Collision in around-the-world Ocean Race punctures 1st-place 11th Hour Racing

THSI HANDOUT provided by The Ocean Race shows the 11th Hour Racing team boat, left, being T-boned by Guyot environnement — Team Europe during the last leg of The Ocean Race around-the-world sailing competition near Aarhus, Denmark, Thursday. /THE OCEAN RACE VIA THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Two boats collided just 17 minutes into the final, 10-day leg of the around-the-world Ocean Race on Thursday, sending first-place 11th Hour Racing back to port in The Hague, the Netherlands, with a gaping hole in its carbon fiber hull. 

The Newport-based boat filed a protest against Guyot environnement – Team Europe, which punctured the port side of the 11th Hour hull with its bowsprit. No injuries were reported, the Ocean Race said. 

“We did our best to avoid it, and I don’t want to speculate on what was going on on their side of the fence,” 11th Hour skipper Charlie Enright said. “This race has a way of testing people in different ways — physically and mentally, and this is a test for our team. There is no team I would rather be on, that I would rather have with me. If anyone can figure this out, it is us.” 

Guyot skipper Benjamin Dutreux said he did not see the other boat, which appeared to have the right of way, until it was too late. 

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“It was impossible then to avoid contact. I take all responsibility. It’s our fault for sure,” said Dutreux, whose last-place boat retired from the leg. “I’m very sorry about this. I really hope they will get back and win this race. … We will try to help them all we can.” 

The 11th Hour team had won three straight legs of the six-month, 32,000-nautical mile [37,000-mile, 59,000-km] race that is scheduled to end with a grand finale in-port race in Genoa, Italy, on July 1. It was not immediately clear how the protest will affect the race standings. 

“Personally, I refuse to admit this [race] is over,” said 11th Hour crew member Simon Fisher, who is competing in the event for the sixth time. “We would rather try to win it on the water, but we need to find out what our options are, if this can be repaired, and what our redress implications are as a team now, and hopefully move forward.” 

Fisher said Enright screamed at the approaching boat, but there was no response. Video of the crash appeared to show both boats turning to avoid the collision, but too late. 

“The net result is that they have put their boat firmly in the side of ours,” Fisher said. “The bowsprit went right through our boat and came out on the inside. We are really lucky that no one got hurt; Charlie was sitting so close to the hatch.” 

The 60-foot IMOCA Class 11th Hour boat was atop the leaderboard with 33 points accumulated over the first six legs and the corresponding in-port races. Team Holcim — PRB was second, with 31 points, followed by Team Malizia (27), Biotherm Racing (19) and GUYOT environnement (2). 

A Rhode Island native and Brown University alum who is in his third around-the-world race, Enright finished fifth in both previous attempts — sustaining two major setbacks in the previous edition in 2018. His sloop collided with a Chinese fishing boat in the dark while approaching Hong Kong at the end of Leg 4 in 2018, killing one person aboard the fishing boat, which sank. The race boat also was damaged and had to be shipped to New Zealand. 

The sloop also dismasted off the Falkland Islands on Leg 7 while the team was in second place. The crew motored to the Falklands, before a delivery crew motored the 1,200 nautical miles to the next port. 

In this year’s race, 11th Hour noticed cracks on its foils near the end of the first leg, which departed from Alicante, Spain, on Jan. 15. 

Jimmy Golen is a sports writer for The Associated Press

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