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The Ocean Race: Wonder, hardship, speed, and the southern ocean

The Ocean Race Newport May ’23

The Ocean Race – Insanity or best of the best?

May 13-23, mark it on your calendar!

This is when The Ocean Race foiling IMOCA boats will be here in Newport. Hometown favorite is Newport based 11th Hour Racing IMOCA Mālama, with Rhode Islanders Charlie Enright and Amory Ross as members of the five sailor team.

The Ocean Race IMOCA
Mālama up on foils
Photo credit 11th Hour Racing

We will be able to see the boats at Fort Adams while they are here, and the In-Port race is very exciting. There will also be an entire “Race Village” to tour, don’t miss it! More on our local Ocean Race info in a later post. For now, here are some tools to get you up to speed following these boats as they make their way to Newport.

Currently in Cape Town, South Africa, they are embarking on the longest leg ever sailed, at 12,500nm. In the long and colorful history of the Ocean Race (formerly the Whitbread and Volvo Ocean Race), this will likely be the most grueling ever. If you like extreme sports, this is definitely one to wrap your mind around.

Let’s make a few comparisons with Lyra, a fairly typical ocean going boat designed in the 1970’s to Mālama, a very modern IMOCA. Lyra circumnavigated the globe in the 1990’s.
Speed: Lyra’s fastest speed under sail, 8.2 kts – a 200nm 24 day would be one for the books. Mālama fastest speed under sail, they aren’t saying. However, it is absolutely in excess of 30 knots. They haven’t done a 600nm day – yet.
Size: Lyra is 44-ft long with a full keel, Mālama is 65-ft long with a canting keel and.. Foils!
Crew: Is about the same for both boats, but Mālama is waaaaaay more intense. Listen to some of the videos and you’ll see what we mean.
Accomodations: Lyra has a full galley, and space for 8 berths. Mālama has a couple of suspended canvas cots, but if weight is needed elsewhere you’d have to rack out on a sail. The boat is so fast, that it’s critical to sleep with your feet facing forward to absorb the impact if the boat slams to a stop on a wave or floating object.

Ocean Race Roaring 40's
From a previous Ocean Race<br>Photo credit unkown

12,500nm in the Southern Ocean will be no joke. In a nut shell, the Southern Ocean is home to the Roaring 40’s – one of the roughest places on the planet. Essentially, these stormy winds just keep going around the globe with nothing to slow them down. Giant seas, possible ice bergs and 30+ days of high winds can be expected.

On the last leg, at least 2 boats had problems with their foils, torn sails, failing water makers and a myriad of other issues. The Mālama crew (on the last leg at least) had 2 hour watches. 2 crew on at all times, up for 2 hours, off for 2 hours. Imagine being inside a 65-ft carbon fiber guitar body, slamming through waves at 25 plus knots on this schedule. Every sound amplified by the hull, constant awareness that the boat may (nose dive, break a foil, hit something, need a sail change, have equipment failure, etc)…. So yes, extreme.

One of the neat things about following this race is the way we can keep up with position, speed and even video from the boats. There is a crew of 5, but the 5th crew member is there to document the race and is NOT CONSIDERED PART OF THE SAILING CREW. This means that we can follow the race with extremely timely updates – it’s not quite like being there, but close enough for most of us! So take a moment now and then and check up on the teams.

The best ways to watch the action?
IOS | Google Play – OceanRace App (our favorite)
IMOCA Ocean Race
Newport Ocean Race Official Site

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