Front Rudder - May 2020

May Days

We are now almost two months into social confinement, for our safety and the safety of others. I, as I am sure all of you are, looking forward to the day we can put this behind us, and return to a sense of normality.

On a positive front, I have been able to work on and complete projects that have been on the shelf for years! I have successfully scrapbooked the 1987, 1992, 1995 and 2003 America′s Cup editions. I have kept all the newspaper copies for all those races in plastic tubs, for up to 30 years in some cases.

While going through the different newspapers and reports, I also came across articles that I had saved on the infamous around the world sailing races. Since 1973, The Ocean Race, formally the Volvo Ocean Race, and before that the Whitbread Around the World Race, has provided the ultimate test of a team and human adventure like no other sporting event. Over four decades, it has kept an almost mythical hold over some of the greatest sailors, and been the proving ground for the legends of our sport.

The last edition in 2017-18 provided racing and excitement never seen before in the event, but also its share of tragedy.

The Ocean Race (TOR), is often described as the longest and toughest professional sporting event in the world, sailing′s toughest team challenge and one of the sport′s big three events alongside the Olympic Games and America′s Cup.

To truly understand this race though, it′s better to think of it in a way the athletes who take part in it will recognize immediately. Put simply, The Ocean Race is an obsession, and many of the world′s best sailors have dedicated years, even decades of their lives trying to win it.

Sir Peter Blake, who competed in the first edition of what was then the Whitbread Round, the World Race in 1973-74, came back again and again until he finally conquered his Everest, securing an overwhelming victory with Steinlager 2 in 1989-90. Only then was he able to fully turn his attention to other projects, like the America′s Cup.

The race sits just as it always has at the intersection of human adventure and world class competition. Thanks to the work of the onboard reporters embedded with every team (maybe me next time!) fans are given a unique insight into just what it takes to win a race that is relentless in its demands. As teams give everything, they have 24 hours a day in pursuit of the tiny advantages that can make all the difference.

The race′s concept is simple: it′s a round-the-clock pursuit of competitive edge and the ultimate ocean marathon, pitting the sport′s best sailors against each other across the world′s toughest waters. It′s relentless; the importance of winning, the adventure of life on board, and the transformative effect on the sailors, all of this combines to give the race its power and depth.

The last edition of the race was the closest in history, with three teams virtually tied. The approach to the finish was insane! After 126 days of racing spread across 11 legs, the winning margin for Charles Caudrelier′s Dongfeng Race Team was only 16 minutes. The top three teams were separated by just four points.

A total of 2.5 million people visited the race villages during the 2017-18 event, getting a firsthand taste of the action. Millions more followed the action on our digital platforms, televisions and via the news, as the race set new high marks for international coverage. I was able to attend the stopover in Newport, Rhode Island, which had set up their race village at Fort Adams.

Now we′re entering a new era as the event continues to evolve. Two classes will compete in the 2021-22 edition of the race, with the addition of the high-tech foiling IMOCA 60 class adding a design and technical element. The one design VO65 fleet will race on its third lap of the planet in 2021 with an emphasis on competition, youth and crew diversity.

Following the success of the groundbreaking and award-winning sustainability efforts in the last race, this will continue to be a core value of the race as we go forward, redouble our efforts to restore ocean health and lead, inspire and engage on this critical issue.

The next edition of The Ocean Race is scheduled to start in Alicante, Spain in October 2021, and will visit 10 international cities, including the start port and Grand Finale finish in Genoa, Italy in the summer of 2022.

For the first time, the race is now open to the high-tech foiling IMOCA 60 class, in addition to the one design VO65 boats that provided record-breaking performance in such a close compelling race in 2017-18. This was the closest TOR of all-time.

“As we open up the design and innovation elements of the race again with the IMOCA class, confirming the race route for our teams has taken on an added importance as the designers look to optimize performance for the conditions,” said Johan Salén, the managing director of The Ocean Race. “This route is more compact, at 38,000 nautical miles with two less stopovers compared to the last race, but it includes two significant Southern Ocean legs where crews on both the IMOCA 60s and the VO65s will have an opportunity to add their stories to the legend of this race.”

The route for The Ocean Race 2021-22 will start in Alicante, Spain and travel to Cape Town, South Africa, Shenzhen, China, down to Auckland, New Zealand, over to Itajaí, Brazil, up to Newport, RI, USA, Aarhus, Denmark, the Hague, Netherlands and again finish in Genoa, Italy.

