took our chances as soon as they arose. In the end, it wasn’t meant to be with a place on the podium, but the team fought at the maximum,“ reported Robert Stanjek. After a race duration of four days, 50 minutes and 14 seconds, the exhaustion was noticeable to him: „We are well done. It was a very wet race. Our top speed was 32 knots. The finish is a pity. You could see the difference between the foilers and us. They come out of the water and go five knots faster. But we are happy!“
The OTG team leadership watched the finish with great tension and was highly satisfied with their team’s performance despite missing out on a podium place – especially considering that one and a half days earlier they were almost 100 nautical miles off the top. „What a ride through the night! Probably Albert Einstein would have been the only one who could have calculated and predicted the probability of the crew managing to make up a gap of 100 nautical miles. I am incredibly proud of the performance of Annie, Robert, Benjamin and Phillip. What a race,“ gushed CEO Micheal End.
Team manager Jens Kuphal added: „We have been working towards this moment for five years. Today is the day that brought it all together. A huge thank you to the whole team, to every single person, for the work they have done. Kuphal already looked ahead after the success: „What this first leg of The Ocean Race Europe has already shown is that the Vendée Globe and The Ocean Race are two completely different races. It is a completely different requirement – for the crew, but also for the material. We are happy that we have put the focus on The Ocean Race. It’s great for the Imoca class to now be on two such different playing fields.“
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