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:
- MAPFRE - DTF 46.3 nautical miles
- Team Brunel +0.1 nautical miles
- Team AkzoNobel +0.2
- Vestas 11th Hour Racing +1.1
- Dongfeng Race Team +28.9
- Turn the Tide on Plastic +38.5
- Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag +40.8