Thousands of fans packed the harbor walls at Alicante, Spain to view Charlie Enright and the 11th Hour Racing team sail against the competition in Leg 1 of the Ocean Race on Sunday. The first leg …
Thousands of fans packed the harbor walls at Alicante, Spain to view Charlie Enright and the 11th Hour Racing team sail against the competition in Leg 1 of the Ocean Race on Sunday. The first leg will be tactically challenging as the foil-bearing IMOCAs race out of the Mediterranean Sea through the Strait of Gibraltar and into the Atlantic Ocean. They will have a strategic battle down the west coast of Africa and the finish around a week later at Mindelo, in the Cabo Verde islands.
The 14th edition of the Ocean Race features five 60-foot IMOCA Class yachts which are capable of high speeds and in the right conditions can cover 600 nautical miles in 24 hours.
Enright in his third Ocean Race, second as a skipper, said that his crew and boat are in a good position as a team.
“We feel prepared,” he said before embarking on the race. “We want to start strong. I think if we just go out there and be ourselves and do what we’ve had confidence in, and have developed over the lead-up, we should be in a pretty strong spot.”
The veteran skipper also knows that it’s important for Mālama and crew to be sailing at their best late in the race. “t’s one thing to be the boat that’s sailing the best at the beginning of the race, it’s another thing to be the boat sailing the best at the end of the race and being the boat that’s most improved over the course of the race. So those continue to be goals as well.”
Enright and the 11th Hour Racing team have in fact started the race strong, reaching 34 knots to start the race, they had beat their peers to the first mark and are currently 17.1 nautical miles behind leader Holcim-PBC, from Switzerland, sailing at 26 knots, midday on Wednesday.
On board with Enright are crewmen, Simon Fisher, Jack Bouttell, Francesca Clapcich, and sailor/ media specialist, Amory Ross.
Ross a Newport native, reported that the team is faring well on day four of the race.
“After years of preparation, practice and training it always feels good to finally be in the midst of a race. Tolerances go up as does the pressure and there has been plenty of that in more ways than one.”
Ross said that everything was in excellent order onboard Mālama as they made their way through the Mediterranean and into the Atlantic Ocean since the start on Sunday.
“Nobody got much sleep, nobody has eaten a whole lot, but this short, intense battle will be over soon. Once in the Atlantic, the rhythms and routines can take hold.”
Wind gusts up to 50 knots on Day 4
With winds consistently above 30 knots and gusting up to 50 knots, the last twelve hours have been brutal for the sailors onboard Mālama as they approached the Gibraltar Strait.
“There was some sarcastic discussion of career changes,” joked Ross as Mālama zig zagged across Gibraltar in the darkness of morning, while fighting 4 knots of adverse current, 35 knot winds, steep waves and an armada of outbound traffic.
“You can’t say we weren’t warned though,” said Ross. “All of the forecasts were right, if not a shade shy.
Mālama and Holcim began trading tacks and tight zig-zagging as they picked their way through the Gibraltar Strait. Holcim managed to stretch their lead as Enright and crew battled with a torn jib.
“Everyone’s feeling a bit battered,” said Ross as the team left the Mediterranean where they face terrible upwinds. “The conditions have made this a really challenging start to this race. Nobody has really slept, nobody has really eaten and nobody has really settled in. Nonetheless, we have escaped the Mediterranean Sea and are now into the Atlantic Ocean where we are still going upwind and winds are blowing 30, But the waves have spread out and there’s a general feeling of freedom,” He said.
Enright and the team had a four mile lead over Holcim after the Mediterranean, but fell back while dealing with the torn jib.
“It has been fun racing” said Ross. “Trading tacks all day, someone would always gain and someone would always lose, a real battle of inshore vs offshore.”
“There is a ton of sailing left, and much of it at high speed,” reports Ross. “We’re putting in the work now to make the long downwind trip more efficient. We don’t want to get stuck too close to the coast where winds will be lighter and less stable. So we’re getting offshore now, in steady 20-30 knots, then turning towards the Canaries. Should be a fast trip.”