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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
#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:
- MAPFRE - DTF 386.4 nautical miles
- Dongfeng Race Team +1.0 nautical miles
- Team AkzoNobel +4.1
- Vestas 11th Hour Racing +4.2
- Team Brunel +4.4
- Turn the Tide on Plastic +11.6
- Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag +12.0
#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.”
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:
- Dongfeng Race Team - DTF 622.0 nautical miles
- MAPFRE +0.4 nautical miles
- Vestas 11th Hour Racing +4.5
- Team Brunel +12.2
- Team AkzoNobel +12.7
- Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag +14.7
- Turn the Tide on Plastic +14.9
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:
- Dongfeng Race Team – DTF 941.5 nautical miles
- Vestas 11th Hour Racing +0.1 nautical miles
- Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag +0.2
- Turn the Tide on Plastic +0.3
- Team AkzoNobel +0.5
- Team Brunel +0.7
- MAPFRE +1.0
But it was Xabi Fernández’s MAPFRE team who rode a third-place finish to win the overall Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Race Series, sailing 11 points clear of their closest pursuers, Dongfeng Race Team.
With one In-Port Race left in The Hague, MAPFRE can now not be overtaken on the leaderboard.
“It’s a box ticked for us and we’re very happy with it,” Fernández said. “Today is a good day for us. We were planning to sail our own race, but in the start we saw it wasn’t going well for us so we decided to hold up Dongfeng and try to finish the series now.”
Conditions were ideal for racing, with winds in the 14-17 knot range, the southerly direction producing a reaching race course at the start. A wind shift turned the course into a true upwind/downwind for the last third of the race.
Team Brunel won the start with a fantastic time on distance run, hitting the line with speed and fully powered up.
Meanwhile, MAPFRE, with an eye on the leaderboard, stayed close to Dongfeng Race Team, luffing them up early and holding them back, the pair trailing the entire fleet early.
At the first mark, both tried to bully their way past Turn the Tide on Plastic, squeezing inside at the turn.
But while MAPFRE made a clean pass, Dongfeng Race Team didn’t have rights to push inside and received a penalty from the on-water umpires, knocking them back behind the fleet.
At the front of the race, Team Brunel was trying desperately to hold on to its early lead, but a poor choice in sail selection meant the team was underpowered on the downwind leg and dropped all the way back from first to sixth.
Vestas 11th Hour Racing and Team AkzoNobel were best placed to take advantage of the error and grabbed the leading two positions for the last lap of the course, with Charlie Enright’s team taking the win.
“We got off the start line okay and gave ourselves a chance,” Enright said. “On a day like today you’re never going to get it right 100% of the time, but the team that gets it right the most, wins. We’re happy with the result. Every time the start gun goes off it’s a chance to prove ourselves.”
The second-place finish for Simeon Tienpont’s AkzoNobel team moves his crew into a podium position for the series, just two points ahead of Team Brunel.
A fourth-place finish on Sunday allowed Dee Caffari’s Turn the Tide on Plastic — with Annalise Murphy among its hardworking crew — to close the gap with David Witt’s Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag to three points heading into the final race in The Hague on Saturday 30 June.
This Thursday 21 June, the final leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from Gothenburg to The Hague will start at 1pm Irish time (2pm local/12pm UTC) with the top three teams on the leaderboard in a dead heat.
“We’re already thinking about it,” Fernández admitted. “We knew it would be close but I don’t think anyone thought it would be three boats and whoever wins the leg, wins the race!”
The race for the title is between MAPFRE, Team Brunel and Dongfeng Race Team. Whoever among them finishes the leg to The Hague ahead of the others, will win the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18.
It marks the closest finish in the 45-year history of the race.
Live coverage of Leg 11 begins Thursday at 12.45pm Irish time on the Volvo Ocean Race website and social media channels.
In the meantime, watch a full reply of today’s Gothenburg In-Port Race below:
Current Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Race Series Points Table:
- MAPFRE – 61 points – In-Port Race Series winners
- Dongfeng Race Team – 50 points
- Team AkzoNobel – 45 points
- Team Brunel – 43 points
- Vestas 11th Hour Racing – 33 points
- Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag – 24 points
- Turn the Tide on Plastic – 21 points
Volvo Ocean Race Overall Points Leaderboard after Leg 10
- MAPFRE – 65 points
- Team Brunel – 65 points
- Dongfeng Race Team – 64 points*
- Team AkzoNobel – 53 points
- Vestas 11th Hour Racing – 38 points
- Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag – 30 points
- Turn the Tide on Plastic – 29 points
* One additional point will be awarded to the team with the best elapsed time at the conclusion of the race in The Hague. Currently, Dongfeng would win this point.
#VOR - With the Volvo Ocean Race making its fourth visit to Gothenburg, race fans will be treated to spectacular racing today (Sunday 17 June) on a course at the mouth of the Göta älv, the river that bisects the city.