“This new race route respects our heritage as an event that crosses the world′s oceans, leaving the great capes of the southern hemisphere to port, and diving into the Southern Ocean on the approach to the iconic Cape Horn,” said Richard Brisius, race chairman. “With seven returning stopovers and three new host cities, there is a good balance between stability and exploration, as the route will take us through the Java Sea near Indonesia for the first time. As ever, The Ocean Race appeals to athletes and teams who want to compete against the best in the world, and add their name to the list of the legends of our sport who have defined their careers by taking on this incredible challenge.”

Dutch Sailor, Carolijn Brouwer (NED) became one of the first women to win, and was part of the victorious Dongfeng Race Team in the last race. In the 2021-22 edition, all race teams in both classes will be required to have female crew members.

“To lift The Ocean Race trophy with the Dongfeng Race Team in 2017-18 was a dream come true for myself and the team, and it′s an honor to be counted amongst so many legends of the sport as a winner of this amazing race,” Brouwer said. “The 2021-22 race course keeps the Southern Ocean at the heart of the race, and the new foiling IMOCA boats plus the returning VO65s, which means more epic racing and great human stories.”

The introduction of the IMOCA fleet presents a new opportunity for sailors to race in the world′s most challenging and competitive fully crewed event. Paul Meilhat, the winner of the 2018 Route du Rhum, and the current leader of the IMOCA sailor rankings is among those looking to make the transition.

“The Ocean Race is one of the most global events in this sport. And the race course for 2021-22 underlines why it is so special with some of the best offshore sailing conditions around, and a massive commercial reach touching six continents.

“It has long been my dream to compete in this event, and test myself against the best sailors in one of the most challenging races in the sport.”

Building on a legacy from the last edition, The Ocean Race 2021-22 will feature a new series of summits. The first took place in Genoa, Italy in September of 2019, an expanded version of its award-winning learning curriculum for schools and robust science and data program.

Two-time Volvo Ocean racers Charlie Enright, Bristol, RI and Mark Towill, Honolulu, HI, co-founders of One Degree, announced today that they have formally renewed their team′s sponsorship with 11th Hour Racing for a long-term and visionary campaign with their eyes set on the 2021-22 TOR.

The team will be named 11th Hour Racing after its title sponsor Middleton, Rhode Island based 11th Hour Racing. The team′s primary goal is to win the world′s toughest crewed round-the-world sailing race, while engaging a broad audience and sailing fans across the globe, on topics of the climate crisis, ocean health and sustainability.

The team′s campaign headline, “what′s under the surface connects us,” will highlight how the beauty and discovery of life under the water′s surface can inspire people globally to adopt more sustainable behaviors, emphasizing how the well-being of our ocean is critical to our own well-being and informing people about the impacts of climate change on the ocean.

“The opportunity to build on the leadership that Mark and Charlie have demonstrated throughout the years, and develop a new campaign driven by a strong environmental and social ethos is extremely empowering,” said Rob MacMillan, co-founder and president of 11th Hour Racing. “We can accelerate change through sporting excellence in sailing, ocean advocacy and sustainable innovation.” Enright and Towill are aiming for their third round-the-world race, dating back to 2014 after previous campaigns with Team Alvimedica 2014-15, and Vestas 11th Hour Racing 2017-18. “With the incredible support of 11th Hour Racing, we are already hitting the ground running,” said Enright. “In two previous campaigns, we have never had the luxury of any long-term preparation and planning for our team, and starting to put the team together now will have a huge impact on our race readiness, pre-race training and planning.” The team′s first step in its new campaign will begin with the Transat Jacques Vabre, which starts from Le Havre, France. The team will compete using the former Hugo Boss IMOCA 60 boat that they purchased, rebranded and refitted. The 11th Hour Racing Team will do its offshore training in advance of the Transat Jacques Vabre out of Port-La-Forte, Brittany, France over the next two months, and maintain a training base in Brittany in the near term.

The two solo transatlantic races initially planned this spring for the Globe Series championship should have allowed some skippers to qualify, and others to test their monohull after winter modification work. The IMOCA class and the department of Vendee, a major partner in the race are working to finalize the adaptation of the New York to Vendée Les Sables-d′Olonne, a general dress rehearsal before the Vendée Globe, and therefore an essential race for the preparation of the skippers.

