The Offshore Team Germany launched a new campaign for the participation in The Ocean Race 2021-22, 20 years after the legendary victory of the “Illbruck Challenge” in Kiel, the “Einstein” wants to enter the race under the German flag.
With the emotional christening ceremony of the IMOCA Open 60 in Kiel, team founders Jens Kuphal, Michael End and Team Captain Robert Stanjek launched the campaign kick-off and started preparations for the round the world race in two and a half years.
Internationally experienced offshore sailors and young German sailors will form the base of the team, which will experience its first test at this year’s Fastnet Race starting on August 3rd. Two-time Ocean Race veteran Annie Lush christened the yacht in Kiel and sailed the Kiel Week Welcome Race with former Star world champion Robert Stanjek, two-time Ocean Race finisher Nicolas Lunven, German Finn sailor Phillip Kasüske, boat captain Ian Smyth. “I’m really excited to be part of Team Germany and to help them start their journey,” said Annie Lush.
A journey that the team started two and a half years ago. At the beginning of 2017, Michael End and Jens Kuphal bought the former “Acciona”, later moving the boat from Mallorca to Portugal to completely refit the hull at the Trimarine boatyard in Lisbon. This spring the project was handed over to Joff Brown in Gosport, southern England. The IMOCA expert, former project manager for Alex Thomson, completed a total fit-out including a new keel, rigging and electronics.
After seven years in Sleeping Beauty’s sleep, the yacht made its first test runs off the English coast in June, was finally transferred to Kiel for its christening and named “Einstein” in front of a large crowd of guests from politics, business and sport -in exactly the same place that “Illbruck Challenge” celebrated its biggest triumph by winning the Volvo Ocean Race back in 2001.
“When we discovered the IMOCA in Mallorca and pushed the hangar gates open, this huge yacht was completely covered in dust. Since then we have been through a lot so it was a big emotional moment when we sailed her for the first time in the south of England in June. It’s great to see the boat back on the racecourse now,” said CEO Michael End.
“Einstein” is still sailing on conventional straight daggerboards. “After the route of the upcoming The Ocean Race is revealed, we will start with the design of the foils. And then we still have a lot of time for preparation,” says Team Manager Jens Kuphal. However, the teambuilding process is already under way. “There will be a large fleet of IMOCAs for the Fastnet Race. But we are the only ones sailing in fully crewed mode to find out what The Ocean Race could feel like.”
“Our boat now has done about 2500 nautical miles but know that this is almost nothing compared to other teams,” says skipper Robert Stanjek. “But we have already been able to test it in a wide wind range. Around Skagen (northern tip of Denmark) we had almost 40 knots of wind and had to cope with some minor damage. It’s important that we could do our homework, set up a trim chart for the different wind speeds and angles.”
Robert finds that the sailing team is working well together, the training is very structured and high quality. The shore crew is consistently working on optimizing the systems on the yacht.
For the Fastnet Race, “Einstein” will officially sail under the fully crewed IMOCA 60 rule in 4+1+OBR mode. Joining skipper Robert Stanjek will be New Zealander Conrad Colman as navigator, Annie Lush (Great Britain) in the pit, Phillip Kasüske (Germany) as grinder and Ian Smyth (Great Britain) as bowman. Team manager Jens Kuphal takes over the position as the onboard reporter.
Skipper Robert Stanjek is full of praise for the international expertise on board: “Annie’s experience is already proving to be very valuable. Her high-end training in the English Olympic system, as well as two Ocean Race campaigns, demonstrate her constant striving to optimize the performance.” Conrad Colman also brings a high IMOCA specialisation and huge experience onboard. “His three circumnavigations around the world definitely will pay off for us. This gives us the security of knowing how to sail this IMOCA 60.”
For the Fastnet Race, the “Einstein” crew hopes for medium winds. “Then we’ll be able to push the boat properly. Although we are taking this really seriously, we will decide when we have to take our foot off the throttle depending on the situation. For us, it remains a new yacht and the Fastnet will be our first real test.” While the other IMOCA yachts will start together, Offshore Team Germany will start within the IRC fleet. “We will start 90 minutes later the other IMOCAs who are racing doublehanded but we still want to catch them!” says Stanjek about the team’s overall ambitions.