As the home of Volvo, Gothenburg has become a home away from home for the race over the past 20 years.
While the overall leaderboard for the Volvo Ocean Race is historically tight, there is slightly more margin in the In-Port Race Series.
The biggest battle is between the two teams with Dutch skippers, where Bouwe Bekking’s Leg 10-winning Team Brunel leads Simeon Tienpont’s Team AkzoNobel in the fight for the final podium spot.
At the top of the table, Xabi Fernández’s MAPFRE is seven points clear of Charles Caudrelier’s Dongfeng Race Team. A win this afternoon would confirm MAPFRE’s victory in the series, ahead of the final race in The Hague on Saturday 30 June.
Further down the table, Charlie Enright’s Vestas 11th Hour Racing is five points clear of David Witt’s Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, who have Dee Caffari’s Turn the Tide on Plastic — with Annalise Murphy among the crew for these final stages — just four points behind.
With two In-Port Race Series events left, there is potential for movement here. The weather forecast, meanwhile, is for a 10-knot south-southwesterly, with a chance of light showers.
The VOR team will also be blogging all the moves, previews and news from the racetrack on the live blog, including the best of clips and social content, from 12.30pm Irish time. Find it at www.volvooceanrace.com under the ‘Racing’ section.
Current Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Race Series Leaderboard:
- MAPFRE – 56 points
- Dongfeng Race Team – 49 points
- Team Brunel – 41 points
- Team AkzoNobel – 39 points
- Vestas 11th Hour Racing – 26 points
- Sun Hung Kai / Scallywag – 21 points
- Turn the Tide on Plastic – 17 points
#VOR - Skipper Bouwe Bekking led his Team Brunel to a win in Leg 10 of the Volvo Ocean Race over Xabi Fernández’s MAPFRE squad, who claimed second place less than two minutes behind.
Brunel crossed the finish line at the Swedish port of Gothenburg at 20:42:01 UTC, with MAPFRE’s tine at 20:43:56. Team AkzoNobel, another Dutch entry, followed 19 minutes later to complete the podium.
The results mean MAPFRE and Team Brunel sit equal at the top of the leaderboard with 65 points. MAPFRE will be ranked in first place by virtue of leading the In-Port Race Series, which is the tie-break mechanism for the race.
Charles Caudrelier’s Dongfeng Race Team were the leaders at the beginning of Leg 10 but slid down the table as the week progressed.
However, with their fourth-place finish into Gothenburg at 21:15:32 UTC, Dongfeng will be on 64 points —with an additional bonus point for best elapsed time to be added after the Leg 11 finish.
This means the top three boats in the Volvo Ocean Race will start the final sprint into The Hague on June 21 in a dead heat, with the overall title on the line.
As of 11pm Irish time, six of the seven boats in the Volvo Ocean Race fleet had completed Leg 10.
Turn the Tide on Plastic, with Ireland’s 49erFX Olympic hopeful Annalise Murphy on deck, placed fifth at 21:32:00 UTC, while Vestas 11th Hour Racing completed the evenings arrivals at 21:56:40 UTC.
Only Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag are still racing, with 23 nautical miles left to cover as of 11.42pm Irish time (UTC+1).
#VOR - Bouwe Bekking’s Team Brunel shot past most of the fleet over the past 24 hours, eventually eking ahead of MAPFRE on Thursday morning (14 June) and taking the lead in Leg 10 of the Volvo Ocean Race.
But with only 130 miles to go to the finish line in Gothenburg, Sweden, just 12 miles separate the top five crews. No position is secure and the intensity is relentless.
In a clear sign of intent, Bekking and his Brunel team showed they have their eyes on the overall race win as they pushed the pace overnight and inched out to a half-a-mile advantage on their Spanish rivals.
The veteran Dutch skipper has seven previous editions of the Volvo Ocean Race under his belt dating back to 1985-86 – yet despite plenty of leg wins Bekking has never lifted the overall trophy.
However, he could be about to get his best shot at remedying that.
If the leg were to finish this evening with the teams in the positions they occupy currently, both Brunel and MAPFRE would be tied at the top of the table on 65 points while Dongfeng Race Team, the current overall leader, would slip to third overall on 64 points.
Having had a slow start to the race, Brunel has finished on the podium in the last three stages, winning Legs 7 and 9 and collecting a phenomenal 37 of 39 points available.
The blistering change in fortune has rocketed them back into contention – and a win in Leg 10 would confirm their chances for the overall race victory.
“Like we've seen in absolutely every leg, it's not over until you cross the finish line,” Brunel’s Kyle Langford said.
“We've been on the bad end of that – we were leading into Newport on Leg 8 and lost it with 30 seconds to go.
“So, we know that anything is possible until the finish so you've got to keep an optimistic attitude, even if you're behind. But we're positive, I think, that we can win this leg and also the overall race we've just got to keep doing what we're doing.”
