Anyone familiar with The Ocean Race and its history will know that any perceived reality never lasts long, the start of Leg 7 showed us that. And since then, the weight of the unknown has been front of mind for 11th Hour Racing Team.
Fighting it out on the water during the final leg and not knowing the result until all boats have crossed the finish line is one thing, but when the result of the race hinges on the decision of a jury, waiting is just about all you can do.
Needless to say, today is a big day.
As the first morning footsteps enter the team base early morning in Genoa, Simon Fisher pours his morning coffee onboard Mālama. Just 50 miles away from each other, a new reality is on the horizon for 11th Hour Racing Team as today is the day of the Redress Hearing, and when the final result comes through, the team will find out whether they have won The Ocean Race 2022-23.Coming to terms with what happened at the start of Leg 7 in The Hague was tough for everyone involved in the race – not just those in 11th Hour Racing Team. Suddenly what looked to be an exciting final leg and a battle for the overall win between two teams, became a decision that wouldn’t be fought out on the water, but in fact on land. Not a finish to the race that anyone was anticipating or wanted.
“It hasn’t been the final night of the race I was expecting,” says Si Fi as he balances in front of his computer screen onboard Mālama clutching his morning coffee. “I knew it would be sleepless and stressful but… not like this.”
When asked to probe a little deeper, all five sailors opened up about their final night onboard. Here are their thoughts.
[Si Fi] “Win or lose, it’s the takeaway of a lifetime”
As the sky begins to light up, it is slowly sinking in that we have spent our last night together onboard Mālama. It’s hard not to feel slightly nostalgic about it knowing also that in just a few days it will be just a memory. This is not at all how I imagined it, I expected to be sleep deprived, battling the boats around us, and fighting for every inch on our way into Genoa. As it has turned out the situation is very different as we ghost through the twilight in the Gulf of Genoa alone. However, we are still fighting for every inch, just in this case it’s about getting to Genoa in time to see our teammates and our families.
There is definitely a lack of sleep but it has been brought about through the anxiety of the redress hearing. The outcome of the decision weighs heavy on all of us and the decision will define whether we are winners or not. Both Genoa and news of the decision cannot come soon enough. However, whatever the outcome I will be sad to step off the boat. I certainly won’t miss the slamming, the uncomfortable bunk, the bucket, or the freeze-dried food. But I am really going to miss this exceptional group of people who I have battled around the world with. We’ve enjoyed the euphoria of winning together and the frustration of losing. We’ve experienced the thrill of breaking records and pushing the limits of what’s possible in these boats, as well as the drama of fighting just to keep the boat in one piece and stay in the race. You know, at the end of the day, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to have gone through it all with.
We will all step off the boat in Genoa – win or lose – as better versions of ourselves, much richer for the experiences, the camaraderie, and the friendships we have forged together in this race. Something that will surely last us a lifetime whether our name gets engraved on a trophy or not.
[Frankie] “Laughing or crying, it’ll be together”
It was Francesca Clapcich who triggered the chain of messages last night and this morning, as she messaged the shore team out of the blue. Frankie, as she is affectionately known, has a lot riding on today’s result, should the result tip in 11th Hour Racing Team’s favor, she would become the first Italian to ever win the race. Ah, my last night at sea with this incredible group of sailors who I can now firmly call my friends. When I joined the team last year I didn’t know Charlie, Amo, Sifi, Jack, and even Juju very well and here we are, after a full lap around the world, fighting to arrive into my home country.
There’s no other group of people I would have rather done this with. This race is crazy, with ups and downs, a rollercoaster of emotions till the end, and still… There is no other team I would want to be with. And that’s not just the sailors, I’m counting everyone, from the tech team, and to all of our partners and especially 11th Hour Racing for giving us the opportunity to be a part of a campaign with a cause.
I’m so grateful and at the same time sad that the race is almost over. As I go into my final night onboard, I am looking back on this campaign with great memories. We have been through so much. We learned the hard way most of the time, we lost, we won, we laughed, we cried, yet all I can remember is that it was all together…no one has ever been left alone or apart – we stuck together. Even through the bad times. In fact, especially through the bad times.
So my last night at sea and I wouldn’t have done everything differently, regardless of the result of the redress hearing.
Ciao for now and see you soon in Genova!
