Leg 7 started off with a bang—literally—when Guyot-Environment hit 11th Hour Racing Team. Visibility is limited on IMOCA 60s, and a simple port-starboard crossing ended in disaster, when Guyot-Environment was unable to avoid the American boat. Both teams were forced to retire from the race, and Guyot-Environment was quick to offer their team and resources to help 11th Hour Racing Team back on the water. 11th Hour Racing Team filed for redress.
“What happened was an accident, and this kind of accident is happening every weekend on every kind of boat,” says IMOCA 60 Class President Antoine Mermod. “We will have a strong debriefing on the situation and will think about improving the rules for safety, but on the other hand, it’s sailing. In Optimists you have accidents, and in all the classes up from there you have accidents. The most important thing is that no one got hurt.”
For the remaining three boats, the rest of the leg was plagued with light winds, and in the final hours, Malizia and Biotherm pulled ahead of Holcim-PRB to score five and four points respectively. This meant that Holcim-PRB, scoring three points for third place, became the fleet leader by just a single point.
Based on the in-port tiebreaker series, 11th Hour Racing Team would win a tie with Holcim-PRB, so they only needed one point in redress to win the event overall.
On the eve of the redress hearing, Holcim-PRB filed a protest against the American team for failing to avoid Guyot-Environment—a last ditch attempt to maintain their lead.
The Jury Trial
A jury convened in Genoa, Italy, this morning to determine the outcome of both the protest and the redress case. All teams in the race were involved in the redress hearing because awarding points to 11th Hour Racing Team would affect the whole fleet.
The protest was thrown out because Holcim-PRB failed to fly a protest flag, failed to notify 11th Hour Racing Team, and the rules relating to the start of the leg did not allow for third-party protests.
11th Hour Racing Team CEO Mark Towill said he had “no negative feelings” toward Holcim-PRB, as they must do what’s best for the team and the sponsors. Others have been less generous, condemning the Hail Mary attempt at undermining 11th Hour Racing Team’s redress case as unsportsmanlike.
Next, the jury announced that they would be awarding 11th Hour Racing Team the average points from previous legs in redress—four points in total, enough to win the event outright twice over.
The jury called 11th Hour Racing Team this morning to notify them of the results. The crew is still en route to Genoa and expected to arrive this afternoon, local time. The news was met with excitement (and a swim in the ocean), but the crewmembers say that it doesn’t feel real yet.
This is a landmark moment for American sailing as 11th Hour Racing Team is the first American team in the race’s 50-year history to win. Perhaps more significantly, this marks the first major IMOCA 60 event to be won by an American campaign. The class, which has been around for 30 years, is usually dominated by French sailors. In fact, 11th Hour Racing Team was the only boat in the fleet without a skipper who had Vendée Globe experience. Additionally, crew member Frankie Clapchich is now the first Italian to win the race and has said that winning at a finale in her home country is a dream.
The sailors are always quick to credit their success to preparation, and in particular to the hard work of their shore crew. Undoubtedly all involved with this campaign have much to be proud of.
For more on 11th Hour Racing Team, click here.
For more information on the race, go to theoceanrace.com