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#VOR - Kerry sailor and Volvo Ocean Race veteran Damian Foxall had a very different role in the most recent edition of the round-the-world yacht race.

As sustainability manager for Vestas 11th Hour Racing, Foxall was responsible for guiding the team towards the title of the race’s ‘most sustainable’. His secret? “No compromise.”

Foxall spoke to Sport Sustainability Journal upon the publication of his team’s comprehensive sustainability report, which outlines various initiatives from grants for local projects along the route, to carbon reduction and offsetting on the yacht and among the crew.

The latter included the likes of reduced plastic packaging for official race clothing supplied by Musto, to ‘meatless Mondays’ below deck.

“The further we got into the race … we found sustainability brought a depth and strength to our team,” Foxall says.

Sport Sustainability Journal has much more on the story HERE.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

#Microplastic - The West of Ireland is one of only three sites sampled out of 75 during the Volvo Ocean Race with no trace of microplastic particles.

South of Australia and east of Argentina were the other sites found clear of microplastic in findings that give a clear mandate for positive and decisive action from national governments, international organisations, business and individuals to stop plastic polluting our seas.

The most recent data collected, before the race finale in The Hague, by scientific devices on board Team AkzoNobel and Turn the Tide on Plastic found particularly high levels of microplastics — 224 particles per cubic metre — in Skagerrak, a 150-mile strait that runs between Norway, Sweden and Denmark where the outflow from the Baltic Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean.

The highest levels of microplastic — 349 particles per cubic metre — were found in a sample taken in the South China Sea that feeds into the Kuroshio Current and the North Pacific Gyre.

The second highest, at 307 particles per cubic metre, came close from the point where the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean meet at the Strait of Gibraltar.

Even close to Point Nemo, the furthest place from land on Earth, where the nearest humans are on the International Space Station, between nine and 26 particles of microplastic per cubic metre were recorded.

The seawater samples were collected during the course of the 45,000-nautical-mile, eight-month race which passed six continents and 12 landmark host cities. The race began in Alicante last October, finishing in The Hague in June.

Anne-Cecile Turner, sustainability programme leader for the Volvo Ocean Race, said: “We have used a sporting event to collect groundbreaking scientific data to provide a global map of microplastics concentrations — even finding them in some of the remotest places on Earth. 


“Our ambition is that the data will provide a new benchmark for our understanding of the spread of these ubiquitous particles and offer a template for future scientific methodology.

“With the continuation of the sustainability programme, we will continue our mission to inspire, engage and act as a pioneer, with the aim of restoring ocean health.”

Dr Toste Tanhua of the GEOMAR Institute for Ocean Research Kiel, funded by the Cluster of Excellence Future Ocean, analysed the preliminary microplastics data at their laboratory in Kiel, Germany.

The data has since been uploaded to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) database where scientists are able to access it open source.

VOR Microplastic world map

Dr Tanhua said the Volvo Ocean Race Science Programme “has contributed enormously to the understanding of microplastic contribution around the world, and has contributed to a global map of CO2 uptake by the oceans. The race has showed that the race yachts and sailors can be excellent science supporters.”

The boats also collect other oceanographic data measurements including temperature, dissolved CO2, salinity and algae content (as chlorophyll a) that gives an indication of levels of ocean health and acidification and supports quantification of the ocean’s uptake of carbon dioxide.

In parallel, 30 scientific drifter buoys deployed during the race are transmitting data that is essential for forecasting of weather and climate changes, in both the short and long term. This is being utilised by the World Meteorological Organisation and UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.

The Volvo Ocean Race Science Programme is funded by Volvo Cars, which is donating €100 from the first 3,000 sales of the new Volvo V90 Cross Country Volvo Ocean Race edition to support the initiative.

Microplastics are often invisible to the naked eye and can take thousands of years to degrade. By collecting information on their levels, the science programme is helping scientists gain insight into the scale of plastic pollution and its impact on marine life.

To build upon the programme’s sustainability achievements, it will be embedded at the heart of the race going forward. And in the run up to the next edition, the programme will continue to organise a range of international Ocean Summits, further expand the education programme and continue to pioneer a scientific programme focussing on ocean plastic.

It will also collaborate with a range of innovative partners, including 11th Hour Racing and UN Environment, to help deliver a lasting legacy and drive real change for a healthy planet.

