Inspired by others to go offshore >> Scuttlebutt Sailing News

Among the novelties of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, the Mixed Offshore Keelboat Event for Two, and Francesca Clapcich was there. Having previously represented Italy in Laser Radial at London 2012 and 49erFX at Rio 2016, competing in this new offshore format was his goal.

But when the event was dropped from the 2024 Olympic sailing schedule, Clapcich turned to another pursuit – The Ocean Race 2022-23. As a member of the American 11th Hour Racing Team, the Italian Olympian was amazed by the latest generation foiling IMOCA.

“It’s an amazing boat and like I’ve never raced before,” she said. “The 49er was fast, wetter and closer to the water, but this boat is a speed machine. We just crossed the ocean (in practice) and the speed you can do on the boat is really impressive.

Clapcich is back in The Ocean Race for the second consecutive edition after cutting his teeth in the 2017-18 edition as part of the Turn the Tide on Plastic VO65 crew.

She was first inspired by the idea of ​​sailing around the world as a young sailor starting out in dinghy racing in Italy.

“I remember when I was little this incredible race called The Whitbread where the best sailors in the world sailed the world so close to the icebergs in the Southern Ocean and wore nothing but woolen fleeces. At home, in my room, I had a big lineup of Illbruck and Ericsson – as well as Amer Sport Too.

But it was during the 2014-15 race, when Clapcich watched Sweden’s all-female Team SCA race around the world that she began to believe she might one day do the same.

The international attention garnered by the SCA crew was such that Clapcich remembers thinking at the end of the race: “They did it – and we can do it. We can do it very well – and we can do it even better.

“It was their own sponsor and their own team and it made [the opportunity really real. I think that was a big turning point for a lot of female sailors of that generation.”

Since the last edition of The Ocean Race, Clapcich has tried her hand at solo sailing with an entry in the 2021 La Solitaire du Figaro where she became the first Italian sailor to finish the grueling event.

That experience, it turns out, has paid dividends while training aboard the 11th Hour Racing Team IMOCA.

“Sailing short-handed has been really helpful because I understand better the dynamic of how to sail the boat only with a few people, and how the autopilot works.

“In the beginning it was quite hard for me to work out how hard we could push it when we are driving with the autopilot and trimming the sails – and just how brutal it is to live down below.”

Although Clapcich jumped at the chance to join Charlie Enright’s US campaign, she had to think long and hard about her commitment level after her first few sessions with the team.

“Life on board is not easy. The movements are pretty crazy and we sail the boat so flat that we are really just smashing in the water. I have heard a lot of stories about it but when you experience it you think: ‘Can I do this? Or is it too much?’

“I needed to make sure that I wanted to do it 100 percent before committing, because your team members don’t want someone on board who doesn’t want to be there.

“Being part of the 11th Hour Racing Team is an honor for me. It’s been great to be able to sail with them and be part of a project that is so focused on performance.

“In my first race we were a young and inexperienced team and for the first half of the race we were learning how to sail the boat and understand the dynamic on board. We were not really able to push as hard as the front teams.

“This time we feel like we are the boat that the other teams are looking at, to understand: How reliable are they? How fast are they going? How hard are they pushing?”

Sailing in a four person crew on a foiling IMOCA will doubtless make Clapcich’s second edition of The Ocean Race a different experience in very many ways – but, for all the differences, she says there are some key elements of the race that never change.

“It is going to be a really different race compared to the last one. There are less people on board and there’s a lot more to do. You are more covered [on board] but at the same time the speeds are higher. It will be about understanding the reliability of the boats and making sure we are ready for anything.

“It will always be a team effort, as always. Whether you have 10 people on board, five or two, it’s about working well together and helping each other through tough times.

“In the middle of the ocean you can go to dark places and you have to push your brain and push your mindset to keep going. At the finish line you forget about all the pain and it’s about what you have accomplished with a large group of people and you get a great reward for what you have just done.

In the next edition, this award could be presented in Clapcich’s home country when the teams arrive at the final finish line in Genoa to complete their 32,000 nautical mile race around the world.

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Ocean Race 2022-23 race schedule*:
Alicante, Spain – Leg 1 start: January 15, 2023
Cabo Verde – ETA: January 22; Departure of stage 2: January 25
Cape Town, South Africa – ETA: February 9; Departure of stage 3: February 26 or 27 (to be confirmed)
Itajaí, Brazil – ETA: April 1; Departure of stage 4: April 23
Newport, RI, USA – ETA: May 10; Departure of stage 5: May 21
Aarhus, Denmark – ETA: May 30; Start of stage 6: June 8
Kiel, Germany (flyover) – June 9
The Hague, Netherlands – ETA: June 11; Start of stage 7: June 15
Genoa, Italy – The Grand Final – ETA: June 25, 2023; In-Port Race Final: July 1, 2023
* To be confirmed – Prologue: September to December 2022

The Ocean Race (formerly Volvo Ocean Race and Whitbread Round the World Race) will be raced in two boat classes: the high-performance foiling IMOCA 60 class and the one-design VO65 class which has been used for the last two editions of the race. Competitors in the IMOCA 60 class will compete for The Ocean Race trophy, while those racing the VO65s will pursue the Ocean Challenge Trophy. The 14th edition was originally scheduled for 2021-22 but was postponed for a year due to the pandemic.

Source: Race to the Ocean

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