The Summer Solstice, and final month, of The Ocean Race has been packed full of drama. This six month quest of racing around the world has delivered as much excitement in the final few days as we have seen in the previous five months.
The fleet arrived in Aarhus with Biotherm, having saved their rig from near disaster crossing the Atlantic, finishing on a shortened course and having a quick pit stop in Norway. They arrived with just hours to spare before crossing the start line for the In Port Race. Despite all this adversity, the team showed their resilience by taking the win. It was the script that dreams were made of.
I was commentating on the action with presenter Niall Myant-Best and the Warner Brothers Discovery Team from a sound booth in London and, although not there in person, we were still gripped by the action. The Kiel flyby went smoothly with the boats well-spaced out, which allowed us to follow them all. Back out to the North Sea and finding their way through the wind farms, oil rigs, exclusion zones and shipping lanes, the fleet made their way to The Hague where 11th Hour Racing took line honours with their competitors in sight for the final miles.
The Hague continued to deliver fairy tale results in the In Port Race as Guyot Environment Team Europe had the best start. They crossed the line at full speed and went on to extend their lead and dominate, building confidence for the team and their fans that they were back in the race and meant business. However, this euphoria was sadly short lived as during the start of the Final Leg leaving The Hague, a port starboard incident between Guyot Environment Team Europe and 11th Hour Racing put both boats out of the race and having to return to dock. This left the remaining three teams to thrash it out in a tricky and intense battle to the Grand Finale in Genoa. Guyot Environment Team Europe retired from the leg due to the damage they had sustained. They managed to patch the boat and limp back to their hometown, out of the race. In their own race against the clock, 11th Hour Racing Team put in one of the most impressive displays of tenacity and determination we have seen for a while. The Shore Team and some willing helpers split into shifts to work around the clock to deal with the repair. Within 48hours of returning to port, they were able to set off again to deliver their boat to the final destination of the race.
As I went to bed the night before, the arrivals had Team Holcim PRB leading, with Biotherm in second and Malizia in third. They were all within sight of each other, as they had been throughout the leg, but were faced with a wind shut down which is very typical of the Mediterranean at this time of year. What resulted overnight, was a complete re shuffle of the fleet with the fortunes of Malizia and Holcim PRB turned on their heads. It was Boris Hermann’s team that came in to take the win of the final leg, Biotherm held second place and Team Holcim PRB completing the podium. This final leg was incredibly intense and, as we all suspected, the final roll of the dice was in the final 50 miles of the leg.
However, the overall winner of this edition of The Ocean Race was still not confirmed until the redress hearing by the International Jury was held two days later. 11th Hour Racing had requested redress due to the collision at the start of the leg which had prevented them from racing and completing the final leg of this round the world odyssey. The jury awarded them 4 points, which left them 3 points clear of Team Holcim PRB in 2ndplace and Team Malizia in 3rd place. It was emotional to see this race end and fantastic to see racing that was so much closer than I anticipated between the IMOCA fleet. I am looking forward to seeing these boats back out in the action for the Rolex Fastnet Race or the Transat Jaques Vabre later in the year.
In amongst all this, I travelled to Paris for the official launch of an exciting project I am involved in. On the top floor of the UNESCO building in Paris, with the Eiffel Tower as a backdrop, The Famous Project was officially launched. Alexia Barrier is heading up an exciting new project which will lead us to attempt a Jules Verne Record. After a great deal of work behind the scenes, we were all very proud to take this campaign to the next level by welcoming onboard our sponsors and revealing our plans for the project. You can follow The Famous Project progress and news on all the social channels and, of course, I will be doing my best to keep you updated.
I finished the month engaged by the RYA in launching their new strategy, ‘Together on Water.’ Their bold vision is to open up boating, in all its forms, to new audiences by celebrating the passions and benefits of being on the water and advocating opportunities for all to find and enjoy their place among the UK’s boating communities. Coupled with a refreshed new brand identity, ‘Together on Water’ sets out how the RYA will work in partnership to connect more people than ever, from all locations and backgrounds, with everything the water has to offer. This long-term vision will see the RYA’s work extend further than before, helping more people feel welcome, included and inspired to discover and safely develop their skills. Now we all know Rome was not built in a day and change takes time, but I feel very positive by this proactive approach to change the perceptions of our sport and encourage more people to enjoy what so many of us are passionate about.