The victory in the Speed ​​Runs and second place in the 48 hours in doubles were the highlights of the 11th Hour Racing Team, which competed with two boats in the Défi Azimut regatta in Lorient on the French Breton coast.

The team arrived at the event – a unique annual showcase for the IMOCA 60 class – with its two boats – 11th Hour Racing Alaka’i, co-skipper by Simon Fisher (GBR) and Justine Mettraux (SUI), and 11th Hour Racing Mālama, in the hands of Pascal Bidégorry (FRA) and Charlie Enright (USA).

For the latter crew, this was the world premiere of their brand new IMOCA yacht, the first in the class to be built specifically for full crew offshore competition – The Ocean Race. Naturally, this spectacular looking offshore racing machine aroused great interest when it first appeared on the course.

It got off to a good start as Enright and Bidégorry dominated the timing sheets during the famous Azimut Speed ​​Runs Challenge, when the 14 teams entered in the regatta compete to record the fastest timed race on a golf course. one kilometer. This year, it took place in light winds and Mãlama showed her pace to take the lead in the standings.

Then came the centerpiece of the regatta – the 48 hour race – which saw a full range of conditions in the northern Bay of Biscay on a triangular course 550 nautical miles west of Lorient. Unfortunately, at the start of the race, the new boat was forced to retire with damage to its rudder linkage.

Pascal Bidégorry and Charlie Enright were unable to complete the 48 hours of racing due to a deterioration of the helm-rudder connection. Pic – Amory Ross / 11th Hour Racing

As a disappointed Enright explained on the dock at La Base marina in Lorient, he and Bidégorry had managed to put in place a repair but they were not convinced it would last. “We spent most of two hours trying to put the broken tiller bar back in place and found a solution that held up,” he said. “But once we saw how the boat was reacting in five knots of wind, it became pretty clear that there could be an additional risk of unnecessary damage to our new boat with the 25 knots we had ahead of us.”

While there was disappointment for Enright, who was eager to get a few miles under the keel, Fisher and Mettraux enjoyed their own challenge on the ocean, as they put Alaka’i to the test. ‘front of the fleet. Sailing intelligently and always on pace, they performed impressively in winds varying from 5 to 25 knots, to finish in second place behind the winner, Apivia, co-skipper by the French Charlie Dalin and Paul Meilhat.

This was only Fisher and Mettraux’s second race together after finishing third in the Rolex Fastnet Race last month, but they have already made a formidable racing team. “I am super happy with the result,” said a delighted Fisher back at the dock. “It was a really tough race. I’m proud that we managed to keep things together and fight until the end. We are still learning as a team and this experience was important to us, requiring quick turnaround times and intelligent maneuver decision making.

Fisher and Mettraux with flowers and champagne on the quay after the race.
“I am super happy with the result,” said Fisher. Pic – Amory Ross / 11th hour of racing

Mettraux, meanwhile, was thrilled with the performance she and Fisher achieved as they continue their preparation for both the double-handed Transat Jacques Vabre (TJV), from France to the Caribbean in November, and then in the Ocean Race with a full crew. in the world which begins at the end of 2022.

“It’s great to be part of the 11th Hour Racing team and to have the chance to sail this boat with Si Fi,” she said, referring to Fisher by her well-known nickname. “The dynamics of our team are incredible and we are fortunate to have a fantastic crew behind us. It’s great to train with guys like Charlie and Pascal, working towards our shared vision of The Ocean Race.

“And it’s also amazing to work with such a strong shore team that supports and pushes us. We are starting to feel really comfortable with our big challenge this season as a doubles team: the Transat Jacques Vabre.

The Défi Azimut ended with a fun race around the Ile de Groix which is located off Lorient. With the boat fully repaired, the two 11th Hour Racing Team yachts were on the starting line with Fisher and Mettraux finishing sixth and Enright and Bidégorry ninth after just over two hours of racing. The race was won by the French LinkedOut team with Apivia in second place.

Then, Enright summed up an eventful and successful week in Lorient. “It was exciting to see the new boat sail for the first time,” he said. “I think he has a lot of potential, we just need to register the hours, so that we can realize that potential. It was a bit ambitious to get out of the boat so early, against such strong competitors, but that’s how we learn, and it will help us prepare for the Transat Jacques Vabre, which is our big challenge this fall. . “

Enright praised Fisher and Mettraux. “They have sailed a really impressive week, following their convincing debut together in the Fastnet Race. I am delighted to see them seize the opportunity with both hands and we look forward to racing alongside them in the Transat Jacques Vabre, ”he said.

Simon Fisher and Justine Mettraux are eager to improve as a team. Pic – Martin Keruzoré / 11th Hour Racing

Then, for the 11th Hour Racing Team, several weeks of training and technical preparation in Brittany before the crews head to the French port of Le Havre at the end of October, from where the two boats will face the Transat Jacques Vabre.

“We now have a little over a month before we start the Transat Jacques Vabre, which is the big goal of the season,” said Fisher. “Over the next few weeks we will continue to train hard and use the time for a few final preparations. We need to be strong, physically rested and also make the most of the recent training that we have followed in France at the running school in Port-la-Forêt.

“We will also spend time sailing alongside other boats, working on our performance and the dynamics of our crew. I hope that we will have a good month of preparation to arrive at Le Havre all ready to leave ”.

Looking into the next few weeks, Enright added, “Most of what we do now is operational in nature. We have barely scratched the surface on the performance side with the new boat and it will be a few more weeks to get there. We’re going to do extended sea trials and test the systems and we have to get all of those things under control before we get into the performance aspects of the boat.

“There is still a lot of work to be done to prepare the boat for a transatlantic race, but the whole team is rising to the challenge.

For more information on the event, see: https://www.defi-azimut.net/fr


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