Since the end of the latest race, the sustainability programme convened a workshop with key global stakeholders from science, academia, the private sector and other institutions, including UN Environment and Mirpuri Foundation, to identify the gaps to fill in order to advance our understanding of these issues and to align our missions.

Fiona Ball, head of responsible business at Sky Ocean Rescue, said: “The data that Turn the Tide on Plastic collected throughout Volvo Ocean Race highlights the critical state of our oceans. By supporting the Turn the Tide on Plastic yacht, Sky Ocean Rescue aims to raise awareness and inspire everyone to make simple, everyday changes to stop our oceans from drowning in plastic. We can all play our part and turn off the plastic tap, now is the time for fundamental change to protect our planet.”

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

#VOR - The Volvo Ocean Race has announced its partnership agreement with the International Monohull Open Class Association (IMOCA), which provides the exclusivity to use the IMOCA 60 for crewed round the world yacht races.

Last week, during the finish of the Volvo Ocean Race in The Hague, an educational session for interested parties was held around the IMOCA Class Rules.

Sailors from the most recent Volvo Ocean Race and IMOCA events, along with yacht designers currently involved in construction of new IMOCA Class boats such as Guillaume Verdier and Juan Kouyoumdjian, came to The Hague to brainstorm around the changes.

“This is a first step of many in preparing for the next edition of the race in 2021,” said Johan Salen, co-president of the race. “There is an ongoing co-operation process to put in place the elements we need to make the next race a success from a sporting and business point of view.

“This is a complex matter with many perspectives, and we are respectfully welcoming continuous input from all key stakeholders, from World Sailing to individual sailors, teams and partners. We are confident that this is the right way forward.

“Moving the race into foiling monohulls under the IMOCA class will motivate more sailors, teams and the wider marine industry to prepare for the next edition. Partnering with the existing IMOCA infrastructure means the professional offshore sailing calendar becomes more unified and efficient, this helps the sport as a whole and helps to build a sustainable business model for teams and sailors.”

“This agreement provides IMOCA owners and sailors with access to the premiere fully crewed offshore race in the world, which is also a great storytelling platform,” said Antoine Mermod, president of IMOCA.

“As we work together to bring the most important offshore races in the world – short-handed and fully crewed – to the IMOCA class boats, it will allow us to grow the class internationally and offer more value to our stakeholders.”

“RenderingRendering of a possible future design for the race

The move to include IMOCA boats has been made in an effort to ensure the race continues at the forefront of yacht design and technology while challenging the best sailors in the world in a fully crewed, offshore environment.

A joint committee is being formed to draft a specific section of the Class Rules for Crewed IMOCA 60, respecting the spirit and intent of the partnership, which includes cost control, security and sporting fairness.

The rule relating to crew numbers on board the IMOCA class in the next race is among the items under consideration, with the goal of retaining an On Board Reporter role.

The latest Volvo Ocean Race concluded this past weekend having seen the closest racing in the 45-year history of the event.

Three teams started the final leg with an opportunity to win the overall race title. With less than 10 miles left in the 45,000 nautical mile, 11-leg race, the outcome was still in doubt until Charles Caudrelier’s Dongfeng Race Team finally slipped ahead of their rivals to secure a thrilling victory off The Hague.

“This change is very exciting,” Caudrelier said after receiving a briefing on the changes. “The Open 60s are just amazing boats. I really enjoy sailing on these boats and I think when people see it, they will enjoy it. If the two best offshore races in the world are going to join the same class, to me it’s good news.”

“I think as a sailor, this is very exciting,” said Bouwe Bekking, a veteran of eight Volvo Ocean and Whitbread Round the World races. “For the younger generation of sailors, they’re all about foiling and surfing and going fast and you have to get the best sailors involved in the race. With the Open 60s, they’ve nailed it, because this is what the sailors want.”

“Of course there are some hurdles to negotiate,” said Torben Grael, Olympic champion and a Volvo Ocean Race winning skipper as well as a vice-president of World Sailing.

“But if we manage to join the two worlds together then it will be positive as it opens the race to many new sailors to join and creates a much bigger calendar of events for the teams racing in Open 60s.”

The partnership means the leading designers in offshore sailing will be engaged in the next edition of the race with the goal of producing the fastest fully-crewed offshore round the world racing monohull in history.

