The home team won in the VO65 class, while all the sailors prepare for final race to Genova starting on Thursday…
The local heroes on the Dutch-flagged Team JAJO made a statement of intent right from the start of the VO65 In Port Race in The Hague on Wednesday afternoon by crossing ahead of the entire fleet on port tack, a high-risk, high-reward manoeuvre that allowed them to build a solid lead at the first turning gate.
Behind them, the overall race leader, WindWhisper Racing Team, rounded in second place with Viva Mexico following. But the Mexican team elected to race the downwind leg with a masthead code zero sail, which didn’t pay off, and allowed Mirpuri/Trifork to make a pass.
On the second lap of the course, WindWhisper skipper Pablo Arrarte worked every shift to split away from Jelmer van Beek’s Team JAJO to try and get a sniff of the lead. But the JAJO team protected well and even extended to earn a wire-to-wire win in front of a delirious home crowd.
“This is so nice,” said van Beek, overcome with emotion after the finish. “The team worked so hard and we got it! We got it in our hometown!! I never expected this. I’m so happy.”
Arrarte’s WindWhisper crew sailed a solid race for second place, holding off Mirpuri-Trifork Racing in third.
“This kind of windward-leeward race course is intense with a lot of manoeuvres but we sailed well and second place is great,” Arrarte said. “It was a good race and I’m happy with the result.”
“We were fourth over the starting line and we managed to overtake the Mexican team and even got close to WindWhisper, so it was an exciting race,” said ‘Chuny’ Bermudez from the Mirpuri-Trifork team. “But big kudos to Team JAJO, they made a great start and stayed ahead.”
There was also action at the back of the fleet, as the crew on Austrian Ocean Racing powered by Team Genova engineered a late comeback, passing Team México just before the finishing line to grab fourth place.
VO65 class – In Port Race – The Hague
1. Team JAJO – 6 points
2. WindWhisper Racing Team – 5 points
3. Mirpuri-Trifork Racing – 4 points
4. Austrian Ocean Racing powered by Team Genova – 3 points
5. Viva México – 2 points
6. Ambersail 2 – DNS – 0 points
RACE PREVIEW – THE HAGUE -> GENOVA
Meanwhile, sailors in both fleets are preparing for a challenging race for the Grand Finale in Genova, Italy.
For the IMOCA fleet that has raced around the world, this ultimate leg of The Ocean Race is decisive – the winner will be crowned in Genova.
Skipper Charlie Enright and his 11th Hour Racing Team have put themselves in a strong position with three consecutive leg wins to build a 2-point lead over Team Holcim-PRB.
As the American team also holds the advantage in the tie-breaking In Port Race Series, the only way for skipper Benjamin Schwartz’s Holcim-PRB team to overcome the deficit is to finish three points clear ahead on this final stage.
“It’s not only up to us to win this leg, we have to finish in front of 11th Hour Racing Team, either in 1st or 2nd, and then they have to be 4th or 5th – those are the only only options,” Schwartz said at the skippers’ press conference on Wednesday. “So we’re going to try to win this leg, and then we’ll need a bit of help from the other teams if we are going to win The Ocean Race.”
For Enright, the task is clear: “We’ve sailed a lot of miles around the world already, but there’s 2,000 very, very, very complex miles left to go,” he said. “We’ve just had our weather briefing and this is shaping up to be like an extended version of the last leg, which was the most complex one that we’ve done to date.
“It’s tricky and the points are close. We’ll still try to sail aggressively, but also stay humble. We recognise where we are, what the situation is, so we’re looking forward to the next leg, and I’m sure it’s gonna come right down to the end, because it always seems to do that.”
Things are slightly easier at the head of the VO65 Sprint fleet, where Poland’s WindWhisper Racing Team has won the opening two stages of the competition. However, by earning second and third place finishes Team JAJO remains within striking distance.
“I think it’s not going to be over until we cross the finish line in Genova,” was the cautious take from Pablo Arrarte, the WindWhisper skipper. “Anything can happen – you can break the boat or you can have other issues. So we’ll approach this stage the same way as the others. We will do our best, sail the boat as fast as possible, and we will work very hard until the finish.”
Gerwin Jansen is leading Austrian Ocean Racing – powered by Team Genova on a race to the team’s home port, so motivation is high.
“Obviously, there’s quite a lot of pressure on us because we’re sailing to our home port, and expectations are high in Genova, but we like the challenge,” Jansen said. “It’s a very long, complicated leg, so I think the key is to stay fresh, and then the plan is to keep close through Gibraltar and then overtake all of them in the Mediterranean!”
Sailors in both fleets spoke about the complexity of the race to the Grand Finale in Genova. The start will take the teams into a North Sea crowded with shipping, wind farms and challenging currents, before the Bay of Biscay and race to Gibraltar offers a more traditional ‘offshore’ style of racing.
But then comes the Mediterranean and the final third of the leg racing through early summer conditions on a body of water that can throw any and all kinds of weather at the fleet.
With all this, it’s shaping up to be a fantastic push to the Grand Finale in Genova, Italy, with the results open in both the VO65 and IMOCA fleets.
Racing starts on Thursday afternoon at 13:10 local time (CEST) for the VO65 class and at 18:15 for the IMOCA fleet.