Wide image of Teams Guyot, Holcim, and other boats in the water during the Ocean Race 2023.
© GUYOT environment - Team Europe | Charles Drapeau

Ocean Race Leg 1 - 2023

By  Matthew Crowe  -  12 Feb 2024

The first leg of The Ocean Race from Alicante in north-east Spain to Mindelo in the Cape Verde Islands kicked off with a tactical and physical challenge for the crews. Unpredictable, gusty winds demanded frequent sail changes as they tacked their way south-west around the Spanish coast. Guyot Environment – Team Europe fell behind the other Imocas shortly after the start when their code zero failed to furl, but with some smart decisions in the difficult, conditions they began to close the gap.

Teams Holcim, Guyot, and other team boats sailing during the Ocean Race 2023.
© GUYOT environment - Team Europe | Charles Drapeau

Turning the corner off Andalucía, the wind and sea state became brutal. The VO65 Viva Mexico tore their mainsail beyond repair and suspended racing, heading to Almería for shelter. The two new-generation Imoca 60s, Holcim PRB and 11th Hour Racing Team, were at the head of the the fleet with the VO65s WindWhisper and Mirpuri Foundation – Racing For The Planet, pursued by Team Jajo, not far behind as they entered the Strait of Gibraltar.


There they faced a storm force headwind that peaked at almost 60 knots, creating big, breaking waves as it blew against a strong, foul current. To make things even more difficult there was, as always in the Strait, a high concentration of shipping traffic plus separation zones and fishing nets to avoid. Holcim-PRB and 11th Hour Racing made it through first, both with a bit of damage while the VO65s WindWhisper and Mirpuri Foundation were engaged in a fierce tacking battle as they fought their way out of the Mediterranean with Jajo on their heels.


Guyot took a northerly route, putting in a gruelling 26 tacks to stay out of the most violent sea state, but still ripped their mainsail between the second and third reef and broke the top two battens. Repairs were impossible until the storm abated so they again fell behind, tacking out of the Strait with a triple-reefed main and storm jib, then dropping the mainsail to repair it while sailing under headsail only as their rivals powered away.

A member of Team Guyot gets splashed onboard their vessel while wearing Dubarry Crosshaven Sailing Boots during the Ocean Race 2023.
© GUYOT environment - Team Europe | Charles Drapeau

Out in the open Atlantic, a new phase of the race began. The violent headwinds were at last replaced by northwesterly trade winds and the boats accelerated south towards the Canary Islands, en route to Cape Verde. The foiling Imocas charged ahead with the leading pair, Holcim and 11th Hour Racing, going west of the rhumb line to avoid the Canaries. Malizia and Biotherm took the same route.


Guyot, with mainsail mended and nothing to lose, tried the alternative tactic of ‘threading the needle’ between the Canary Islands – a gamble because any advantage gained from the shorter distance and the wind acceleration zones between the islands can be more than offset by the wind shadows in their lee, which often extend for 60 miles. It could have paid off as they made good time through the islands but then lost their wind off the African coast while the rest of the fleet, further west, had a strong, fair and constant breeze. With boatspeed of up to 35 knots Holcim covered 520 miles in 24 hours while 11th Hour Racing stayed in contention as they neared the finish at Mindelo.


Most of the VO65s also went through the Canaries rather than around, but not so far to the east as Guyot and had better luck with the wind, with WindWhisper still leading the pack. Mirpuri Foundation went further west, clear of the archipelago and logged a 24-hour run of 476 miles – a VO65 class record. They were still in contention for second place when bad news arrived from the race office. Back in the Strait of Gibraltar, while tacking through the storm, they had strayed into a forbidden Exclusion Zone. They thus retired from the leg leaving Jajo, who tore their J2 headsail in the Gibraltar Strait storm but then found their groove once out of the Med, with a clear run towards second place on the podium behind WindWhisper.


Holcim crossed the finish line off Mindelo just after 0100 local time on Saturday 21 January with an elapsed time of 5 days, 11 hours, 1 minute and 59 seconds, after leading the Imoca fleet for most of the leg. 11th Hour Racing arrived just shy of three hours later with Malizia less than two hours behind. The decisive battle between Holcim and 11th Hour was a tacking duel in very strong winds off southern Spain in which both boats sustained some damage, but when the American team tore their headsail and were forced to slow down and rig a replacement, their French/Swiss rivals gained a lead that they never relinquished.


WindWhisper scored a convincing win in the VO65 class, finishing at 13:11 local time on Saturday 21 January with an elapsed time of 6 days, 1 hour, 11 minutes and 14 seconds. As with the Imocas, being first out of the Mediterranean put them in a very strong position for the rest of the race. Jajo finished three hours and 40 minutes later, with an elapsed time of 6 days, 4 hours and 52 minutes.


The Imocas’ next leg takes them to Cape Town after their pitstop in Cape Verde, while the VO65s will rejoin the race at Aarhus in Denmark on 8th June for the start of Leg Six.


Leg 1 Total
11 HRT 4 4


Stage 1 Total
AMBR2 3 3

Did not Start

Did not finish



Given Redress


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