A huge crash between 11th Hour Racing and Guyot-environnement leaves just three IMOCAs racing to The Ocean Race final finish in Genoa, and the result of the 27,000-mile race likely hanging on a request for redress
The overall winner of The Ocean Race is likely to be decided in the protest room after a huge collision between 11th Hour Racing and Guyot-environnement – Team Europe shortly after the final leg start on Thursday, 15 June.
The crash occurred just 17 minutes into the start of Leg 7 of The Ocean Race, from The Hague to Genoa in Italy, in a port-starboard incident between the 11th Hour and Guyot-environnement IMOCA 60s. 11th Hour Racing had tacked onto starboard to approach the fourth mark of the course, and were racing in 2nd place.
Guyot-environnement, on port, did not see 11th Hour Racing and did not alter course in time to avoid them. The result was a full-bore ’T-bone’, with Guyot’s bowsprit spearing into the side of 11th Hour’s cockpit, missing skipper Charlie Enright by inches, while Guyot’s bow smashed into the port aft quarter of the 11th Hour IMOCA Malama, leaving a substantial hole.
Incredibly, no crew members were hurt, though all were deeply shocked by the incident.
Guyot’s skipper Benjamin Dutreux, clearly distraught, immediately offered his apologies to Enright. “I was helming, and I just saw their boat appear suddenly, and it was too late. The contact was unavoidable [at that point]. I take full responsibility. It is our fault.”
The French team also pledged to support the Americans in any way they could to get them back on the racecourse. In a painful twist of fate, Guyot had only returned to the race in Aarhus after a mid-Atlantic dismasting thanks to 11th Hour Racing offering up their spare mast.
Ocean Race crash
11th Hour Racing navigator Simon Fisher explained said afterwards, “I’m lost for words. We tacked on our lay line, sailing on starboard for 20 or 30 seconds. Charlie was screaming ‘starboard’ at Guyot, and they did not respond.
“The net result is that they have put their boat firmly in the side of ours. The bowsprit went right through our boat and came out on the inside. We are really lucky that no one got hurt; Charlie was sitting so close to the hatch. Thankfully everyone is ok.
“Personally, I refuse to admit this [race] is over. We would rather try to win it on the water, but we need to find out what our options are, if this can be repaired, and what our redress implications are as a team now, and hopefully move forward.
“I have seen plenty of stuff in my time over six Ocean Races, this is not one of the better ones, but we have a fantastic team, and going into today, we were in a fantastic position, and that is thanks to the team we have. If I wanted to be with any group of people in adversity, it’s them.”
Skipper Charlie Enright echoed the sentiment, saying: “This race has a way of testing people in different ways – physically and mentally, and this is a test for our team. There is no team I would rather be on, that I would rather have with me. If anyone can figure this out, it is us.”
11th Hour set off for Genoa
11th Hour Racing officially retired from the leg the following day, and lodged a request for redress. The request will be heard by the World Sailing International Jury, which under the Racing Rules of Sailing may compensate a boat when “a boat’s score or place in a race or series has been or may be, through no fault of her own, made significantly worse.”
Clearly 11th Hour Racing will be hoping to be awarded an average of their previous leg points in order to hold onto their lead.
The team also spent 72 hours working around the clock to effect a repair that would get the IMOCA back on the water.
This evening, Sunday 18 June, the race crew left The Hague in the hopes of delivering the boat some 2,500 miles to Genoa in time for the final in-port racing, which will take place on July 1.
Going into the start of Leg 7, 11th Hour Racing was sitting at the top of the overall leaderboard, following a hat-trick of winning three legs in a row. Enright’s team had 33 points, with Holcim-PRB in 2nd on 31 points, and Team Malizia in 3rd with 27 points.
With both Guyot-environnement and 11th Hour Racing having retired from Leg 7, there are now just three IMOCAs racing to the race’s finale.
Meanwhile the current Leg 7 leader, Holcim-PRB, is sailing under a new skipper after Kevin Escoffier stood down in Aarhus following an incident at the previous stopover in Newport.
Escoffier confirmed that he would not longer be skipper for the remainder of The Ocean Race following what he described in a post as an ‘alleged incident’ (the line was later deleted). Details of the circumstances that led to Escoffier standing down have not been confirmed by either the team or The Ocean Race organisers.
It was later reported in both the German and French sailing media that allegations of harassment were made by a young woman at the US stopover. The incident is understood to be being handled by the French Sailing Federation (FFV), the French national sailing authority.
Benjamin Schwartz has been appointed Holcim-PRB skipper for the duration of the race. Schwartz was part of the technical support team for previous race winners Dongfeng, and is navigator on Spindrift/Sails for Change giant trimaran.
Race decided by redress?
For the race and its fans, this has been a devastating sequence of events. While Holcim-PRB was the stand-out team for the opening stages, and Malizia impressive in the gripping Southern Ocean leg, 11th Hour Racing were delivering a zero-to-hero comeback story.
Having overcome several potentially race-ending breakages on the long Southern Ocean Leg 3, to win back to back wins over Legs 4, 5 and 6 – including into their home port of Newport – was shaping up to be a fairy tale finish for the US team, And with just two points separating 11th Hour and Holcim-PRB over the unpredictable leg from northern Europe, across Biscay and deep into the Mediterranean, there was potential for a nail-biting finale.
Now the outcome of the 27,000-mile race is likely to be settled in the jury room.