11th Hour Racing Team has finished Leg 6 of The Ocean Race 2022-23 in first place, arriving into The Hague, The Netherlands at 12:26:52 local time [10:26 UTC] after 2 days 18 hours 11 minutes, and 52 seconds at sea. This is the third leg win in a row for the team, having bagged consecutive first places into hometown Newport, Rhode Island, U.S., Aarhus, Denmark, and now The Hague.
The crew of the only American entry into this edition of the round-the-world race was led by Skipper Charlie Enright (USA), with Navigator, Simon Fisher (GBR), Trimmers, Franck Cammas (FRA) and Francesca Clapcich (ITA), and Media Crew Member, Pierre Bouras (FRA).
“Am I thrilled? No, I’m elated!” said Enright as he waved to the spectator crowd soon after crossing the finish line. “It has been a crazy leg – we were in a tacking duel with Holcim thirty miles offshore! It wasn’t going to be over until it was over.
“Everyone is exhausted. We each got maybe three to five hours of sleep over the course of the whole leg. I only relaxed and felt the win was ours about two minutes before the finish and the land breezed filled. We went from drifting around in four knots, to 10 knots fetching as the finish. And we were surrounded by fans out on the water, it’s always great to have that support.”
The coastal dash from Denmark’s second city first took the five competing IMOCAs down to Kiel, Germany for a no-stop ‘fly-by’ where the fleet was greeted by thousands of spectators lining the banks of the canal, before they made their way over the top of Denmark, negotiating wind farms, Traffic Separation Schemes, and exclusion zones on the 915 nautical mile [1,053 mile | 1,695 kilometer] leg.
Navigator Simon Fisher was clearly exhausted, having slept for only snatches of time throughout the whole leg. “It was always going to be a complex leg, and it was always going to be pretty stressful with the changing winds and all the navigational hazards, the restricted sailing in the Kiel fjord, and throughout the course. This leg really found a way to turn the stress up to the max.
“A few times we had built quite a lead, and it got a bit more comfortable, but each time the lead then got chiseled right back down. It’s been a pretty stressful three days, but everyone was fighting as hard as they possibly could. I think we got the result we deserved.”
Before she departed from Aarhus, Francesca Clapcich was looking forward to the coastal race – a style of racing she has a huge depth of experience with. “It’s been a crazy leg, super close, and at the end, it was super tight between us, Holcim and Malizia. It got quite stressful onboard at a few points because we were pushing hard and wanted to win. There wasn’t much sleep, but it is an amazing feeling now! It’s been three wins in a row, and finally, we have a little bit of space between us and Holcim-PRB. We need to now focus on the last leg and focus on doing a good job right to the very end.”
Franck Cammas, France’s Sailor of the Decade, joined the crew onboard Mālama, for this short hop to The Netherlands. “It was an intense effort from the whole team for the whole leg. The fight was cool this morning when we just tacked on the bow of Holcim, it’s been like a Figaro Race leg the whole way! Nearly three days with a lot of change in the wind, and the boats have been fantastic. It wasn’t finished until it finished!
“It’s very intense racing fully crewed compared to short-handed IMOCA sailing. You can do all the maneuvers you want, but each maneuver is complicated, and you can lose a lot of time, but with four sailors onboard, it is nice to keep the speed up and keep the potential of the boat all the time. It’s been a great experience.”
The onboard reporting was taken on by Pierre Bouras, replacing Amory Ross, who was injured in the last leg. “It was a really good experience, and there was a great atmosphere onboard. There wasn’t much sleep for anyone onboard – including me – they needed a lot of coffee, and they didn’t go to sleep at all! It was very busy all the time, but great to be part of the team.”
11th Hour Racing Team now leads on the overall leaderboard, two points ahead of Swiss rivals Team Holcim-PRB, and six points ahead of German entry Team Malizia.
“Holcim sailed an amazing race,” commented Enright. “With their new squad to come out like that – they were firing on all cylinders. They were hungry, they had nothing to lose, and they pushed us to the limit; they should be really proud.
“It’s not about the two-point lead we now have, it’s about what could have been if we had been going into the last leg tied on points. For me, mentally, it’s more about the swing, than the points on the board.”
The final leg of the round-the-world race will start on Thursday, June 15, 2023, to Genoa, Italy. A 2,200 nautical mile [2,532 mile | 4,074 kilometer] coastal, open ocean, and inland sea leg, retracing part of the route from the start of The Ocean Race 2022-23, back in Alicante on January 15.
The ETA of the fleet into Genoa is anticipated to be June 25.