“Yachting is a sport that isn’t only about the crew, but it’s also about the equipment, so combining the two elements is what allows you to say you are at the pinnacle of offshore racing,” said Juan Kouyoumdjian, who has designed three Volvo Ocean Race-winning boats in the past.

“I think it is a very positive step forward. The future will allow for the sailors and designers to push to the next level which will inevitably trickle down to other classes.”

“We’re trying to make a boat for the future that is capable of doing both short-handed and fully-crewed races,” said Guillaume Verdier, among of the busiest of the current IMOCA class and America’s Cup designers. “My opinion is that it is doable with a bit of compromise from both worlds to meet in the middle.”

The partnership with IMOCA will also ensure that the boats will allow for the production of cutting-edge media, as was the case on the current edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Live access to the boats while they were racing in some of the most remote oceans of the world, as well as drone footage and media produced by on-board reporters made for ground-breaking coverage that produced record fan engagement.

This remains an important priority for the next race, as does crew diversity. The 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race featured 23 female sailors as well as 30 sailors under the age of 30. Both were records for the race. This is a trend to be encouraged for the future, race organisers insist.

“The process is just starting,” said Nick Bice, who is leading the project to develop the Open 60 rule for the next race. “We’ve had four of the current IMOCA designers with us to help us understand the issues we’re going to face.

“We’ll forward everyone’s input to the joint committee and get started on developing the rules that will be used for Open 60s to participate in the next race. Our goal is to have this ready to go by the end of the year.”

The future of the VO65 class of boats, used in the last two editions of the race, will be revealed in the coming weeks.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

#VOR - It took until the final in-port race, but Dee Caffari’s Turn the Tide on Plastic moved off the bottom of the overall leaderboard this afternoon (Saturday 30 June) after securing sixth place in the Volvo Ocean Race.

The day started with Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag and Turn the Tide on Plastic with equal points on the overall standings.

The tie-break mechanism is the finishing position in the In-Port Race Series, and there David Witt’s Scallywags held the advantage by a three-point margin.

But if Caffari could level the score or get ahead on the In-Port Series leaderboard, then her team — among them Ireland’s Rio 2016 hero Annalise Murphy — would lift themselves into a sixth place finish overall by winning the tie-break.

A lot of things would need to go right for Caffari in this afternoon’s Brunel In-Port Race in The Hague. And incredibly, it all came to pass.

It didn’t look good early when Turn the Tide on Plastic was penalised for not keeping clear of Team AkzoNobel on a close cross.

But at the next mark rounding, Scallywag hooked onto the mark, and was stopped while the rest of the fleet sailed past.

Eventually they freed themselves from the mark, but by then they were well behind and running out of time to catch up.

The last place result for Scallywag, combined with a hard-fought fourth-place finish for Turn the Tide on Plastic, means Dee Caffari’s team sit in sixth place for the first time in the race.

“We had a good race, we even took a penalty today. But we had very good boat speed, made some good calls, and thankfully there were a couple of boats between us and Scallywag,” an overjoyed Caffari said.

“It’s the best way to finish the campaign for us. We’ll all go away knowing we made some good finishes and and were able to come back. People didn’t know if we could do it, but we have, and it’s just rounded it all off to finish like this.”

That wasn’t the only scoreboard move on Saturday. Hometown hero Bouwe Bekking’s Team Brunel had a perfect start and led the race from beginning to end.

That win, combined with a third place finish on Saturday by Team AkzoNobel, means the two Dutch skippers finished tied for third in the In-Port Race Series, with Team Brunel taking the tie-break for the final podium spot by virtue of a better finishing position in the final race.

“We are really happy of course, not just for ourselves but also for the Dutch public. To have us winning and team AkzoNoble come in third you can’t ask for much more than that,” Bekking said.

“It’s nice to finish racing here where I started my career sailing offshore. Very happy to finish it this way, and thankful for all the support here.”

For Bekking, the race victory puts a stamp on a career that has included eight editions of the Volvo Ocean Race. It was a fantastic day for the Dutch sailing hero to take a win.

The Brunel In-Port Race marks the last competition in this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. Announcements concerning the next race, currently scheduled to begin in 2021, can be expected shortly.

Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Race Series Leaderboard - Final

  1. MAPFRE – 64 points
  2. Dongfeng Race Team – 56 points
  3. Team Brunel – 50 points
  4. Team AkzoNobel – 50 points
  5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing – 35 points
  6. Turn the Tide on Plastic – 25 points
  7. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag – 25 points

Volvo Ocean Race Overall Points Leaderboard - Final

  1. Dongfeng Race Team – 73 points
  2. MAPFRE – 70 points
  3. Team Brunel – 69 points
  4. Team AkzoNobel – 59 points
  5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing – 39 points
  6. Turn the Tide on Plastic – 32 points
  7. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag – 32 points
Published in Volvo Ocean Race

#VOR - After nine months, 45,000 miles of offshore racing and 10 in-port races, the Volvo Ocean Race fleet is preparing to take the final start of the event at the Brunel In-Port Race in The Hague this afternoon, Saturday 30 June.

It will be a bittersweet moment for the sailors, many of whom may be racing together for the last time after spending many miles at sea as close teammates.

Although MAPFRE won the overall In-Port Race Series with their performance in Gothenburg, there is still much at stake on Saturday, including a tie-break scenario on the overall leaderboard.

Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag and Turn the Tide on Plastic are on equal points for sixth place on the overall Volvo Ocean Race table. David Witt’s Scallywags currently win the tie-break based on their lead in the In-Port Series. But Dee Caffari’s Turn the Tide on Plastic is just three points back.

A good performance this afternoon, with some boats in-between, could lift Turn the Tide on Plastic into sixth place for both the In-Port Series and the overall Volvo Ocean Race.

In her final race diary for The Irish Times, Turn the Tide crew member Annalise Murphy writes about the “gruelling” final stages from Cardiff, including a North Sea passage that saw her struck by seasickness for the second time this race – “just one four-hour watch but the worst four hours of the whole race”.

Reflecting on her experiences since last summer, and whether she’d consider another VOR in her future, Annalise says: “The intensity of the competition, the manic schedule in-port, the stripped-down simplicity of life at sea, the non-stop-every-waking-hour concentration is both daunting and addictive.”

Annalise returns to Ireland tomorrow, but is taking only a week off before getting into the thick of her 49erFX ambitions for Tokyo 2020 with sailing partner Katie Tingle.

Back to this afternoon, and there will be a battle between Dutch skippers Simeon Tienpont and Team AkzoNobel and Bouwe Bekking’s Team Brunel for the final podium spot in the series as just two points separate the teams.

And AkzoNobel has an outside chance at catching overall race winners Dongfeng Race Team for second place, although the gap is five points.

Racing starts earlier than usual, with the dock-out serene and race start from 12.30pm Irish time, and will be broadcast live on all of the usual Volvo Ocean Race outlets.

Current Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Race Series Points Table:

  1. MAPFRE – 61 points
  2. Dongfeng Race Team – 50 points
  3. Team AkzoNobel – 45 points
  4. Team Brunel – 43 points
  5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing – 33 points
  6. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag – 24 points
  7. Turn the Tide on Plastic – 21 points

Volvo Ocean Race Overall Points Leaderboard:

  1. Dongfeng Race Team – 73 points
  2. MAPFRE – 70 points
  3. Team Brunel – 69 points
  4. Team AkzoNobel – 59 points
  5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing – 39 points
  6. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag – 32 points
  7. Turn the Tide on Plastic – 32 points
Published in Volvo Ocean Race

#VOR - Dongfeng Race Team has won the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race in the closest finish in race history.

Skipper Charles Caudrelier led his team to victory in the final leg of the race, a 970-mile sprint from Gothenburg, Sweden to The Hague in the Netherlands this afternoon, Sunday 24 June.

Incredibly, it marked the first leg win for the team — and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Three teams started Leg 11 of the race on Thursday 21 June in a dead heat on the overall leaderboard.

The finishing order between MAPFRE, Team Brunel and Dongfeng Race Team at The Hague would determine their place on the overall race podium.

Each of those three teams led at various points on the leg and had their opportunities to grab the prize.

But it was Caudrelier and his team made a bold call on Saturday evening to take a coastal route to the finish, pinned against the shoreline by a series of exclusion zones. It hurt them in the short term as they tumbled down the leaderboard.

