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GJW Direct 2020

11th Hour Racing wins The Ocean Race, Melges 24 Worlds, Transpac starts

by David Schmidt 4 Jul 16:00 BST July 4, 2023
11th Hour Racing Team celebrating winning the Ocean Race 2022/2023 - 29 June, 2023 © Harry KH / 11th Hour Racing / The Ocean Race

As our nation prepares to celebrate its 247th birthday, no doubt with fireworks, cookouts, gatherings, libations, and other star-spangled celebrations, the American sailing community has extra reason to celebrate: an American-flagged boat has won The Ocean Race (née the Whitbread Race and the Volvo Ocean Race) for the first time in the event's 50-year history.

Granted, skipper Charlie Enright and his 11th Hour Racing teammates would have preferred to have won the trophy without any time in the protest room, but those dice were cast on June 25, 27 minutes into the start of Leg 7, when GUYOT environnement - Team Europe, sailing on port tack, ploughed into the port side of 11th Hour Racing's Malama, punching a gaping hole in the IMOCA 60, which had been sailing on starboard.

As reported, the team worked around the clock to get Malama into a seaworthy state, and then set off from The Hague to the port of Genoa, Italy, in time for last weekend's in-port racing.

But, before the starting guns could fire for the in-port racing, word broke that World Sailing's International Jury had concluded the redress hearing and that 11th Hour Racing was awarded four points, making them the overall winners of the 2023 edition of The Ocean Race.

"I'm absolutely ecstatic," said Enright in an official communication. "This race takes everything out of you - emotionally, mentally, and physically. I'm incredibly proud of our whole team who have worked tirelessly for three years to get to this point. There have been highs, some incredible highs, but also lows that have knocked us all, but they were all worth it to hear this news today."

While this was obviously huge news for the team, Enright and crew rallied hard over the weekend and also took first place in the light-air in-port racing. This on-the-water win was enough to earn the team the top standing in 2023 In-Port Series, in addition to their overall win.

"It was a complicated day out there with not a lot of wind, a pretty whacky racecourse, and not the greatest start for us," said Enright in an official team release. "But I think that the performance was pretty typical of our team, you know? We kept fighting and took the opportunity when it presented itself. Today was probably a case of better lucky than good but I guess when you are rolling you are rolling, so I'll take it! It's a fairy tale ending to what has been a great experience for this whole campaign."

Sail-World tips our hat to the proud efforts that Enright, Mark Towill, and the entire 11th Hour Racing Team put into this win. If shooting off fireworks are part of your 4th of July celebrations, be sure to (responsibly) fire off a few extra rockets for a mission to win The Ocean Race that began with the 2007 Transpac Race and Disney's Morning Light project, and included two previous Volvo Ocean Race campaigns en route to realizing sweet victory 16 years later on the waters off of Genoa, Italy.

American efforts were also successful at the 2023 Melges 24 World Championships, which just concluded on the waters off of Middelfart, Denmark, where skipper Drew Freides and his Pacific Yankee team took top honors. They were joined on the winner's podium by skipper Peter Duncan (USA) and his Raza Mixta crew, and by skipper Ante Botica (CRO; Corinthian) and his Mataran 24 squad.

"The last day was exactly as we had feared: tough and close sailing, and we had to fight all day to secure the world championship - and we were lucky that we ended up winning," said Freides in an event communication. "In the fall, we put together a team that we thought had the ability to win the World Championship. And a very special person joined the team - our coach, Vince Brun, who in 1998 and 1999 became the first Melges 24 world champion. So, it was very special to win the championship with him here in Middelfart."

The 2024 Melges 24 Worlds is set to unfurl on the waters of San Francisco Bay, and you can bet your last roll of duct tape that Freides and his Pacific Yankee crew will be on hand to defend their title on (close-to) home waters.

Finally, the final starters began racing the 2023 Transpac Race on July 1, and the race frontrunners (read: the first of three starting groups), led by a pair of Dehler 46s, are (as of this writing) now nearing the halfway mark.

But, with three MOD70 trimarans, multiple Santa Cruz 70s and Andrews 68s, and Bill Lee's original sled Merlin in the pursuing pack, it's fair to say that the lead will likely change hands before the first celebratory mai tais are enjoyed in Honolulu.

Sail-World wishes safe and fast passage to all Transpac racers, and while I'm not the fireworks type (because it freaks out my dog), I certainly plan to raise a glass to Enright and his 11th Hour Racing team for showing the kind of commitment, gumption, and dogged perseverance that's required to win something as big as The Ocean Race.

While our beautiful country has seen its share of trials, bruises, and wins in our proud 247-year history, I'm confident that same gumption, grit, and dedication to cause that helped propel Malama to the top of the The Ocean Race's leaderboard will also help ensure that the USA is still proudly flying her flags in the year 2270.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt North American Editor

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