The second leg of The Ocean Race Europe started with a severe shock for the leading Imoca team „11th Hour Racing“. Charlie Enright’s US team rammed a small powerboat with its port foil a few minutes after the fast start off Cascais/Portugal, suffered severe damage to the wing and had to return to port. Everyone on both the motorboat and the Imoca was uninjured. The race of the remaining Imoca quartet and the seven VO65s continued. Offshore Team Germany (OTG) took turns in the lead work with the other Imoca teams for the first 50 miles of the 600-mile race to Alicante, Spain.
The start of the leg from Cascais to Alicante, which leads from the Atlantic Ocean through the Strait of Gibraltar to the Mediterranean Sea, was spectacular – and caused a scare on the water as well as on land. With an offshore wind, the five Imocas raced parallel to the coast towards the first turning mark. As expected, OTG’s „Einstein“ had to let the competition go. „11th Hour Racing“, which had taken the overall lead after two second places in the first leg and in the Coastal Race, set the pace. But Charlie Enright’s crew was abruptly slowed down before the first turning point.
At full speed, the crew saw a motorboat lying directly in their line of travel too late, but managed to pull the rudder around just enough to avoid a head-on collision. However, the „11th Hour Racing“ caught the motorboat with the left foil, spun it around and caused such severe damage to the wing that the crew had to return to the harbour. At least the team could report that everyone on the motorboat as well as on the Imoca was well. Only after a more detailed examination on land will it be clear what the team’s next move will be.
OTG team manager Jens Kuphal saw the accident from shore and was shocked: “What a drama. I am so sorry for ’11th Hour Racing’. Hopefully they will be able to return to the race soon.”
On the course, however, the action was on. After rounding the mark, the yachts shot south at a speed of 20 knots, towards Cape San Vincente (the south-westernmost tip of mainland Europe). Offshore Team Germany was able to keep up with the foiling Imocas on this course.
According to the weather forecast, the leg could become very demanding in the further course. Especially in the Strait of Gibraltar, fierce winds and hard swell are expected before the long cross to Alicante. „It’s going to be tricky in the Strait of Gibraltar – a strait I’ve never sailed through before. I’m very excited. Maybe we have our chance there,“ said OTG skipper Robert Stanjek.
After winning the Coastal Race from Cascais and finishing fourth on the first of three legs, the crew with skipper Stanjek, grinder Phillip Kasüske, pit Annie Lush and navigator Benjamin Dutreux is surprisingly in second place overall. So far, the OTG has been able to compensate for the supposed disadvantage of the missing foils in the best possible way. Expectations have thus been more than exceeded so far. However, this is no reason for Robert Stanjek to relax: „The victory in the Coastal Race was great and also cleanly achieved. But what really counts for us are the legs, and we want to show something until Genoa.