But by this morning, with less than 100 miles left to race, weather routing projections had the top teams finishing within minutes of each other. None had been able to break away, despite the significant splits on the race course.

At 16:22:32 Irish time it was Dongfeng Race Team flying in down the coast from the north to win the leg, and the race.

It was the closest finish in the 45-year history of the race and the first win for a Chinese-flagged team.

MAPFRE, projected to finish number two on the overall leaderboard, finished third (16:39:25 Irish time) within seconds of fellow Dutch-flagged Team AkzoNobel (16:38:31), while Team Brunel (16:45:52)) missed a place on the final race podium by a matter of minutes.

Nine minutes later, Annalise Murphy and her crewmates on Turn the Tide on Plastic (16:56:56) had cause for celebration after holding off Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (17:01:32) for fifth place, meaning an overall leaderboard tiebreaker at next Saturday’s In-Port Race is on the cards.

Vestas 11th Hour Racing rounded out the arrivals at 17:05:36 Irish time, meaning the entire fleet finishing within 45 minutes.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race

#VOR - It’s been a sleepless night for Volvo Ocean Race sailors and fans alike. The racing has never been closer and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

Yesterday evening (Saturday 23 June), a split developed among the three boats competing for the overall win in the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race: MAPFRE, Team Brunel and Dongfeng Race Team.

The finishing order for these three boats on this final leg of the race will determine their position on the overall race podium.

Charles Caudrelier’s Chinese-flagged Dongfeng Race Team made a bold call to hug the coast, taking the eastern option.

“We've chosen the path inshore,” said watch captain Stu Bannytyne. “So there is a lot of very tricky navigation. There are a lot of sandbanks, Traffic Separation Schemes, maybe some wind farms and very changeable weather.”

This route has cost the team on the leg leaderboard in the short term. But the possible payoff could come later today, Sunday 24 June.

With the wind forecast to ease significantly offshore, the dividends of the coastal route may come on the approach to the finish, where the inshore boats hold the breeze and their speed for longer.

Team Brunel, along with the current leg leader Team AkzoNobel, committed to the offshore route early.

“We just need to find some good speed and get to Holland,” said Team Brunel helmsman Peter Burling. His team had to overcome a small breakage on an outrigger last night, which cost them a bit of distance.

MAPFRE appeared to make a late call to join them and it cost the Spanish crew. Needing to sail a slower angle to get further west, last night’s race leader slid back in the rankings behind the Dutch boats.

“We were lining up to go on the inside, down Germany and the top of Holland, and made a late call to go west – and as a result we lost quite a lot on Brunel and Team AkzoNobel who decided to go this way earlier,” said MAPFRE’s Blair Tuke.

“It’s a tricky one but we have to do what we think is right to get us there the fastest. Both boats we have to beat are going different ways. We’re going to have to fight to the end. There’s going to be a compression as we come into the finish, so plenty still to play for. Glad we’re still here and in the fight.”

At 9am Irish time morning, the positions were clear, but far from decisive.

Simeon Tienpont’s Team AkzoNobel was gunning for the leg win, but just 0.1 miles ahead of Bouwe Bekking’s Team Brunel. And Xabi Fernández’s MAPFRE was just half a mile further back. Two hours later, those positions were flipped on their head, with MAPFRE holding the slimmest of leads over Brunel and Akzonobel.

Vestas 11th Hour Racing is with the offshore group as well, clawing forward from a four-mile deficit to within a mile of the leading trio.

Looking at the Live Tracker, the boats in the east appeared to be in trouble, nearly 50 miles back. But in reality, the gap in terms of sailing distance is more like 18 miles. And weather routing software suggests the difference at the finish might be as little as 15 minutes.

With that 50 miles difference closing to 30 over the course of this morning, the fact is the race is far from over.

Dee Caffari’s Turn the Tide on Plastic – with Annalise Murphy working hard on deck – and David Witt’s Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag took the coastal option approximately 10 miles behind Dongfeng. Caffari’s team currently holds a two-mile margin over the Scallywags, which could draw them level on the leaderboard. If that happens, the In-Port Race Series will be the tie-break, with the final race on Saturday 30 June.

