The Ocean Race 2023 will be a showcase for the latest Imoca yachts. Four of the five teams will start with the latest developments in the class and will compete with GUYOT environnement – Team Europe, whose VPLP-Verdier design from 2015 is already two development stages behind, but offers the team around Skipper Benjamin Dutreux a solid basis for the world race. At the Route du Rhum, the 32-year-old Frenchman was able to hold his own in eighth place and is therefore confident heading to Alicante after the yacht underwent another general overhaul in Barcelona at the turn of the year.
„We completely disassembled the yacht, checked all the parts individually, measured them and reassembled them so that she complies with the Ocean Race and IMOCA rules in all respects. There was little to repair but there was scratchers to the rudder, keel and the wings from floating objects during the Atlantic crossings in November. The technical team did a strong job in three weeks,“ reports Dutreux after the yacht was tuned for racing at Nautor Swan in Badalona. With a fresh outfit for The Ocean Race, the yacht went back into the water before the turn of the year.
Looking back on the Route du Rhum gives Benjamin Dutreux a lot of confidence in his yacht: „I am very happy with the race. We did a great job together with the team to sail the Route du Rhum and prepare for The Ocean Race in parallel. The first part of the Route du Rhum was not easy in light upwind conditions, but offshore it went well for me. The speed potential of the boat and the sailable angles brought me back to the front of the fleet.“ With a preparation time of just six months and the fact that there were only yachts from the latest generation in front of the former „Hugo Boss 6“, eighth place was a very good result, Dutreux said.
The Route du Rhum also allowed a glimpse of the potential of the new yachts: „The new boats are obviously lighter and have small design advantages. They will probably have an advantage in light wind and upwind conditions,“ says Dutreux. He sees the favourite in the yacht from „11th Hour Racing“, which was designed especially for The Ocean Race: „The Verdier design of 2021 will probably be the most versatile boat for the different conditions. But the other designs also looked very fast during the Route du Rhum.“
The skipper of GUYOT environnement – Team Europe sees his own advantages in the tried and tested boat, which has already sailed a Vendée Globe very successfully: „In heavy conditions, which we will certainly have in the Southern Ocean, the boat will be able to play to its strengths. So I hope we can score well on the third leg from Cape Town to Itajaí and on the fifth across the Atlantic from Newport to Aarhus.“ He is looking forward with excitement to how the yacht will be sailed with crew instead of solo so far: „We can now push the boat to 95 per cent of its performance potential. On your own, you can only manage 80 per cent. However, the higher crew weight will have a noticeable impact.“ According to Benjamin Dutreux, there will hardly be any rest for crew and boat during the six-month race: „We will be pushing and sailing at maximum performance all the time.“