The U.S.-based 11th Hour Racing Team is using the Transat Jacques Vabre double-handed race across the Atlantic Ocean as the shakedown cruise for the new foiling 60-foot boat it will sail in a round-the-world race set to start late next year.
Team co-founder Charlie Enright of Bristol, Rhode Island, set sail Sunday from Le Havre, France, with co-skipper Pascal Bidégorry of France aboard Mālama, which was launched in late August. The biennial Transat Jacques Vabre covers 5,800 nautical miles from the Normandy coast to Martinique in the French Caribbean.
11th Hour Racing has also entered its older boat Alaka’i, which is being co-skippered by Justine Mettraux of Switzerland and Simon Fisher of Britain.
“As a team, it’s a big day for us — a culmination of a whole year’s work,” Enright said. “ I very much hope that Pascal and I can do the race, and the team, justice.”
11th Hour Racing will sail Mālama in the 2022-23 Ocean Race, which was pushed back at least a year due to the pandemic. It will start in either late December 2022 or early January 2023.
Mālama is the newest boat in the IMOCA fleet. Enright said the team has been sailing it for just a few weeks but feels adequately prepared.
“Our percentage chance of success has gone up a tremendous amount in the last two weeks, which is good, but we’ll be learning on the fly for sure,” Enright said.
Enright said he’s spent only five nights aboard the new boat.
“We’re just relying on the forecast. In my mind, we’re just as likely to win as we are to not finish,” he said. “I have no expectations, honestly.
“The boat’s performance in what little we’ve seen has been on par if not exceeded our expectations, but we just don’t have enough reps for it to be second nature, so we’ve got to work hard to keep it there. ... We’ve to work a little harder until we learn it.”
Enright and Bidégorry finished fourth in the IMOCA class in the 2019 Transat Jacques Vabre.
Enright said this will be by far the longest race 11th Hour will sail in before the Ocean Race, which will cover roughly 32,000 nautical miles and include a stopover in Newport, Rhode Island. Organizers recently dropped stopovers in China and New Zealand, setting up an epic 12,750 nautical mile leg through the Southern Ocean from Cape Town, South Africa, to Itajaí, Brazil.
Enright and his 11th Hour Racing co-founder Mark Towill, a fellow Brown alum, finished fifth in the last two editions of the Ocean Race. Earlier this year, Towill moved to a non-sailing role as team CEO to oversee the boat build and because the new boat will need a crew of only four compared to the nine needed to sail the old class, which was a supplied one-design boat.