11th Hour Racing

Our oceans are threatened by everything including plastic pollution, climate change and the environmental impacts of our sport. The clock is ticking. 11th Hour Racing works with the sailing community and maritime industries to advance solutions and practices that protect and restore the health of our ocean.

Inspired by and furthering the mission of The Schmidt Family Foundation, 11th Hour Racing embraces sponsorships, grantees, and ambassadors who integrate sustainability into their values and operations while educating, innovating and inspiring people with the critical message of ocean stewardship.

“We believe fostering environmentally sustainable practices on and off the water is critical to the restoration of our ocean and its vital resources. As one steers a boat with a gentle, steady hand, 11th Hour Racing strives to advance winning, environment and performance practices one degree at a time.”

In its 24 years of existence, the biannual Transat Jacques Vabre has managed to establish itself as the toughest and longest running two-handed transat. The race is equally revered by the sailors and an enthralled public, reaffirming its relevance and the investment of its partners with each edition. The original concept is simple: The source of this great race is a historical route, the Coffee Route. It is an event with an expert mix of tastes, vintages, aromas and characters.

The ocean connects all of us by giving us the very basic necessities we need to live, and providing an avenue for cultures to interact. We only thrive if our oceans thrive, but human impact from the climate crisis including plastic pollution and the decline in biodiversity has driven the planet to a critical moment in time.

11th Hour Racing is strengthening its commitment to ocean health with the sponsorship of a new sailing team that is led and co-skippered by prominent American offshore sailors Charlie Enright, Rhode Island and Mark Towill, Hawaii. The 11th Hour Racing Team was formed in September 2019. Supported by title sponsor 11th Hour Racing, the team′s mission is to win The Ocean Race 2021-22 with sustainability at the core of all operations, and inspire positive action among sailing and coastal communities along with global sports fans to create long lasting changes for ocean health.

America′s Charlie Enright and French co-skipper Pascal Bidégorry, on their 60-foot monohull, 11th Hour Racing, have finished fifth in the IMOCA class of the 14th edition of the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre after crossing the finish line in the Bay of All Saints in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil on Sunday November 10, 2019 at 18:25:23 (UTC), 14 days, 06 hours 10 minutes and 23 seconds, after leaving Le Havre, Normandy, France on Sunday, October 27 at 12:15 (UTC.)

11th Hour Racing covered the theoretical course of 4,350 nautical miles at an average speed of 12.75 knots, but actually sailed 5,183.89 nautical miles at an average speed of 15.15 knots. It finished 18 hours two minutes and 23 seconds behind the winner, Apivia. They finished just 14 minutes and 42 seconds behind fourth-placed Advens for Cybersecurity. Enright is the first rookie to finish in the IMOCA in this edition.

A dark horse for many in Le Havre, the favorites had reasons to worry about 11th Hour Racing. The black and orange foiler is the former Hugo Boss, arguably the most advanced of the last generation foilers from 2015 and formidable downwind in the breeze. America′s Charlie Enright does not have the experience of sailing an IMOCA double-hander, but has two Volvo Ocean Races under his belt.

He left with a very different mission to his rivals; he is trying to work out how the IMOCA should be built for The Ocean Race, so it can be pushed by a crew. Perhaps it made for less pressure and he could count on one of the most talented skippers of his generation, Pascal Bidégorry, who had won the the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre twice before in a multihull (ORMA and Ultime.)

On board, the official language is English, and though Bidégorry has admitted to some semantic flutters in the hottest moments, the Franco-American entente is clearly working well. That success has been reflected on the water.

Forced to put their race on hold for an hour and 30 minutes to pay a penalty following the breakage of one of their engine seals, they missed out on fourth place and maybe more. They went south from the start, and immediately established themselves in the lead group. They were elbow to elbow with Apivia, as they approached the Doldrums and looked like they would take second in the northeast trades, but Apivia was faultless in their line.

Choosing to take the penalty turn in the Doldrums perhaps cost 11th Hour Racing dearly, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Following Apivia′s track to the east of Charal, they did not fall into a Doldrums hole. Nor did they sweep through like Apivia. They overtook Banque Populaire by the time they reached the northeast coast of Brazil, but they could not hold off the comeback of the two newer foilers, Charal and then Advens for Cybersecurity.

“From the start to the finish, including everything in between, the Transat Jacques Vabre has been a wild chapter!” said Enright. “It′s taken a lot of hard work from a lot of good people to achieve so much in so little time. It was a little out of the comfort zone, which made it all that much more rewarding.”

