Video: The Race Around the World: Ulysse Nardin & 11th Hour Racing
Seaplanes, sailboats, sustainability, and The Ocean Race, Ulysse Nardin doubles down on its maritime history by sponsoring a sailboat with more tech aboard than a spaceship.
Ulysse Nardin is not a maison that dabbles in nautical history; Ulysse Nardin IS a milestone in maritime history. Since its founding in 1846, the brand has historic ties to the maritime world having designed and manufactured some of the world’s most accurate mechanical marine chronometers allowing for precise nautical navigation and exploration.
However, Ulysse Nardin’s mission to support all-things seafaring does not stop at watches. Instead, it extends to the causes that they support. In fact, the brand has long supported ocean conservation and scientific endeavors dedicated to learning more about the ocean, its health, and how to put that knowledge into action in order to make a difference.
The Ocean Race
Earlier this year, Ulysse Nardin announced they would be the official timekeeper of The Ocean Race, an around-the-world team sailing challenge. Broken into several timed rally stages, to many, it’s the most difficult of its kind. Sailors will pass through treacherous waters as they cross “Point Nemo,” a spot in the South Pacific Ocean where there closest humans to you are in the International Space Station.
The event not only focuses on comradery and sailing skill, but also works to highlight the importance of ocean conservation and scholarship as the race makes several stops around the globe. As a result, the race a natural complement to Ulysse Nardin’s maritime heritage and environmental efforts.
And to commemorate this partnership, Ulysse Nardin released the Diver X The Ocean Race. Composed of upcycled fishing nets refined into a new material by French upstart Fil&Fab, as well as cast-off aircraft parts for the Carbonium bezel, the watch is finished off with a strap that is 100% upcycled fishing nets resulting in a luxurious product that has minimal carbon footprint.
Performance, Innovation, Sustainability: Ulysse Nardin & 11th Hour Racing
Adding a new dimension to Ulysse Nardin’s Ocean Race story, the brand has now partnered with Newport, Rhode Island-based sailing team 11th Hour Racing. 11th Hour is the only US-based team to take place in the race.
Patrick Pruniaux, CEO of Ulysse Nardin, said: “11th Hour Racing Team is the ideal partner for our brand. Like us, they are explorers. We strive to innovate through the use of novel materials that lessen our impact on the environment, and 11th Hour Racing Team employs cutting-edge technology that proves sustainability can win the race.”
Naturally, a sailing team named “11th Hour” seems like a perfect fit for a watch brand. But just as Mr. Pruniaux implied in his statement, it’s about so much more than just timekeeping.
François-Xavier Hotier, US President for Ulysse Nardin, said that after speaking with the team’s CEO Mark Towill he “wrote down three key words about 11th Hour: Performance, Innovation, and also, Sustainability. This is an amazing thing because that is everything we do with Ulysse Nardin.”
Just like the Ulysse Nardin Diver X The Ocean Race timepiece is innovative in its materials, 11th Hour Racing does the same with its sailboat. “We are trying to be a professional sports team, but also do that in a way that represents our values to leave the ocean and world a better place,” added Mark Towill.
The Full Seafaring Experience
To celebrate the launch of this partnership, a small group of us met at the Blade Aqua Lounge in Manhattan to board a Cessna Seaplane to Newport, Rhode Island.
In addition to beating traffic, there is real majesty in taking off from the East River and observing the iconic New York City skyline at eye level. And the banked turn over the Financial District to head us pointed north was truly thrilling.
Upon touching down in Newport, we were greeted by Mark Towill and the 11th Hour Racing Team’s Skipper Charlie Enright. They spoke to us about The Ocean Race and how they have optimized their ship to be as performance-oriented as possible, while still integrating sustainable materials like bamboo and recycled carbon. In fact, their boat uses over 100kg of alternative materials in its construction.
We then boarded a tender out to the ship, the IMOCA 60 (named Mālama), which was launched in August of 2021 and designed expressly for competition in The Ocean Race 2022-23.
The ship itself? Well, it is really more like a spaceship than a traditional sailboat. The crew’s time is spent mostly inside the ship below the waterline, which allows for maximum speed. The computer systems spit out over 1GB of data per day in data. Please keep in mind that this is a sailboat. It uses wind power, yet its onboard systems (which are solar-powered) use complex equations and weather reporting to chart calculated routes for speed.
The sleeping quarters are extremely spartan, as lightness is of the utmost importance during competition. Although, it’s not like it matters much because crew members work in rotating 4-hour on/off shifts, so there isn’t a ton of time for lounging around.
Interestingly, while we were there, Skipper Charlie Enright was actually taking part in a sleep experiment to monitor decision making ability on limited sleep. Charlie has already won a past iteration of the race, and, armed with Mālama, we’re hoping that both he and the crew can bring it home again.
The Return Home
After a quick lunch at Gurney’s in Newport, we had more time to get hands-on with the limited edition Diver X The Ocean Race. I wore it the entire time I was out sailing with the team, actually. And it performed as one would expect: Perfectly.
The beautiful black case is offset by the pops of green that continue to draw attention to the use of Carbonium. Meanwhile, the lightweight all-upcycled fishing net strap is the perfect match for the water. And this was not some gentle “test drive,” we really went out there and got the ship out and up on its foils at speed. The watches (and us) got a small taste of what it takes for competitive sailing.
The seaplane was waiting for us in the harbor, and approaching it on tender while it floated off the marina was a truly Howard Hughes-worthy affair. We were then quickly whisked away back to the East River of Manhattan. A memorable day spent out on the sea, the birthplace and home of Ulysse Nardin.
(Photography by Watchonista)