[Charlie] “A recipe for restlessness”
In a previous article about the collision in The Hague, it was mentioned that the ambition of winning this legendary race has been four years in the making for this team, a decade in the making for 11th Hour Racing, and a whole lifetime in the making for best friends Mark Towill and Charlie Enright.
As Team CEO, on land Mark Towill keeps everyone calm ahead of the redress hearing, and Charlie is tasked with the same difficult responsibility onboard. Extremely different in character, Mark was concerned Charlie would struggle with the long delivery and overthink a decision that was out of his control. And sure enough when asked about his final thoughts the expression ‘recipe for restlessness’ came up, but so did that of responsibility, reflection, and perspective.
Tonight is the last night of The Ocean Race, perhaps my last night on the mighty Mālama … ever. That, in and of itself, is a lot to contemplate. Add to it the fact that we’re sailing into Genoa as a retired boat with an unknown competitive fate … and you get a recipe for restlessness. All that said: we are where we are, it will be what it will be, and we can only control what we can control. I know our whole team has done everything we can to achieve our ultimate goal, and in knowing that, it will actually allow me to get some sleep tonight. And in knowing that, it has actually allowed me to enjoy these nerve-wracking two weeks at sea, away from the process of the hearing, and away from the noise.
It was our job to get the boat to Genoa in time for the In-Port Race and to finish our symbolic, but also very real, lap of the planet. It’s provided feelings of accomplishment, appreciation, and above all perspective – particularly with all the work we have done through our team’s legacy grantee program – supporting grassroot organizations in every stopover around the world. We’ve met some incredible people as we race around the world and made tangible impact for positive impact for ocean health. These are feelings that won’t go away anytime soon, no matter what happens tomorrow…
[Jack] “This race takes you to hell and back”
0200 last night watch, alone on deck, trimming, and sailing the boat. Multi-tasking and doing all the jobs that become part of normal life offshore. Popping my head out to check a ship that’s just crossing ahead of us. Looking up at the stars and reflecting on the crazy adventure that another lap of the planet has been.
Ever since I was a kid I was in awe at the crazy stories and images of The Ocean Race, I never imagined I would ever experience it, let alone multiple times in different classes of boat. The race takes you to hell and back, from the biggest highs to the biggest lows and everything in between. Every time I’ve done this race it’s taken more than I thought I could give but it has definitely lived up to my childhood fantasies.
It feels pretty strange to finish the race like this. For our fate to be decided in a jury room instead of on the water, but that’s our sport and that’s just the way it plays out sometimes. I truly believe we’ve been a winning team in every way, and we did everything we could have, on the shore or out on the water. Whatever happens, it will be amazing to arrive in Genoa, I haven’t let the thought come into my head until now but potentially being a back-to-back Ocean Race winner is pretty insane.
See you all soon
[Amory] “Time never moved faster”
And finally Amory, the man behind the camera, the pictures and words that have allowed millions to follow every inch of this journey alongside the team. Today is in fact his birthday, so it will be one to remember … either way!
Reflective in character, he too struggled to quantify what the final night offshore means and the anticipation of the redress hearing. The final night onboard. How do you quantify such a thing… time never moved faster, in my experience. I take a deep breath while standing at the back of the boat. Looking out at the red moon setting on the horizon I feel the damp, warm air from the coast, watch the glowing jellyfish in the wake, listen to the silence of sailing and gaze for a final time at a dark landscape of stars. Then I tell myself to remember it.
I’m trying to give it a permanent place in my memory. I do these things because tomorrow brings the end of this race and very quickly – far too soon – it’s over, and before you realize it, you’ve forgotten the freedom, the adventure, the adversity, the highs and the lows and the lessons from six hard months of proving to the world and to yourself that you, that we, are capable of amazing things. With another deep breath, I say goodbye, duck back inside, climb into the bunk, switch off my headlamp and start thinking about all the things I need to do in the morning to ensure our last day offshore gets the attention it deserves.
And just like that, the moment is over. I hope I never forget.
And just like that…
So there you have it, the final thoughts from the final night as the sun rises this morning, a new reality dawns… it’s just what that is – well, only time will tell.
The redress hearing will take place at The Ocean Race in Genoa on Thursday June 29, 2023 from 0930. The process could last up to a few hours and results will be on the race’s and team’s social media channels and respective websites immediately.