The first points are on the scoreboard: Fourth place in the opening race of The Ocean Race is just a small step on the scoreboard, but for the entire campaign of the French-German cooperation GUYOT environnement – Team Europe it is a giant leap. The eagerly awaited start to the The Ocean Race has been achieved. In the Inport Race of Alicante, a nerve-racking race developed on the small course, in which the ranking of the five Imoca yachts was repeatedly shaken up from start to finish. The positions changed in the light and shifting breeze after each rounding of the marks. In the end, fourth place went to the crew of co-skippers Benjamin Dutreux and Robert Stanjek with Annie Lush and Phillip Kasüske and onboard reporter Gauthier Lebec. Podium finishes went to Team Malizia, 11th Hour Racing and Biotherm. Team Holcim, clearly in the lead in between, did not make it to the finish line within the time limit.
“We are here, we are at the starting line for The Ocean Race, and we have the first result. This is what we wanted today. Even though it seemed in between that more could be possible for us, we are just happy for now,” said team manager Jens Kuphal.
For him, a long journey in building an offshore racing team culminated in the starting gun for a race that became a real nail-biter for the crews. With a well-timed start GUYOT environnement – Team Europe entered the race, climbed to second behind Holcim after finishing fourth at the first course mark thanks to a strong downwind. But then they had to watch the chasers pass after the wind rebuilt. “Casino Alicante” was how Robert Stanjek titled the action. “It was difficult conditions today. Three times the wind dropped, three times it came back with a different tendency. That’s why the action kept changing back and forth. The last ones were suddenly first and vice versa. We fought to the last meter, still tried to attack Biotherm. Maybe we should have risked more in that phase. Nevertheless: We are very satisfied with what we have achieved today,” said Stanjek, who added: “Since The Ocean Race Europe we have hardly sailed together in the race. Therefore, it was important to find a good communication. That worked very well. Everything went off in a relaxed way. It’s a good starting point for the race.”
His co-skipper Benjamin Dutreux also stood beaming at the pontoon after the yacht docked in the setting Alicante sun in front of the crowd that had come to the Ocean Live Park for the first race, “We couldn’t wait for the start, now it has happened. The race was not easy. Actually it is impossible to sail such close races with the Imocas, but it is good for the audience. And we had good opportunities to rehearse our maneuvers. It all went very well.”
Until the start of the first of seven legs to The Ocean Race, crews now have another week to tune the boats – interspersed with practice and ProAm races. The starting signal for the 1900-nautical-mile leg to Cape Verde will then be given off Alicante on January 15th.