10 boats race out of Aarhus towards The Hague in The Ocean Race
IMOCAs head towards Friday afternoon Kiel fly-by, while VO65s push towards The Hague with Sunday ETA for both fleets...
The Ocean Race returned to full strength in Aarhus, Denmark as the VO65 fleet rejoined the race for the European legs.
On a beautiful Thursday afternoon - sunny skies, warm temperatures, light sea breeze - racing started with the stakes high for both fleets.
First off were the five VO65s returning to race in the second stage of the VO65 Sprint after a three month sabbatical. With two legs of racing left, the VO65 leaderboard is wide open and the stage to The Hague is an important opportunity to collect points. The ETA for the finish is 11 June.
As the afternoon turned to evening it would be the IMOCA fleet on point for an 18:15 start, with the race around the world still wide-open - 11th Hour Racing Team is in pole position, but only one point clear of Team Holcim-PRB. The early evening conditions were extremely light for the IMOCA start, with a new breeze just starting to fill in as the fleet finally left Aarhus behind.
The IMOCA fleet is racing towards the Kiel fly-by, expected to attract over 100,000 visitors and 1,000 boats to the Kiel Fjord on Friday, with an ETA of mid-afternoon on 9 June, before pushing towards the finish in The Hague.
The stopover in Aarhus has been picture perfect, with the glorious late spring weather drawing big crowds down to Ocean Live Park. The local event organisers estimate between 350,000 and 400,000 fans experience The Ocean Race stopover in Aarhus, including over 7,000 school children who took part in the learning programmes on the Sustainability Island activation site.
"The Ocean Race stopover in Aarhus has been a great success. With such a mega event, we bring the whole world to Aarhus, both in the form of foreign guests and extensive media coverage of the event,"said Jacob Bundsgaard, Mayor of Aarhus. "In addition to a natural focus on sailing, we have used our status as host city as a catalyst for discussing the continued need for green transition and new solutions.
"At the same time, the event was a great public celebration in a fantastic setting in the harbour area; for example on our Sustainability Island on Pier 2, where schoolchildren and families have had the opportunity to engage with inspiring sustainability projects,"
The Ocean Race IMOCA Leg 6 - start report
Two hours after the VO65s had left Aarhus the 10 knot breeze died to just 2-4knots as the southeasterly sea breeze fought against the northwesterly gradient. This was frustrating and stressful for the IMOCA fleet for their start to a leg that already promises to be extremely challenging, especially during the next 24 hours through the fly-by in Kiel.
With such light conditions all five teams were aiming to minimise manoeuvres which led to a slow drag race into the line, but there was plenty of excitement.
At the committee boat end Team Malizia (GER) were playing an aggressive tactical game with Team Holcim-PRB (SUI) that resulted in Holcim-PRB diving behind the German boat before pushing Malizia over the starting line early, forcing them to restart behind the fleet.
Meanwhile, it was 11th Hour Racing Team and Biotherm that made the best starts with Team Holcim-PRB close behind.
By the first mark 11th Hour Racing Team had extended their lead over Biotherm with Team Holcim-PRB in third. Further back Malizia had overtaken GUYOT environnement - Team Europe.
On the third leg of this square configuration course what wind there was swung through 40 degrees turning the reach into an upwind leg.
Half way down this leg the breeze dropped even further, switching in direction before then dying altogether. As all five boats struggled to make any progress the stress only increased among the teams. All teams knew that in these conditions the first to get the breeze are often able to take a jump on the fleet. The waiting game was nerve wracking.
Slowly, the gradient breeze came in off the land from the north west and when it did the leader board changed as GUYOT environnement - Team Europe overtook Team Malizia.
So, as the fleet cleared the leaving gate and headed out on the leg towards Kiel it was 11th Hour Racing Team that led the field, Biotherm second, Team Holcim-PRB third, with GUYOT fourth and Malizia just behind in fifth.
The ETA in Kiel is mid-afternoon on Friday, with a finish in The Hague expected on Sunday 11 June.
Source The Ocean Race
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