The International Monohull Open Class Association (IMOCA) participation in The Ocean Race is a significant departure and a new adventure for the class, and some are calling it a revolution. The race is happening in less than eight months, with at least four highly competitive international teams now confirmed on the start line and the prospect of more to come. The start date for leg one of The Ocean Race 2022-23 has been confirmed with both IMOCA and VO65 fleets scheduled to burst from the starting blocks on Jan. 15, 2023, from Alicante on Spain’s Mediterranean coast.
The scuttlebutt among IMOCA skippers is that this event will mark the start of a new era for IMOCA with significantly more boats taking part in the race following 2023.
Paul Meilhat, the skipper of the new foiler, Biotherm, currently completing construction at the Persico yard in Italy, has always been supportive of IMOCA joining The Ocean Race. Meilhat is relishing the chance to show how it can work for IMOCA teams on both a commercial and sporting level.
“I was one of the first who believed strongly in this race three years ago,” said Meilhat in the June 1 IMOCA news release. “I think The Ocean Race is exactly the event that meets the needs of our programme in the IMOCA 60s, which has always been dominated by French sailors and the same racetracks. I believe this really will be a mind-opening revolution for the Class.”
German skipper Boris Herrmann in his new VPLP-designed Malizia-Seaexplorer (which will be ready by mid-July) will be alongside Meilhat on The Ocean race.
“IMOCA in The Ocean Race is the future,” said Herrmann in the news release. “This race will put IMOCA on an international platform and create a wider following. We have been pushing for this for a long time as it adds so many elements: not only a great international circuit for our partners, but the opportunity to sail together with a team and to push boats through the Southern Ocean. This creates so many learning opportunities and can only make the Class and the teams stronger.”
The remaining line-up is made of four teams, including the 11th Hour Racing Team-Mālama, skippered by American sailor Charlie Enright, and the most recently announced addition to the field, GUYOT environment-Team Europe. Formerly known as Offshore Team Germany and co-skippered by Frenchman Benjamin Dutreux and the German former Olympic sailor Robert Stanjek, this crew won The Ocean Race Europe in 2021 and is now sailing the former Hugo Boss that finished second in the Vendée Globe in 2016-17.
“I think it will open the way for new sponsors, and it will bring new opportunities to find new and fresh sponsors from different countries,” said Dutreux in the news release. “Like the other three campaigns, this team has a strong environmental message to take around the planet to stopovers in eight host cities aligned with The Ocean Race’s commitment to restoring ocean health. “For us and Guyot environnement, it is an opportunity to be part of this legendary race and to open minds around the world,” said Dutreux.
The Ocean Race features eight offshore legs and a course of 32,000 nautical miles in its 14th edition. It will showcase IMOCAs alongside the one-design VO65 fleet, with the two classes competing for separate trophies. It includes the most extended single leg – a 12,750-mile marathon from Cape Town, South Africa, to Itajaí, Brazil. It promises to be an exciting battle as the crews make their way from Alicante to the finish line at Genoa.
For three of the teams involved, The Ocean Race will follow participation in the solo Route du Rhum-Destination Guadeloupe transatlantic race that starts from St Malo in early November. As a result, it will be a strict schedule to prepare for The Ocean Race in January. However, the delivery back from the Caribbean offers a chance for crew training, with teams expected to sail in The Ocean Race with four up, including one female sailor and an additional On-Board Reporter (OBR).