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Ocean Globe Race news, Middle Sea Race report, IMOCA 60 class decisions

by David Schmidt 24 Oct 2023 16:00 BST October 24, 2023
Swan 651 Spirit of Helsinki triumphs in the Ocean Globe Race! © ClubSwan

Cape Town, South Africa, might not be especially close to North America, but it's fair to say that many of us have been paying close attention to the sailboats finishing the first leg of the Ocean Globe Race on the waters below Cape Town's fabled Table Mountain. This so-called "retro race" is attempting to recreate the conditions and situations encountered during the 1973 Whitbread Round the World Race, and, as such, entrants must compete aboard vessels built prior to 1988.

Navigators must also use sextants, not the global navigation satellite system (e.g. GPS, Galileo) to determine position, and weather routing is typically conducted with binoculars, not the latest PredictWind GRIB file downloaded off of a yacht's Starlink.

While many eyes were riveted to skipper Marie Tabarly and her Pen Duick VI team, who are competing in the race's Flyer Class aboard one of history's more famous ocean racers, ultimately, it was skipper Jussi Paavoseppä's Spirit of Helsinki team, racing aboard their Swan 651 in the race's Sayula Class, that took the win.

"We didn't have any lows or highs, and that was the tactic, and not to drive the boat too hard," said Paavoseppä in an official race report, after finishing the 39-day passage from Southampton, England. "We went three weeks without any weather information so we decided to take the old-fashioned route. Our weather guy in Finland had said to go 35 degrees is risky and we went 38.5 degrees and it went well."

Pen Duick VI arrived a day later, and while Tabarly was disappointed that her crew didn't take line honors, it's clear that her mind has already moved to the Southern Ocean legs.

"The crew have bonded from the very beginning," said Tabarly in an event communication. "We have a lot of fun, a lot of love and we joke a lot. We have a team of 21 and I'm looking forward to the new guys arriving. These are my warriors for the Southern Ocean. It will be a different mood."

While Tabarly successfully guided her steed from the UK to South Africa sans incident, this changed on the dock. Tabarly was reportedly reaching to grab docking lines from the Translated 9 crew, who were the third boat into town, when a rogue sea lion made its presence felt.


"I went to take Translated 9's lines as they were coming into the dock," said Tabarly in the same race report. "There was a big seal lion at the end of the pontoon so I jumped above the seal but he grabbed my leg and I fell into the water. I got back on the pontoon, took the lines and then noticed I had a hole in my leg and I was bleeding everywhere. I now know why they're called sea lions."

Tabarly is in the hospital, but she is expected to be at the helm of Pen Duick VI when the team charges into the Southern Ocean.

Unfortunately, this isn't the case for all entrants. According to official race reports, it's now believed that the crews aboard Explorer and Godspeed will not reach Cape Town in time for the start of Leg 2, which will take the fleet to Auckland, New Zealand.

Meanwhile, on Mediterranean waters, reports are emerging that the 44th edition of the Rolex Middle Sea Race is yielding classic conditions, with the breeze building as teams approach the Messina Strait.

"Basically, it was all about staying close to the right side of the strait for the shift, then short tacking the beach," said Will Best, navigator aboard the supermaxi Leopard, about escaping these waters ahead of Lucky and Pyewacket 70, in a race communication. "I think the breeze just hangs on the edge at night. We got out the top just in time. Literally five minutes later and we would have been sitting with the rest."

While the supermaxis are always impressive, Pacific Northwest sailors are likely paying close attention to the doublehanded IRC 6 class, where Christina and Justin Wolfe's Sun Fast 3300 Red Ruby is in the pole position. The Wolfes hail from Orcas Island, in Washington State's San Juan Islands, and have proven themselves fast on any racecourse.

Sail-World wishes all teams competing in this classic 600-miler great luck as they navigate their way around what is often described as one of the world's most beautiful racecourses.

Also in offshore circles, the IMOCA 60 class recently voted against the adoption of T-foil rudders, and they have also opted to move ahead on efforts to reduce the class's carbon signature at their annual general meeting. T-foil rudders would have helped transform the class from semi-foilers to fully flying boats, but the class recognizes that a sea-change in technology would immediately cause obsolescence amongst the older boats, and would also require significant re-configuring (rigs, structure) of now-contemporary boats.

While the class anticipates possibly evolving into foilers, as with so many things in life, it sounds as though this decision boils down to timing.

One place where the class intends to move ahead, however, involves attempting to reduce the environmental wake caused by building new boats.

"Our goal is to push down the impact of building a new IMOCA and I am delighted that the skippers and teams are fully behind the work that we are doing in the Class on this," said Antoine Mermod, president of the IMOCA class, in a class communication.

"Now we are proposing a new rule, that is inspired by one used in the America's Cup, to reduce carbon emissions during new boat building," continued Mermod. "This rule has been created through consultation with our teams, suppliers, builders and the whole industry involved. This is the first step towards establishing a carbon cap for the IMOCA Class."

IMOCA 60 fans are reminded that the Transat Jacques Vabre Normandie Le Havre is expected to begin on October 29.

Finally, much closer to home, this week marks the start of the J/70 Worlds (October 27-November 5), which are being hosted by the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, Florida. As of this writing, 99 teams have registered to compete in this international-level regatta, including former class world champions.

Sail-World wishes good luck to all competing teams, and we look forward to following this regatta, as it unfurls.

May the four winds blow you safely home,

David Schmidt North American Editor

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