With more than 50 knots through the Strait of Gibraltar

Sunday 15 January has been on my agenda for a long time: the start of The Ocean Race. I am very proud to appear here with Team JAJO at the start. The boat is ready for the race a few days before the start. The last days the boat is dived for the last time by the shore team and we add apples to the provisions for the first days. In the meantime we show the boat to sponsors and family.

On the day of the start itself I feel a healthy tension. But also want to leave. It has been very busy and pleasant in the harbor for a week now. But in the end, the best thing about this race is the competition on the water between six identical boats. With a beautiful dock-out ceremony we leave the harbor full of friends, family and supporters. The organization estimates that 60,000 people are present at our departure today.

Just before the start there is still a good wind. But as soon as we get the ‘5-minute preparation signal’, the wind dies down. Ocean races don’t wait and we drift slowly towards the starting line. Luckily we got off to a good start. I’m happy with that, because at the port race a week earlier we were just a few seconds late. We are second to round the last buoy of the harbor round, the wind has increased again in the meantime. This is also the time for Ivo van der Mark, one of the main drivers behind this campaign on behalf of JAJO, to jump aboard as a ‘legjumper’.

Difficult first night

The first night we have a hard time. The conditions are challenging and the wind unstable. Often we are just wrong. We keep the connection with the fleet, but we cannot make a difference. On Monday the wind – as expected – will increase. The forecast is that we might get 50 knots (force 10) on the Alborán Sea. We soon put the small jib on it, the J2. In combination with 3 reefs in the mainsail, we should be able to handle almost all wind with this combination.

We are getting ready to tack for the first time. When we tighten the sheet over the new bow it soon becomes clear that we have partially torn the jib. This is quite a downer, because we still have a bit to go and we also use the J2 as a staysail at the spinnaker in calmer conditions.

We quickly roll up the jib and put the storm jib as a replacement. Now the wind really starts to pick up and we get the predicted 50 knots of wind. The boat is heavy. Fortunately, the only damage is the pennant at the top of the mast. It shoots forward into the sea like a catapult on a wave.

Catching up

At the Strait of Gibraltar we start catching up. Navigator Max has a good plan to sail in as little current as possible. After 20 tacks we are out of the street and we are already in 3rd place. Things are going better from now on. The boat speed is good, the maneuvers are smooth. After 2 days with almost no sleep, the whole team also catches their breath. We have the downwind sails on and set course for the Canary Islands.

Max and I, together with watch leader Bouwe Bekking, make a plan to make the best possible use of the local funnel between the islands. The wind can then easily increase another 10 knots. We sail 455 miles in 24 hours. With the final battle towards Africa we are about 35 miles behind the Polish team and about 40 miles ahead of the Portuguese team.

Super happy with the result

The Polish team defends strongly and is the first to arrive at the Cape Verde Islands. We follow about 4 hours behind. I am very happy with this result and proud of the team. We are putting ourselves in a good position to fight for the win in the next two stages.

For Team JAJO, The Ocean Race will continue in June at the stage from Aarhus to Scheveningen. Here we arrive on June 11. On June 15th we leave from Scheveningen to Genoa for the last leg. In the meantime, we will go by boat to the Caribbean and participate in the Heineken Regatta, among other things.

Jelmer van Beek

I am skipper on the JAJO VO65. The boat will participate in The Ocean Race VO65 Sprint Cup in 2023. On this website you can read my adventures and experiences towards The Ocean Race.

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