When the winners of the Volvo Ocean Race were decorated in The Hague in June 2018, no one could have imagined that we would have to wait as long as four and a half years for the next edition. Few people also believed that a Polish yacht would appear at its start again. And yet dreams do come true! After the pandemic turmoil, with a new name and new energy, The Ocean Race has started. In the VO65 class, WindWhisper, sailing under the red-and-white flag, has been performing brilliantly right from the start.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, The Ocean Race is back in style. Hosting the best sailors from around the world, the Ocean Live Park in Alicante was under siege over the weekend (14-15 January 2023). More than 140,000 people passed through the regatta area!
The biggest draw was, of course, the Sunday start, which took place in bright sunshine, with a good wind and the beautiful Castillo de Santa Barbara in the background. At exactly 2.05 p.m., the VO65 class yachts started the competition. Before heading out to sea, the crews had to navigate a rectangular course close to the shore.
The Polish team WindWhisper took the lead from the first seconds. Spanish skipper Pablo Arrarte, as he did in the harbour race the week before, decided to take a risky manoeuvre and sailed the highest of the fleet. Once again, the tactic paid off. The Polish crew read the changing winds perfectly and worked well on the turns, thanks to which they quickly built up a solid lead. Once out on the open sea, the situation at the head of the pile changed like a kaleidoscope. Portugal’s Mirpuri or Lithuania’s Ambersail 2 came to the fore, but WindWhisper always stayed in the top three.
The gusty winds of more than 30 knots faced by the participating teams were most severe for the Mexicans. On the morning of Monday 16 January, VivaMéxico skipper Erik Brockmann informed the organisers that he was forced to suspend his participation in the race due to a snapped mainsail. Whether the crew will succeed in stitching or replacing the sail and return to the route will become clear when they call at the port of Almeria.
The other crews are sailing without much trouble, looking for optimum conditions near the southern coast of Spain. Only the Lithuanian crew of the Ambersail 2 decided on a different solution, hoping for favourable winds and heading towards the African coast. The manoeuvre did not bring the expected results and the Lithuanians dropped to fifth place. After almost two days of racing, the order in the VO65 class is as follows (as of 17 January, 9.00 CET):
WindWhisper Racing Team (Poland)
Mirpuri Foundation Racing Team (Portugal)
Austrian Ocean Racing powered by Team Genova (Austria/Italy)
Team Jajo (Netherlands)
Ambersail 2 (Lithuania)
Viva México (Mexico)
The route of the first 1,900-nautical-mile leg goes from Alicante to Mindelo in the Cape Verde Islands. The sailors now take the course to Gibraltar, beyond which the Atlantic is already waiting for them. The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint Cup will be won by the best team after three stages: Alicante – Mindelo, Aarhus – The Hague, and The Hague – Genoa. The Polish yacht competing in the prestigious Ocean Race is supported by sponsors CISE, Bumech SA, WindWhisper, AWL Grip and Helly Hansen.
On board the WindWhisper yacht during the first leg of The Ocean Race are:
Pablo Arrarte – skipper
Liz Wardley – boat captain
Aksel Magdahl – navigator
Antonia “Ñeti” Cuervas-Mons
Guillermo Altadill Fischer
Arianne van de Loosdrecht
Tomasz Piotrowski – on-board reporter
Photos: WindWhisper Racing Team press materials