The current ETA predicts the leaders will arrive in The Hague between 4pm and 6pm Irish time this afternoon. The Volvo Ocean Race website will have live coverage on the Race Tracker, as well as live aerial footage of the fleet as they fight it out in the final battle of the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race.

Leg 11 Position Report, Sunday 24 June (Day 4) at 11.30am Irish time/10.30am UTC:

  1. MAPFRE - DTF 46.3 nautical miles
  2. Team Brunel +0.1 nautical miles
  3. Team AkzoNobel +0.2
  4. Vestas 11th Hour Racing +1.1
  5. Dongfeng Race Team +28.9
  6. Turn the Tide on Plastic +38.5
  7. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag +40.8
Published in Volvo Ocean Race

#VOR - A brief split opened up in the Volvo Ocean Race fleet this afternoon (Saturday 23 June) as Team AkzoNobel and Team Brunel were pushed by an unexpected wind shift to pass north and west of a commercial Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) while yesterday’s race leaders, Dongfeng Race Team and MAPFRE, slid down the east side.

The early advantage went to the race leaders, who increased their lead from eight to 12 miles.

“The breeze just shifted so much that we were on the wrong side of the TSS so we opted to reach down alongside of it. But that’s expensive as it means we’re sailing 90-degrees to the finish,” said Team Brunel skipper Bouwe Bekking.

“It’s just one of those things that happens during the race. We’ll lose Akzo as well [Ed: they did] as they tacked well before us and are just going to sail around us… Can’t change it.”

But the split hasn’t fully played out yet. The two Dutch boats may be the first to pick up the stronger winds forecast for later this afternoon. But in a covering move, the race leaders quickly pointed their bows west in a protective manoeuvre to minimise their exposure.

“We are waiting to catch the new wind,” said Dongfeng Race Team navigator Pascal Bidégorry. “The wind will come from the northwest, very strong. So it will be a left shift. We are on port tack now, waiting for more left shift to be able to tack and take the strong northwest wind directly south to the finish.”

Following a Friday night that saw the fleet compress through several light wind transitions, Charles Caudrelier’s Dongfeng Race Team emerged to round the Norway turning mark in first place at 8am Irish time this morning. Xabi Fernández’s MAPFRE crew was less than a mile behind, while Charlie Enright’s Vestas 11th Hour Racing was just three miles back.

“We are pretty tight with Dongfeng and we have to keep pushing,” said MAPFRE’s Antonio Cuervos-Mons before his team snatched the lead mid afternoon.

“We still want to win this leg,” said Vestas 11th Hour Racing’s Jena Mai-Hansen, who sailed past her home port when the team took the turn at the Aarhus race mark on Friday afternoon. “The guys here are not too far in front of us and everything is full on for the three boats trying to win the race…”

Today is the penultimate day for the final leg of this Volvo Ocean Race. Three teams still have a chance to win the overall race and the finishing order between MAPFRE, Dongfeng Race Team and Team Brunel will determine the podium order for the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18.

With just 400 miles left to the finish line in The Hague, the stakes couldn’t be higher.

The teams will need to navigate between more TSS exclusion zones before reaching The Hague and choices must be made shortly that will play out over the coming hours. Tension is running high on board. As is the exhaustion level.

“I think we are going to sleep well when we arrive in The Hague,” Bidégorry said wryly. “We have only a bit more than one day to go and then the Volvo Ocean Race is finished. We have to keep on pushing to the maximum.”

The race looks set to become even closer before that. Everyone is pushing to the maximum and with less than five miles separating the first five boats, mistakes will be punished.

There is a battle at the back of the fleet as well, where Turn the Tide on Plastic has turned the tables on Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag in the battle for sixth place.

David Witt’s Scallywag has a tenuous one-point advantage on the leaderboard, but Dee Caffari’s Turn the Tide on Plastic could draw level by beating them this leg. Then, the In-Port Race on 30 June could determine the tie-break.

The current ETA predicts the leaders will arrive tomorrow afternoon (Sunday 24 June) between 2pm and 5pm Irish time. The Volvo Ocean Race website will have live coverage on the Race Tracker, as well as live aerial footage of the fleet as they fight it out in the final battle of the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race.

