Smooth (Well, Fast) Sailing With Ulysse Nardin And The Ocean Race
The Ocean Race is arguably the most demanding sailing event in the world. At the recent Newport, Rhode Island stopover, official timekeeper and race sponsor Ulysse Nardin revealed a special limited-edition timepiece to commemorate the environmental commitment of the 50-year-old competition.
Originally called the Whitbread Round the World Race, then The Volvo Ocean Race, The Ocean Race is arguably the most grueling and challenging crewed sailing event in the world.
At the recent Newport, Rhode Island stopover of this year’s race, official timekeeper and race sponsor Ulysse Nardin unveiled the Ocean Race Diver Chronograph, a special limited-edition timepiece created not only to celebrate the legendary competition’s 50th anniversary, but also signal the pair’s steadfast commitment to protecting the oceans.
Round the World
The vessels and teams arrived in Newport after four exhausting months of racing at sea on legs that took them from Alicante in Spain, to Cabo Verde in Cape Verde, down to Cape Town in South Africa, and across to Itajai in Brazil.
While inclement weather prompted race organizers to postpone the full, point-awarding, in-bay racing in Newport, sturdy spectators were treated to a lightning-fast ex-port sprint as the competing vessels headed out on the fifth, double-point scoring transatlantic leg to Aarhus, Denmark.
Having led the fleet into its hometown, the Newport-based 11th Hour Racing Team also crossed the finish line first in Aarhus to claim back-to-back leg wins and the overall race lead. After Aarhus, the race is moving on to other European locations before concluding in Genoa, Italy, next month.
In the case of the 11th Hour Racing Team almost all of this intense time on the water is spent in a cramped, lunar module-like wheelhouse in the stern. The eight international crew members – two women and six men – are skippered by U.S. sailing legend Charlie Enright.
The vessels are designed to cut weight, period. And personal space and privacy is at a minimum, to say the least. Anything you might think of as a yachting amenity is basically non-existent. And please keep in mind, Ocean Race legs can take up to 40 days port-to-port.
But the pay-off is in speed and sailing purity. A crew member reported that the 11th Hour vessel had hit speeds of 39 knots in a good puff during the race to Newport, riding on next-generation foils that lift the primary hull out of the water. The classic wind-in-the-face experience of sailing is replaced with a tight focus on the data coming in on a central screen in the closed wheelhouse.
While there are bulbous windows to look fore and aft, and the crew has to go on deck to set new sails and make occasional manual modifications, all the action is in the stats on the screen. Huddled around that screen, the 11th Hour team makes critical decisions on sail trim, course changes, and wind maximization that can make or break the race results.
Another pay-off is in purpose. Fittingly, the 11th Hour vessel and team are perfect exemplars of the Ocean Race’s – and Ulysse Nardin’s – environmental focus.
The sailing legs take the vessel through some of the world’s most remote ocean locations. Through the Racing with Purpose initiative – co-developed by the 11th Hour organization and Ulysse Nardin partner program Time to Act – water samples are taken and analyzed throughout the 60,000 km voyage. One of the saddest results of that program is that micro-plastic particles were found in ocean water at Point Nemo, the spot in the ocean that is the furthest from any land mass (2,700 km).
The Sailor’s Companion
Water-resistant to 300 meters, with a tough sand-blasted black DLC 44mm titanium case, the Ulysse Nardin Ocean Race Diver Chronograph 100-piece limited edition that debuted in Newport perfectly captures the exciting zeitgeist of the competition.
“The new Diver celebrates this legendary sailing race, its commitment to protecting the ocean environment, and the research and marine conservation projects that Ulysse Nardin is proud to support,” said Patrick Pruniaux, CEO of Ulysse Nardin.
Eye-catching blue, white and black details present a kind of nautical-chic hull for the steadfast manufacture UN-150 chronograph movement (visible via an exhibition case back). But, like racing sailboats, abundant badging and design extras tell the tale.
An Ocean Race logo rides on a dedicated ceramic link on the durable rubber strap. Meanwhile, a special “50” designation nodding to the race’s history is emblazoned on the sapphire case back window. And the unidirectional bezel has a fibrous insert made of Carbonium. This composite is upcycled from discarded airplane fuselages, an approach that yields 40 percent lower environmental impact compared to other composite production methods.
The Ulysse Nardin Ocean Race Diver Chronograph is an essential, accurate, precise tool for sailing, and a handsome ode to both the competitive and sustainable spirit of The Ocean Race itself.