And the Winner is…

“It′s my best win for sure,” Dalin said. “It′s a race I grew up with, that I would dream about after school and that I went on the pontoons to admire with the boats in Le Havre.”

Eliès, 45, joined Elite Company with his third victory in the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre, and retains his title, having won the IMOCA in 2017. He won on a different platform, the Multi50 in 2013. It was his sixth edition overall.

Apivia was not the great favorite, but some smart pundits favored them, pointing out that they were a proven team having finished third together in the IMOCA in 2015, Dalin′s only previous Transat Jacques Vabre. But they had only launched in August and the favorite Charal, had been optimizing for a year and was the first to achieve full flight.

This Route du Café was to be theirs. Launched just before the Route du Rhum in 2018, Charal is the pioneer of a new generation, the first foiling IMOCA monohull to achieve full flight. Jérémie Beyou and Christopher Pratt spent a year of methodical and hard work developing it to learn the new settings that enable their aerobatics.

The routing by the five teams with latest generation foilers showed that a record-smashing 10-day finishing was possible for their boats. That would have knocked three days off the record set in the last edition. As the forecast became clearer, 48 hours before the start it was obvious that this was going to be a much tougher and tighter affair, and so it proved. Big seas, high pressure in all senses and a shocking Doldrums compressed the field. “The waves are a great leveler,” as many a skipper said on the pontoons.

After a cautious start, Apivia was part of the big pack in the Channel, all pushing hard. As they passed the first depression, they tacked south with a group led by Initiatives-Cœur. Charal took the lead, but hesitated and adjusted course at Cape Finisterre, while a group of five IMOCA Hugo Boss, Malizia II Yacht Club de Monaco, Bureau Vallée II, Maître CoQ IV and Prysmian Group later joined by Advens for Cybersecurity invested heavily in the west. The dividend they were looking for was completely lost in the inflation of a ridge of high pressure bubbling up four days later.

Apivia took the lead of the race among the southern group. Upwind, the Verdier designed boat seemed to be very fast, and dug out a small lead at the approach to the high-pressure ridge around Gibraltar. On November 1, at the end of the morning Apivia sent an incredible video. It showed the black hunter, Charal, flying over the top of them, apparently three knots faster in the light conditions that the Charal is particularly fond of. It was confident and generous to send the video, but did it show the vulnerability of Apivia at the entry to the northeast trade winds?

Meanwhile, disaster struck Hugo Boss, the radical, yet fragile and new, as they told the race office that they were withdrawing with the keel of their brand new 60-foot monohull, attached only by the hydraulic ram after hitting something in the water while travelling at around 25 knots.

The race will be remembered for Charal′s epic stall in the Doldrums. Charal was 120 miles ahead of Apivia when they entered the Doldrums. At times they completely stopped as Apivia redirected 50 miles east and flew by, almost without pause.  Every time Charal looked like finally escaping the clutches of the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone, they were sucked back in. “We stopped looking at the rankings because it wasn′t humane. It became unbearable,” Beyou said.

Apivia′s early acceleration in the trade winds meant that even when Charal was out of the Doldrums on November 8, they continued to lose miles, peaking at being 302 miles behind a total loss of 422 miles. They were briefly back in sixth position as they exited at a bad angle in the west.

It meant that Apivia was literally able to coast the length of northeast Brazil to the finish line in the beautiful Bay of All Saints, while everyone behind them scrapped for the other podium places.

Motivated by the southeastern trade winds, Charal once again showed what it can do. Charal passed its competitors one-by-one until PRB, a 2009 design upgraded with foils last year held off their assault.

Charal finished just six minutes and 18 seconds behind PRB. Their finish was as dramatic as any into the Bay of All Saints, chasing PRB all the way down the coast. This race was clear evidence of the power of the latest generation of foiling boats. They are undoubtedly faster overall, but clearly not in all conditions. Two things emerged. We cannot just talk about the generation of the boat anymore. The generation of the foils is also essential.

Confinement, Positive Thoughts From The High Seas

It may seem odd at this point to point out the similarity between the experience of the solo skippers when out at sea and what those in lockdown alone are feeling today, but we can learn a lot from the solo sailors who have experienced long months alone at sea.


