The fever is rising in The Ocean Race: on Sunday at 13:10 (local time), the fleet of five Imocas will start the third leg, the longest in the 50-year history of this race. The Inport Race from Cape Town today, Friday, at least in the pre-start phase, offered a foretaste of the spectacle that awaits the crews and spectators over the next five weeks on the 12,750 nautical miles from Cape Town/South Africa to Itajaí/Brazil. Team Biotherm (France), skippered by Paul Meilhat, suffered a tough duel on the approach to the start line when their starboard foil got caught in the anchor rope of a marker bouy, causing them to abandon the start and the race. The high-flyer of the Inport Race was Team Holcim (Switzerland) of Kevin Escoffier with a superior victory. The European campaign GUYOT environnement – Team Europe under skipper Benjamin Dutreux had to settle for fourth place after a strong start, but was very satisfied with regard to the big stage.
The fierce battle among the five boats in The Ocean Race 2023 came to a head just under two minutes before the start of the Inport Race. Looking for the best position, Kevin Escoffier pulled his yacht hard into the wind, forcing the competition to take evasive action. This blocked the way for Biotherm. On luffing, Paul Meilhat got too close to a lane mark, threaded his foil in the anchor rope and was unable to free himself without completely stopping. Although the crew reported that they did not expect any significant damage to the boat as a result of the mishap, they still went straight to port for investigation. “Of course, the boats are not really made for short up-and-down races. But it was impressive how the Imocas accelerate and fight among themselves,” reported Jens Kuphal, team manager of GUYOT environnement – Team Europe, who was on board for the Inport Race.
During the luffing battle of the competitors, the team of GUYOT environnement – Team Europe managed to bring the yacht over the starting line first. But Holcim came from behind with more speed, jumped onto the foils, took the lead in rushing flight and steadily extended the lead from then on.
“It was a cool race. We had a good start but took longer than Holcim to get up to speed and were in the shadow after that,” reported Benjamin Dutreux. “After that we had a big fight with 11th Hour Racing at the first mark, and with Malizia later in the race. But in both cases they were able to take the inside lane at the marks. We kept pushing hard after that but couldn’t come back. But I think it was exciting to watch from the outside.”
Above all, Holcim could be very satisfied. After three laps, Escoffier finally had a lead of over two minutes over the next chaser. Charlie Enright (USA) with 11th Hour Racing was able to follow the speed of the team that was also leading in the overall standings the closest and in turn sailed out over a two-minute gap to Malizia, finally followed by GUYOT environnement – Team Europe with Benjamin Dutreux, Robert Stanjek, Sébastien Simon and Annie Lush (behind Holcim: 5:45 minutes). “We actually sailed a very nice Inshore race. Unfortunately, we kept losing a bit in the crossover conditions. But it was a stable race, flawless in the manoeuvres,” said Robert Stanjek. “We were also able to work through the last tests. So we can now concentrate on the long leg the day after tomorrow.”