Imocas In-Port Race in Aarhus, Denmark. © Sailing Energy / The Ocean Race
Biotherm and WindWhisper are the winners on a day of comebacks in Aarhus
The sun was shining on Sunday, as it has been throughout the entire Aarhus stopover, and that meant a building sea breeze would be the order of the day for the In Port Racing programme.
This marked the return of the VO65 class to The Ocean Race, as the fleet comes back to continue racing in the VO65 Sprint.
In the IMOCA class, with the overall race leaderboard so close at the top, the In-Port Race results take on greater importance as a tie-breaking mechanism for The Ocean Race.
It was a day of comebacks, with the return of the VO65 fleet, and Biotherm taking their first win after only arriving in Aarhus yesterday evening.
IMOCA Race Report
As the IMOCAs got underway just after 1400 local time, the sea breeze had built to nearly 10 knots, providing steady conditions for the fleet. The rectangular configuration race course was set at three laps.
As the clock counted down, the first decision for crews was focussed on the sail configuration. Judging whether the breeze had built to its peak or whether there was more to come was the key pre-start decision. After that, judging the time on distance approach into the start was critical.
Biotherm and Team Holcim-PRB were closest to the start line in the final moments and appeared to be struggling to kill their pace.
Meanwhile, having started their run from further back, 11th Hour Racing Team (USA) looked like they could maintain more of their momentum.
But as the gun went, it was Biotherm that timed their approach and building speed perfectly to hit the line at the leeward end at pace, gaining the initial advantage as the four boats made their way up the first leg.
By mark 1 Biotherm led with Team Holcim-PRB in second, 11th Hour Racing Team third and Team Malizia in fourth.
Leg 3 saw Biotherm stretch their lead over the fleet on the long reach back down towards the bottom of the course.
Biotherm only arrived in Aarhus late on Saturday night after a difficult and frustrating transatlantic leg, making their dominant performance all the more impressive.
Judging when to tack on leg 4 to lay the next mark was another key decision to ensure no distance was given away. Once again Biotherm picked the perfect spot and gained over the rest of the fleet as a result. On the second lap they had drawn out to 640m ahead of Holcim-PRB.
Towards the end of that lap Biotherm delivered another perfect rounding of marks 3 and 4 to extend their lead even further.
Behind them life wasn’t easy. With a strong incentive to try to cut the distance to the upwind mark there was a temptation to tack too early. Team Holcim-PRB almost fell foul of this but got away with it, while Team Malizia did not and ended up squeezing up to the mark, losing more distance as a result.
On the final lap it was more of the same from Biotherm with a perfect performance stretching the lead even further to take the in-port win in Aarhus.
Meanwhile, 11th Hour Racing team took distance out of Holcim-PRB to the point that on the downwind leg at the top of the course, there was an opportunity for Charlie Enright’s team to gain a place. But sailing low in an attempt to catch Holcim-PRB on the give-way port tack slowed their progress too much and gave away distance instead.
Team Holcim-PRB finished second, 11th Hour Racing Team third and Team Malizia fourth.
"We won the start and when you win the start in an In-Port Race it's easy after," Paul Meilhat said after the race. "We were a bit faster off the line than Team Holcim-PRB and that was it. We are really happy and I dedicate this win to our shore team who have worked so hard to get us out here. It's our first victory so it means a lot to us."
"It's a first step for the new crew," said Team Holcim-PRB skipper Benjamin Schwartz. "We managed to get around the course nicely. We had a bit of tension when 11th Hour Racing Team came back on us a little bit, but the team did a great job to stay in front."
Imoca - Aarhus In Port Race - Results
1. Biotherm - 5 points
2. Team Holcim-PRB - 4 points
3. 11th Hour Racing Team - 3 points
4. Team Malizia - 2 points
5. Guyot environnement - Team Europe - 0 points