Wide image of a member from Team Guyot in action while at sea during the sixth leg of the Ocean Race 2023.

Ocean Race Leg 6 - 2023

By  Matthew Crowe  -  01 May 2024

The shortest leg in The Ocean Race was an 800-mile, three-day coastal passage race through the crowded and complex coastal waters of the Baltic and North Seas from Aarhus in Denmark via Kiel in Germany to The Netherlands’ capital, The Hague. It presented quite a different set of challenges for the teams, compared to the five previous legs of the race, with narrow channels, confined waters, variable winds and lots of other marine traffic to avoid.

© GUYOT environment - Team Europe | Gauthier Lebec

Weather and wind conditions tend to be much more complex in coastal waters than they are offshore. In a boat with hydrofoils, like the Ocean Race Imoca 60s, a two-knot difference of wind speed or a small shift in wind direction can almost instantly double your boatspeed – or cut it in half. Things like the precise timing of a sail change, snap decisions about tactics or navigation, or often just good or bad luck, can win or lose the whole race.


Overall victory was still wide open for the three leading teams, with 11th Hour Racing just one point ahead of Holcim-PRB in the ranking and Malizia still in contention.


For this penultimate leg and the last one to Genoa, the fleet of five VO65 yachts has rejoined The Ocean Race. Sailing separately from the Imoca 60s that have raced all the way around the world, they had a shorter course on Leg 6, from Aarhus direct to The Hague without a detour through the Baltic to Kiel.


Before any of that, the in-port race in Aarhus was staged in steady winds and blazing sunshine – the sort of weather where UV protection is crucial for sailors. Several of the teams, and some sailors on the other boats, were wearing Dubarry Aquatech gear. Designed specifically for intense, fast-paced yacht racing, it’s an ideal clothing system for these conditions with UPF-40 and UPF-50 protection built in. Discover our range of UPF 40+ clothing for men and women.


In the Imoca fleet it was Biotherm’s chance to shine. They had only arrived in Aarhus the evening before, limping into port at the end of Leg 5 with a broken rig. Straight back out on the water the next day they made a perfect start, storming across the line right on the gun and steadily extending their lead over four laps to the course.


WindWhisper also sailed an almost perfect race in the VO65s, albeit with Team Jajo slightly ahead at the start and then snapping at their heels all the way around the course.


Three days later, the Imoca fleet was back up to full strength with Guyot, who lost their mast in a storm during the previous transatlantic leg and were forced to retire, lining up for the start of Leg 6. Getting their badly broken boat back in the race was an enormous effort by the crew and their shore team – and it would not have been possible without a lot of support from the other four teams.


The ten boats left Aarhus on Thursday 8 June in two fleets. The five VO65s were first to start at 4:15pm in a gentle breeze. Team Jajo made the best start and led the fleet out to sea after two laps of a short inshore course, followed by Mirpuri and Viva México. WindWhisper was over the line by a split second and had to go back. Austrian Ocean Racing was penalised for an infringement against Mirpuri on the start line and trailed the fleet after having to take a penalty turn.

© GUYOT environment - Team Europe | Gauthier Lebec

When the five Imocas started, two hours later, the wind had almost completely died – which made for a slow, stressful start with some aggressive tactics. Holcim gained the advantage in a start line duel with Malizia and pushed their rivals over the line before the gun, forcing them to restart. After a tense wait, totally becalmed, 11th Hour Racing were first to catch the breeze, clear the leaving gate and turn their bow towards Kiel. They held onto that lead all the way to Kiel, finding more breeze on the approach to the city than their competitors. They sailed back out of the Kiel Förde as their rivals were sailing in, with a seven-mile lead over second-placed Holcim. The wind then shifted and filled, however, cutting their lead in half and enabling third-placed Biotherm to narrow the gap with Holcim. At this stage, Guyot and Malizia were about 13 miles behind.


The VO65s, meanwhile, sailed north from Aarhus to a turning mark off Langesund in Norway, then south across the Skagerrak and finally west, out into the North Sea. They had shifting and gusty winds to contend with, so the teams had an exhausting first night of relentless manoeuvres and sail changes. It was tight at the front with WindWhisper battling to stay in front of Mirpuri, both heading offshore while the other three behind them, led by Jaja, stayed close to the coast as the breeze and boatspeed steadily increased. The distance between first and fifth placed boats was only 25 miles.


The two fleets converged together on Saturday as they raced south along the west coast of Denmark at a scorching pace. 11th Hour Racing held their lead in the Imoca class but only just, with Holcim in sight just behind. By Sunday morning there was only a few hundred metres between them as they tacked upwind – and Malizia had also caught up, making for an intensely close three-boat race for the finish line. It was almost as close for the VO65s, with WindWhisper less than three miles ahead of Mirpuri and Jajo.


With 20 miles to go, 11th Hour had once again gained a mile on their rivals. The wind began to ease, slowing them down to 6 knots but it wasn’t enough to allow the chasers to catch up and they won their third consecutive leg with a 12-minute margin over Holcim, who were barely a minute in front of third-placed Malizia. Fourth-placed Biotherm finished 50 minutes after 11th Hour and Guyot was an hour and five behind.


The close finish was then repeated in the VO65s, with WindWhisper crossing the line 10 minutes ahead of Mirpuri – and six minutes after the fourth-placed Imoca, Biotherm. Team Jajo arrived in their home port 13 minutes after Mirpuri. Austrian Ocean Racing came in fourth, with Viva México fifth – little more than an hour behind the leader.


It was a great day for the Dutch sailors in both fleets, with the king and queen of The Netherlands joining the home crowd to watch them finish – and especially for Malizia’s Rosalin Kuiper as the royal couple came aboard to meet her just a few moments after she finished the race.


Going into the final leg of The Ocean Race, 11th Hour now have a two-point advantage over Holcim in the overall rankings, with Malizia four points behind. WindWhisper has a stronger lead in the VO65 Sprint Cup, having won the first two legs of their three-leg race, now three points ahead of Jajo.


The last leg, from The Hague to Genoa, starts on Thursday 15 June.


Leg 1 Leg 2 Leg 3 Leg 4 Leg 5 Penalty Leg 6 Total
11 HRT 4 3 6 5 10 - 5 33
HOLCIM 5 5 9 0 8 - 4 31
MALIZ 3 2 9 4 6 - 3 27
BIOTH 2 4 4 3 4 - 2 19
GUYOT 1 1 0 0 0 -1 1 2


Stage 1 Stage 2 Total
WHSPR 6 6 12
TJAJO 5 4 9
AUTOR 4 3 7
MFRTP 0 5 5
VIMEX 2 2 4
AMBR2 3 0 3

Did not Start

Did not finish



Given Redress


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