April 5, 2023. Itajaí, Brazil.
At 08:20 UTC [05:20 local], 11th Hour Racing Team crossed the finish line of Leg 3 of The Ocean Race 2022-23, completing a Leg that was described by Skipper Charlie Enright (USA) as “grueling”. After 37 days, 20 hours, 10 minutes, and 23 seconds, the team completed their 14,840 nautical mile [17,077 mile or 27,483 kilometer] race through the Southern Ocean.
The only US team in The Ocean Race, 11th Hour Racing Team completed the podium behind Leg winners Team Malizia and second-placed Holcim-PRB. The result puts them third on the overall Race leaderboard with 13 points, just one point behind second-placed Team Malizia, and six behind overall leaders Holcim-PRB.
“That leg was grueling, it was the ultimate test. It didn’t go the way we wanted it to go, and it tested our team, and it tested our platform, but the resilience that we all showed was absolutely outstanding,” commented a relieved Enright as the team motored towards the dock.
“What we were able to accomplish in the face of adversity was outstanding – sometimes you need to be your strongest at your lowest moments. The result certainly wasn’t what we wanted, but on crossing the finish line here, there’s definitely a feeling of positivity and accomplishment – in fact, more than I could have imagined,” Enright shared.
Leg 3 of this, the 14th edition of The Ocean Race, was the longest in the Race’s 50 year history and a ‘double-pointer’ raising the stakes for the competing teams. Setting off from Cape Town, South Africa on February 27, the team was beset by technical challenges from the very start, having to suspend racing after just 42 minutes due to broken battens in the mainsail.
The issues onboard didn’t stop there, as the team had to contend with two damaged rudders, damaged foil downlines, as well as a huge tear in the mainsail. The team had to continuously dig deep to find the solutions to complete the repairs while racing.
“We always said it was going to be tough, but I don’t think we ever imagined it was going to be as challenging as it was,” said Navigator Simon Fisher (GBR), as he undergoes his sixth circumnavigation of the planet. “As much as we would have liked to finish in first place, the fact that we’ve managed to get through this in spite of all the issues we have been dealing with over nearly 38 days, is a great achievement.
“Jack has done a fantastic job as boat captain keeping the boat together, but there came a point in the leg that it wasn’t about winning, it was about getting to the finish line. We knew it would be difficult and long, but we all agreed that we should make the most of it. It was about setting the mindset and enjoying it – you can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it.”
Five days out from the finish in Itajaí and there was another challenge for the team, when firstly they were knocked down by a 50 knot [57mph, 93kmph] squall, and then just 10 hours later they crash gybed, with the boat knocked all the way down to the surface of the sea, and the mainsail – the engine of the boat – ripping, leaving a huge hole, rendering it unusable without major repair.
As they were contending with 30 knots [34mph, 55kmph] of wind, and a rough sea state, it was not possible to even attempt repairs at that time, and all the team could do was sail under two smaller jib sails. With Malizia and Holcim-PRB battling it out for the win, skipper Enright’s attention turned to how to keep this under wraps from Biotherm, their rival for the final spot on the podium.
“We knew it was going to be tight with Biotherm at the finish by virtue of them being in the same weather system as us, so anything we could do to gain an advantage and get a jump on them we had to do. We knew that they were facing adversity too [Biotherm had damaged their port rudder], and if there was a chance that by them not knowing the news of our mainsail damage, they would be complacent, even for just a few hours, they were hours that we desperately needed.”
After 24 hours of sailing under jib, the wind conditions lessened, giving the team to ability drop the mainsail and affect a patch-repair at sea, allowing them to re-hoist and set off at pace again for the finish line.
Trimmer, Jack Bouttell (AUS/GBR), was dubbed the MacGyver of the onboard team for his ability to keep working through the technical issues onboard and finding innovative solutions to the challenges when faced with limited and finite resources.
“That was tough, endless, and grueling!” Bouttell commented. “From a competitive standpoint, it was frustrating as we were constantly on the back foot due to breakages and we never really hit our stride. But we have to remember it was a pretty incredible thing to do, to go through it together as a team. To have everyone here to Itajaí, with the boat in one piece – nearly – is a pretty big highlight!”
