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Drama On And Off The Water In Exciting First Hours Of 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race

23rd October 2017
Dongfeng Race Team in the foreground as the fleet sprints out of Alicante on Sunday afternoon Dongfeng Race Team in the foreground as the fleet sprints out of Alicante on Sunday afternoon Photo: Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race

#VOR - It’s been a dramatic first 22-plus hours at sea for the Volvo Ocean Race fleet, both on and off the water.

Hotly tipped contenders MAPFRE, who were the first to score points in last week’s in-port race, and Dongfeng Race Team, who powered to an early lead right out of the gate in Alicante, both slipped back overnight as they missed favourable conditions closer to the Spanish coast en route to Gibraltar.

“Last night we lost a lot,” said Jin Hao Chen (Horace) on Dongfeng Race Team, currently languishing in seventh and last position close to fifth-placed MAPFRE off the north coast of Morocco.

“Pascal [Bidegorry, navigator] and Charles [Caudrelier, skipper] were working all night so we can be faster. It was a bad night, but sailing is sailing. We can come back!”

The big winners overnight were Vestas 11th Hour Racing, with Irish offshore veteran Damian Foxall aboard, and Team AkzoNobel — the latter especially after the last-minute reinstatement of skipper Simeon Tienpont saw a significant shake-up of its crew.

Both teams gybed inshore to the north to make gains in stronger pressure after passing Cabo de Gata.

"We’re pretty happy with how we’ve been going, can’t complain right now," said Hannah Diamond on the Vestas boat.

“We’ve got most of the boats a couple of miles behind us, as we went well overnight. But we know it's going to be tricky coming up to Gibraltar, and the 24 hours after that, so we’re just trying to get as far ahead as possible now.”

Currently (as of noon Irish time) in third is Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, with Team Brunel in sixth after being leapfrogged by now fourth-placed Turn The Tide on Plastic, with Annalise Murphy on deck.

As of earlier this morning, fewer than five miles separated third place from last, meaning there’s plenty of time for more surprises on the approach to Gibraltar this afternoon (Monday 23 October).

Team Brunel will be hoping those surprises don’t include any close calls like their near collision with MAPFRE and Dongfeng after yesterday’s race start, which treated spectator boats to some of the most intense racing ever seen in the opening minutes of a Volvo Ocean Race.

As for surprises on shore, Simeon Tienpont was announced as skipper for Team AkzoNobel with just minutes to spare before the boat left the dock in Alicante.

The move came after the Dutch sailor won an arbitration judgement on Friday (20 October) allowing him to return to the team days after his dismissal over an alleged “breach of contract” on the part of his management company.

VOR veteran Brad Jackson had been announced last weekend as the replacement skipper. But with Tienpont’s reinstated to the squad, Jackson has elected not to sail this first leg, along with Jules Salter and Joca Signorini. All three are now said by the team to be “considering their future plans”.

“This has obviously been an incredibly difficult time for everyone involved since we arrived here in Alicante just 10 days ago,” said Tienpont before the race start. “I have now reached an agreement with AkzoNobel and all parties now want to put this behind us and focus on our campaign for the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18.

“I would like to thank Brad Jackson for stepping up at such a challenging time to keep Team AkzoNobel moving forward with our preparations for the race.”

Published in Volvo Ocean Race
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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