Nick Moloney (AUS, Vendée Globe 2004-2005) said “In the 2004-2005 Vendée Globe, we were alone at sea, but alone together. We had the same ocean, the same status and we were there for each other. I have always said that everyone should sail across the Atlantic alone once in their life. That was the most fantastic personal experience I have been through. The peace you find when alone is something magnificent. You find your own rhythm and learn to accept your situation. Take advantage of the time you have to dream your wildest dream. Study each detail. Bring together everything you thought impossible. Gradually, your vision may become your goal in this way. All these steps you take as you learn generate a whole lot of energy.”

Put things into perspective

Conrad Humphreys (GBR, Vendée Globe 2004-2005) said, “I think that spending a month alone could enable people to overcome their fears. During the Vendée Globe after my steering was damaged, I managed to block out the negative voices I kept hearing in my head, and I managed to live each moment as it came, taking things one day at a time. When we are faced with the feeling of being powerless, most of our thoughts become negative. Today I try to focus on what I can do, not what I cannot.


Arnaud Boissières (La Mie-Câline Artipôle) said “When you are completely alone sailing around the world, the slightest incident becomes massive. That is likely to happen now to each of us. You have to keep cool. When things start to drag a bit in the Vendée Globe, I start to write. It′s good to write down what you are thinking and feeling. Your doubts, fears, and what pleases you. Above all, you have to avoid remaining passive. You need to set yourself a strict timetable. That is something I need to do in times like these.”

Let your mind wander

Sébastien Destremau (FaceOcean) said “I live alone, and I find myself in the same situation as at sea. It′s interesting, I think I′ll soon be moving onto writing my second book and creating texts for my poetic works. It is when things are very calm ashore and at sea that your mind starts to wander, and that helps you become creative. It may even lead some people to grab the opportunity, and change things around in their life. You have to think of what comes after all this.”

Think things through

Samantha Davies (Initiatives-Coeur) said, “When time starts to drag for me, my strategy is to divide up the time. Psychologically, that is extremely important. Today when I am ashore, I divide up the days. I set the timer. There is the time I have to spend with Ruben, my son, time for myself and for work. He is not allowed to disturb me at that point. We work in thirty-minute shifts. When each day is like the next, it′s good to establish some sort of order.

Find out about yourself

Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest – Art & Fenétres) said, “It is hard being alone at sea, but I like facing up to that difficulty. When you are completely alone, you manage to do things you would not be able to do ashore. Also, there is no alternative. You simply have to manage, and that always surprises me. I suggest that you enjoy the beauty of nature around you, even if it is just from the window of your flat. Look at how beautiful the sky is. It is a way of getting away from all this, and learning how to appreciate what really matters.”

Analyze yourself

Stéphane le Diraison (Time for Oceans) said, “I have learned a lot in these moments of being alone. I learned to accept myself for what I am with my physical and mental weaknesses, which is something I always wanted to ignore. You want to do things in a certain way? Now, you have to learn how to do them differently. I learned how to stop lying to myself and to get things straight in my head, admitting what I want. It all makes much more sense like that. I also worked a lot on my character, becoming suspicious of anything which brings out certain elements, and trying to get away from that.”

Feed your mind

Louis Burton (Bureau Vallée) said, “When I returned home after the last Vendée Globe where I suffered a lot in my mind, the custom is to remove the sailor from life ashore during the Vendée Globe, but I fight against that. My competitive spirit as a sailor is nothing in comparison with the bruise on my dear daughter′s knee or my son′s anger when some stupid bastard said that his father was useless as he only came in seventh in the Vendée Globe.

I always need to be in contact with the outside world, and think about others who mean so much. During this lockdown period, you really have to keep in contact with the means that are available, get all the news from wherever you can and listen to various opinions.”

Some useful advice

Dee Caffari (GBR, Vendée Globe 2008-9) in her blog in English (, the British sailor offers some useful advice for this lockdown period. “Focus only on what you can control and don′t waste energy worrying about things that are outside your control. Look for the opportunities and be creative. Accept that we must adapt to the new environment we are living in.” Jérémie Beyou, Charal said, “You should avoid films that are too sad, go for comedies or films about sport. When you are at sea, you don′t watch Schindler′s List!”

This wraps up the “solo” sailing action for this month. Thank you for tuning in and looking forward to the next exciting edition! Thank you to 11th Hour Racing and The Ocean Race media teams for contributing to this month′s column.

You can write or send me smoke signals to mark@yachts

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