Swiss trimmer, Justine Mettraux was the only member of 11th Hour Racing Team rounding Cape Horn for the first time. “Before we set off, I was expecting the Southern Ocean conditions to be a bit tougher and for us to have fewer technical issues onboard, but in the end, it was the opposite. It took a long time to get to Cape Horn – 30 days – but it was a very special moment when we passed. We were really lucky with the conditions we had and passed very close by with very beautiful conditions. It was a very special moment for us all.”
Looking forward to the next four Legs of the race, with 56% of the points still available, Mettraux was confident in the team’s performance to come. “There is still plenty to go on the racecourse, and we haven’t yet met the expectations we had, or that other people had on us. So we need to improve our game at every level, and I think we are still in a position to do really well. The race is not finished yet!”
The team’s onboard Media Crew Member, Amory Ross (USA), was stoic as he stepped onto the dock “I’m sure it is an overused word, but that was an epic journey through the south. It is an unknown destination down there and every time you visit, the experience and the place are always special. Once again, it was another unique adventure through the Southern Ocean, through the world’s most remote stretch of ocean. And it challenged and tested our team in every capacity.
“I think it is easy to see that as a group we rose to the task. I’ve had a plethora of narratives to document the trials and tribulations of the sailing team going through nature’s worst, and that’s a privilege and something that I will always cherish,” he concluded.
The next Leg of The Ocean Race will see the five IMOCA teams race from Itajaí to Newport, Rhode Island, 11th Hour Racing Team’s home base, and the State where both Charlie Enright and Amory Ross live.
Final words went to skipper, Enright. “I think despite the Pacific origins of her name [Mālama is Hawaiian for to care for, to protect in a nod to the team’s mission to campaign for innovation for positive impact on the ocean] Mālama is happy to be back in the Atlantic. And as a team, we are certainly happy to be headed home to Newport, not only my home but the home of 11th Hour Racing.
“In the last 24 hours of this leg, we felt it was some of our best sailing as a team, and hopefully we can carry that momentum forward, reassess where we are at, and start prepping for a Leg that is very important to us.
“You can’t spend 38 days at sea if it is just five people working on the project. I think as much as this finish is an accomplishment for us as the sailing team, it is an accomplishment for the entirety of the team. A lot of people put a lot of hard work into this race, and everybody should feel that they have achieved something special. If we can continue to operate at this high level and incrementally improve based on what we have now learned, we should be in a good position moving forward.”
Leg 4 of The Ocean Race from Itajaí to Newport, Rhode Island will start on April 23, 2023.
Leg rankings at 1000 UTC – April 5, 2023
Note: double point leg with position at scoring gate plus finish position
1st – Team Malizia 34d 17h, 10m 28s 4+5 points
2nd – Team Holcim-PRB, 34d 2h, 46m 20s 5+4 points
3rd – 11th Hour Racing Team, 37d, 20h, 10m, 23s 3+3 points
4th – Biotherm 37d, 22h, 41m, 19s 2+2 points
5th – Guyot environment – Team Europe Suspended racing 0+0 points
11th Hour Racing Team Crew for Leg 3 of The Ocean Race 2022-23:
Charlie Enright (USA) – Skipper
Simon Fisher (GBR) – Navigator
Jack Bouttell (AUS/GBR) – Trimmer
Justine Mettraux (SUI) – Trimmer
Amory Ross (USA) – Media Crew Member
5 points = first; 4 points = second etc.
Team Holcim – PRB – 19 points (5+5+9)
Team Malizia – 14 points (3+2+9)
11th Hour Racing Team – 13 points (4+3+6)
Biotherm Racing – 10 points (2+4+4)
GUYOT environnement – Team Europe – 2 points (1+1+0)
The Ocean Race 2022-23 Route:
Leg 1: Alicante, Spain to Mindelo, Cabo Verde
Leg 2: Cabo Verde to Cape Town, South Africa
Leg 3: Cape Town, South Africa to Itajaí, Brazil
Leg 4: Itajaí, Brazil, to Newport, Rhode Island
Leg 5: Newport, Rhode Island to Aarhus, Denmark
Leg 6: Aarhus, Denmark to The Hague, The Netherlands (with a flyby past Kiel, Germany)
Leg 7: The Hague, The Netherlands to Genoa, Italy