The Ocean Race is back on course at full strength. At 6.15pm, Race Director Phil Lawrence sent the five Imocas off on the 800 nautical mile leg from Aarhus/Denmark via the fly-by in Kiel/Germany to The Hague/Netherlands. Right in the middle of the action: GUYOT environnement – Team Europe – back from the shipyard, straight onto the race course. “It was a tough time. We had a lot of work and are happy to be back in the race now,” said skipper Benjamin Dutreux, well aware that the tension will continue to be high for him and his team with Robert Stanjek, Annie Lush and Phillip Kasüske as well as onboard reporter Gauthier Lebec in the coming days.
For the European team, there was already a champagne shower before the start. On arrival in Aarhus on Thursday afternoon, the other teams stood on the pier with welcome banners and celebrated the team, which had been battered by damage. It was rigger Axel Levesque from the transfer crew of GUYOT environnement – Team Europe who popped the corks and splashed the crew with the sparkling wine.
But 28 hours later, the friendly teams on land had now become competitors on the water again. Because with the start in Aarhus, the race enters its decisive phase. While the other crews are still fighting for every point, for Benjamin Dutreux’s team it is all about presenting themselves in top form when it goes to Kiel in the home waters of Robert Stanjek and Phillip Kasüske. Whether the local knowledge will bear fruit, however, is in question, as many traps await in this leg along the coastline of Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands in the light winds at the start and likely for the rest of the race.
“It was a huge task for all of us and the fact that we are ready to start racing again is something that warms your heart,” said Benjamin Dutreux. “The challenge was to put all the pieces of the puzzle together in just five days. That created a huge adrenaline rush for each of us. The pressure dropped a bit when we arrived in Aarhus yesterday after the transfer from Kiel went well,” said the Frenchman looking back. Looking ahead, Dutreux said, “Even though it’s the shortest leg of this year’s Ocean Race, it’s quite a chunk, with thermal breezes along the coast to contend with, strong currents, site effects, restricted areas, oil platforms and lots of shipping traffic. All in all: all the ingredients for a coastal regatta under high tension. There will be many parameters to consider and pay attention to. On a strategic level, it promises to be very interesting. I personally like this kind of format, which resembles a stage of the Solitaire de Figaro.”
In total, a stage duration of about three days is expected. The passage to the Kiel fly-by is planned for Friday between 3 pm and 5 pm. The start already demanded full nervous tension. Despite a perfectly timed start by Robert Stanjek, the team had to realise that the other boats had a higher speed potential in these winds and initially pulled away in the inport part of the sixth of seven legs. But the course through the night and between the Danish islands still offers many opportunities to mix up the field. Until the Leaving Gate, the black yacht still managed to fight its way up to fourth place. And it is a trait in the DNA of GUYOT environnement – Team Europe: Giving up is not an option!