Leg 11 Position Report, Saturday 23 June (Day 3) at 3.30pm Irish time/2.30pm UTC:

  1. MAPFRE - DTF 386.4 nautical miles
  2. Dongfeng Race Team +1.0 nautical miles
  3. Team AkzoNobel +4.1
  4. Vestas 11th Hour Racing +4.2
  5. Team Brunel +4.4
  6. Turn the Tide on Plastic +11.6
  7. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag +12.0
Published in Volvo Ocean Race

#VOR - Rivals Dongfeng Race Team and MAPFRE were locked in a bitter tussle for the Leg 11 lead – and overall Volvo Ocean Race victory – on Friday 22 June as they led the fleet towards the Danish city of Aarhus.

One third of the way through the 970-mile sprint final leg from Gothenburg to The Hague, the seven teams were today split by less than 20 miles as they charged south through the Kattegat, the strait separating Sweden and Denmark.

After rounding the first course mark off Norway overnight, the leading pair profited from better breeze than their counterparts and extended the gap at the front.

With the second mark at Aarhus on Denmark’s east coast within sight, the two red boats were only half a mile apart as of 2pm Irish time, keeping alive the battle that will grant overall race victory to whichever of Dongfeng, MAPFRE and Team Brunel finishes ahead of the others.

Their closest rivals on the race course, Vestas 11th Hour Racing, were a little over four miles miles back in third place, while Brunel held down fourth but have work to do to narrow a gap of some 12 miles.

As well as being a monstrous battle between the crews, the race for the overall title is also a personal one.

Charles Caudrelier skippered Dongfeng to third spot in the 2014-15 edition, while Brunel, under race veteran Bouwe Bekking’s leadership, finished second. MAPFRE skipper Xabi Fernández has raced four times but never lifted the trophy.

What’s more, if MAPFRE or Team Brunel win the race, either MAPFRE’s Blair Tuke or Brunel’s Peter Burling will become the first sailor ever to complete the ‘triple crown’: victory in the Olympics, the America’s Cup and the Volvo Ocean Race.

But one-third of the way through the challenging final leg, the focus has narrowed to the next manoeuvre, the next transition.

“This downwind section has been pretty tricky – in general there’s been a big extension,” MAPFRE’s Tuke said.

“We’ve gained quite a lot on Brunel, AkzoNobel and Vestas. We’ve managed to stay close to Dongfeng but for a little while it was pretty scary – they managed to get five or six miles in front of us. As we’ve come into Denmark we’ve compressed again.

“We’re now on one of our fastest sail setups, so all’s good but hopefully we can catch up even more, and, at some stage before The Hague, pass them.”

On Brunel, the crew were cursing their luck as they watched the gap to the frontrunners grow — but had faith in the forecast which predicts the wind to drop coming into Aarhus, providing an opportunity to catch up.

“It’s been a case of ‘the rich get richer’ since rounding the mark off Norway,” Burling said. “The fleet’s been expanding a little, but there should be a pretty good compression as we come into Aarhus. Hopefully we can catch up with them again.”

Skipper Bouwe Bekking added: “We didn't sail too smart yesterday afternoon and that has become expensive. At the rounding mark off Norway still in good contention, but then it went backwards. We will keep fighting until the end.”

Onboard Dongfeng, the crew were taking nothing for granted.

“We’ve sailed really nicely against MAPFRE and they’re still behind us,” Dongfeng watch captain Daryl Wislang said. “Let’s hope it can stay like that. It’s going to be a battle that’s for sure.”

“AnnaliseAnnalise Murphy and crew on Turn the Tide on Plastic working hard towards Aarhus earlier today, Friday 22 June (Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race)

Behind the leading group, the battle for sixth place on the overall leaderboard continues between Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag and Turn the Tide on Plastic. Currently, the pair are sailing bow to bow with a slight edge to the Scallywags.

After rounding the Aarhus mark, the fleet will then head north to a virtual mark close to the Norwegian coast, which they will leave to port, before beginning the run south into the Leg 11 finish line at the Dutch capital of The Hague.

The current ETA sees the leaders arriving on Sunday afternoon 24 June.

Leg 11 Position Report, Friday 22 June (Day 2) at 2.10pm Irish time/1.10pm UTC:

  1. Dongfeng Race Team - DTF 622.0 nautical miles
  2. MAPFRE +0.4 nautical miles
  3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing +4.5
  4. Team Brunel +12.2
  5. Team AkzoNobel +12.7
  6. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag +14.7
  7. Turn the Tide on Plastic +14.9
Published in Volvo Ocean Race

#VOR - Three teams started the final leg of the Volvo Ocean Race on Thursday afternoon (21 June) in an unprecedented dead-heat on the overall leaderboard.

