It's all change onboard the IMOCA 60s for The Ocean Race leg 4, which starts on Sunday, with In-Port racing set for Friday 21 April
Crew rotation is proving to be a big feature in this edition of The Ocean Race and once again the crews are being mixed up on all boats as the teams prepare to take on Leg 4 of the round the world race, this time racing from Itajai, Brazil to Newport, USA. The fourth leg of The Ocean Race is due to start Sunday 23 April 2023, with in-port racing taking place Friday 21 April.
Although crew rotation is a feature across the five-boat fleet, for two of the teams in particular there are some significant changes. The race is now a little over half-way complete with approximately 55% of the points still remaining, so if you’re going to make some changes, Itajaí seems like a sensible place to do it.
However, it’s often said that in offshore racing, experience is everything. So with multiple crew changes on Team Holcim-PRB, for example, does this make the overall race leader vulnerable going into Leg 4? Could this be an opportunity for the other teams to push skipper Kevin Escoffier and his new line-up? Or will fresh bodies and minds prove to be a positive for the team.
For one team, this fourth leg of the race will be a return to racing after GUYOT environnement – Team Europe were forced to retire from the massive Southern Ocean leg 3 of the event after they discovered hull damage shortly after the start. The team went straight from Cape Town to Itajai and have been racing to complete repairs to their IMOCA 60 ahead of the start of this fourth leg.
Current race leader, Team Holcim-PRB, sees skipper Kevin Escoffier about to set sail with a completely different crew line-up than for Leg 3. Stepping on board for the first time are Annemieke Bes (NED) and Benjamin Schwartz (FRA), while Fabien Delahaye (FRA) moves from shore duties to racing on the boat for the first time.
“I chose this crew for several reasons,” said Escoffier. “First, I wanted to have an international crew, with different cultures. Secondly, I selected Fabien’s profile because he already knows the boat as he sailed her at the end of 2022 from Pointe-à-Pitre on the way back from the Route du Rhum – Destination Guadeloupe.
“I then looked for a versatile crew member, and Annemieke’s profile matched exactly what I was expecting. She has already done a Volvo Ocean Race with a crew, she has been an Olympian [Olympic silver medal, 2008] and is very strong physically. To complete the team, the profile of Benjamin Schwartz was ideal, as he has a lot of skills, has also done multihulls, and is very experienced in terms of electronics and pilot,” explained the skipper.
“As the crew is new, to get the sailors into the swing of things, I have already sent them documents before their arrival on the specifics of the boat. I have sent them various sheets that summarise our knowledge of the boat and the trim book that we fill in as we sail. They will also take part in the boat’s performance debrief next week. This is already allowing us to make progress ahead of the sailing next week.” Georgia Schofield (NZL) steps back on board as the On Board Reporter (OBR).
There are also big changes on Biotherm, with skipper Paul Meilhat (FRA) bringing in three new crew members. For Leg 4 he’ll be joined by British sailor Alan Roberts (GBR), a nine-time participant on the French Figaro singlehanded circuit, Portuguese sailor Mariana Lobato (POR), Olympian and 2013 Match Racing World Champion, and French sailor Marie Riou, (FRA), a four-time Nacra 17 World Champion, Olympian and winner of the Volvo Ocean Race 2018 with Dongfeng Racing Team. Anne Beaugé (FRA) will be back aboard as OBR. This means the Biotherm boat will be sailing with 2 women and 2 men as race crew, and 3 women on board in total including the OBR.
11th Hour Racing Team
Francesca Clapcich (ITA) steps back on board 11th Hour Racing Team, taking the place of Justine Mettraux (SUI), part of their regular rotation. Jack Bouttell (AUS/ GBR) is doing the In-Port Race in Itajaí but steps off the boat for leg 4, with shore-based team member Damian Foxall (IRL) joining the race crew for the first time. The Irishman is a six-time veteran of The Ocean Race, with over 450,000 nautical miles under his belt. “I was really pleased when Charlie asked me if I would sail onboard for this next Leg to Newport,” commented Foxall. “Every time the race has come to Itajaí, I’ve either sailed into or out of the city, so I’m really proud to be doing it once again. I’ll be stepping into some big boots and racing alongside fantastic sailors across the fleet, but we have what I believe is one of the best boats for this leg, so I’m looking forward to getting going.”
Olympian Clapcich is looking forward to getting back on board the boat. “It has been almost two months since I’ve raced on board, and I have missed it. I am raring to go, and we will be pushing as hard as we can to climb that leaderboard. Now is our time. Before leaving home, I told my wife: ‘We are going to win this leg.’ I also think it’s good to come in fresh, without having sailed the previous leg, which is what Damian and I will be doing. This is an important leg for the team, and I’m pleased to be on board for it.”
British sailor Will Harris will be Team Malizia’s skipper for Leg 4 of The Ocean Race, taking over the role for the second time in the round-the-world race. New addition to the international team is French offshore sailor Christopher Pratt (FRA). He will replace Boris Herrmann who, as planned, is sitting out the race from Itajaí to Newport. Pratt has a wealth of IMOCA experience across various projects on the French racing circuit. “I am really happy to join Team Malizia on the next leg of The Ocean Race,” said the 42-year-old Frenchman. “Taking part in this race is a childhood dream come true. I have been following the race very closely from the start and even more during the last leg. I am impressed by the commitment and the resilience of the crew winning the longest leg of the race. I am really looking forward to joining the team in Itajaí and I will do my best to bring my experience and enthusiasm to the crew.”
GUYOT environnement – Team Europe
GUYOT environnement – Team Europe are sticking with the same crew that set out on Leg 3. That wasn’t originally in the plan, but after the retirement of the boat from Leg 3, skipper Benjamin Dutreux and the team have decided that it would be best to retain the continuity of crew from the previous leg. Most of the crew took the opportunity to rest and recuperate back at home, so they have had a good few weeks to recharge and get ready for a strong performance up the Atlantic. “We can’t wait to get racing,” Dutreux said. “This is an interesting leg for most of us as we don’t normally sail up the west side of the Atlantic, so there will be a lot to learn and experience for us.”
How to follow The Ocean Race leg 4
The Ocean Race website will be providing key content for 2022-23 edition including latest news and analysis, videos and photos from the yachts (each IMOCA 60 has a dedicated reporter onboard) and a full racing section featuring the offshore race tracker, rankings and scoreboard.
Each leg start and finish will be covered live by Warner Bros. Discovery and shown on Eurosport platforms, including Eurosport.com. Outside of Europe, and depending on the territory, you may be able to access live coverage via YouTube.com/theoceanrace.
At 1200 UTC every day during the offshore legs, there will be a programme called The Race Report – a two-minute quick fix that tells the story of the previous 24 hours in the Race.
Niall Myant-Best will also host The Ocean Race Show, a longer format programme that takes a deeper dive into the stories at sea. This too will be available on the race website YouTube and The Ocean Race Facebook channels.
You can also catch all the latest The Ocean Race content on our The Ocean Race homepage.
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