And in the winner-take-all sprint from Gothenburg to The Hague, it was Charles Caudrelier’s Dongfeng Race Team taking the early advantage over their rivals for the overall title, Team Brunel and MAPFRE.

While Dongfeng found a clean lane to windward for the race start, Xabi Fernández’s MAPFRE and Bouwe Bekking’s Leg 10 winners Brunel were entangled at the leeward end of the line. In fact, MAPFRE was boxed out at the line and needed to circle around before starting behind the fleet.

As the boats lined up for the early reaching stage of Leg 11, Caudrelier was in pole position, vying with team AkzoNobel for the early lead, and well ahead of his competition for overall race victory, Brunel and MAPFRE.

“We’re excited to get going on this leg. It looks interesting and this is the kind of leg I really like,” Caudrelier had said before the start. “It’s reminds me of when I started to race, this kind of coastal racing. We’re ready for the fight and we know it’s going to be a big fight for sure.”

Bekking’s Team Brunel is the form team, having won three of the last four legs. They will need all of that ‘flow’ as the skipper calls it, to grab the title in The Hague.

“We believe we can win. I believe we can win,” Bekking said on the dock, pre-start. “It’s a fantastic way to finish this race. It’s my eighth time and we think we can we do it. As a team we’re still growing and we’re confident we can beat the two red boats.”

For MAPFRE, the intensity of the final leg is something skipper Xabi Fernández welcomes.

“We’ve prepared all we can and we have plenty of confidence,” Fernández said. “We’re happy to have a little bit of everything in the forecast for this leg. There won’t be much of a watch system for this one – all hands on deck!”

There’s another battle at the opposite end of the leaderboard where David Witt’s Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag leads Dee Caffari’s Turn the Tide on Plastic by just one point. Caffari has made it clear she and her crew, among them Ireland's own Annalise Murphy, would love to overhaul the Scallywags on the final leg of the race.

“We need to beat them with a boat or more in between us,” Caffari said. “We do not want to finish at the bottom of the leaderboard… So we have to sail our boat confidently and at the level we know and make sure we’re in amongst the rest of the fleet.”

But early on it was Scallywag starting the upwind beat to Norway ahead of Turn the Tide on Plastic. And as the fleet settled into what will be a 100-mile upwind push to Norway, Gothenburg In-Port Race winners Vestas 11th Hour Racing topped the leaderboard marginally ahead of Dongfeng Race Team, who have since reclaimed pole by a hair. Significantly, Team Brunel and MAPFRE are trailing the fleet.

The race course for Leg 11 takes the boats west out of the islets dotting the entrance to Gothenburg before turning north to head to a turning mark just off the coast of Norway. Then, it’s a dive south to round a mark near the Danish city of Aarhus, followed by a return north around the top of Denmark before racing south to The Hague.

Numerous tactical options are in play throughout the leg, with the weather forecast promising strong winds early, and lighter conditions near the finish on Sunday.

“This leg is going to be about speed, managing the transitions, having the right sails, making the right choices,” Caudrelier said. “It’s a complete test. We will have all different kinds of windspeed and wind angles so it’s going to be the best team who has learned the most and can take the good decisions under pressure who will win.”

ETA in Aarhus is for tomorrow afternoon (Friday 22 June), while the finish in The Hague is expected on Sunday afternoon 24 June.

Factoring in the turning marks off Norway and Aarhus, the leg length could approach 1,000 nautical miles. (Note that the turning mark off Norway is currently a mark of the course to be rounded before and after the Aarhus turning mark.)

Leg 11 Position Report, Thursday 21 June (Day 1) at 3pm Irish time/2pm UTC:

  1. Dongfeng Race Team – DTF 941.5 nautical miles
  2. Vestas 11th Hour Racing +0.1 nautical miles
  3. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag +0.2
  4. Turn the Tide on Plastic +0.3
  5. Team AkzoNobel +0.5
  6. Team Brunel +0.7
  7. MAPFRE +1.0
Published in Volvo Ocean Race
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