Having led the race overall for the early stages before being caught up, the MAPFRE crew are all too aware of the enormity of the situation.
“We’re all pushing as much as we can,” said MAPFRE’s Antonio ‘Neti’ Cuervas Mons. “I think Brunel found a new mode which has seen them sail faster than us. We are maybe faster than them downwind though. The race will be decided over these coming hours so we just need to keep pushing as hard as possible.”
Meanwhile, Dongfeng were kicking themselves for allowing their rivals to slip past as the fleet skirted the southern coast of Norway in southerly winds of more than 30 knots.
“It was not the best night we’ve had on Dongfeng – we’ve been quite slow and we don’t know why,” said Dongfeng’s Kevin Escoffier.
“It’s very annoying. We were behind MAPFRE but Brunel passed us, as did Turn the Tide on Plastic and AkzoNobel.”
Dongfeng managed to get back ahead of Turn the Tide, who subsequently turned the tables again and maintain a single-mile lead in fourth place as of 4pm Irish time. A podium finish for Annalise Murphy’s team isn’t out of the question.
The latest ETA sees the leaders arriving in Gothenburg around 9.30pm this evening, having raced 1,300 miles from Cardiff in Wales.
Leg 10 Position Report, Wednesday 13 June (Day 5) at 4pm Irish time/3pm UTC:
- Team Brunel – DTF 130.8 nautical miles
- MAPFRE +0.8 nautical miles
- Team AkzoNobel +6.9
- Turn the Tide on Plastic +11.5
- Dongfeng Race Team +12.4
- Vestas 11th Hour Racing +18.5
- Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag +47.3
The painfully light and fickle winds that dogged the seven teams on Tuesday as they crossed a high pressure ridge had today been replaced by powerful south-westerlies that were blasting them north-east at breakneck speeds.
The onboard speedos were screaming into the mid-20s as winds built to more than 25 knots around 10 miles off the coast of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides.
Having profited from the northerly route through the high-pressure ridge, MAPFRE emerged at the head of the fleet on Tuesday evening – and at 3pm Irish time had a slim advantage of just over three miles.
Overall race leaders Dongfeng Race Team occupied the runner-up spot, with Turn the Tide on Plastic in third six miles from the leaders.
Although more than 600 miles of the 1,300-mile leg from Cardiff, Wales, to Gothenburg, Sweden, remain, the pressure is on.
If MAPFRE were to win the leg with Dongfeng in second place, the Spanish team would be tied on points (should Dongfeng, as projected, collect a bonus point for fastest overall elapsed time) with their Chinese rivals setting up a winner-takes-all final leg from Gothenburg to The Hague.
“Crossing the ridge to the west of Ireland was critical,” said MAPFRE helmsman Rob Greenhalgh. “We spent the 24 hours prior to that getting as far north as we could to make the crossing as comfortable as possible.
“We all exited at a pretty similar time but we’ve managed to make a little extension on the others. So far so good – we’ve got all the main players right where we want them.”
With so much at stake, the teams are pushing harder than ever before in the knowledge that what happens now will ultimately affect their overall position in the race.
“It’s going to be downwind, quite windy, and now we have to be fast to catch up to MAPFRE,” said Kevin Escoffier while steering Dongfeng Race Team through the waves.
Already exhausted from eight months of full-on ocean racing around the planet, Leg 10 is taking its toll.
It might be the shortest leg of the race to date but it is also shaping up to be one of the toughest.
“We haven’t slept much at all this leg,” said Australian Olympic sailor Nina Curtis, a crew member of fourth-placed Team Brunel.
“Even when it was super light we were constantly moving the stack around. I think the most sleep I’ve strung together in one go is one hour. I don’t think I’ve ever been this tired before. The guys told me it would be intense but this is a whole new level of intensity.”
In less than 36 hours, the teams are expected to arrive in Gothenburg — but from a weather perspective it’s about to get much worse before it gets better.
The crews will have to fight through gale- to storm-force winds near 45 knots, driving rain and poor visibility as they cross the North Sea and head south along the coast of Norway.
They can expect to be pushed to their limits – and beyond – before stepping on to dry land again Thursday night.
Leg 10 Position Report, Wednesday 13 June (Day 4) at 3pm Irish time/2pm UTC:
- MAPFRE – DTF 554.5 nautical miles
- Dongfeng Race Team +3.4 nautical miles
- Turn the Tide on Plastic +6.0
- Team Brunel +7.4
- Team AkzoNobel +8.8
- Vestas 11th Hour Racing +13.6
- Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag +51.4
#VOR - The Volvo Ocean Race teams were pointing in completely the opposite direction to the Leg 10 finish line on Tuesday 12 June as they attempted to cross a windless ridge of high-pressure that could hold the key to overall victory.
In a bizarre twist, the seven teams found themselves heading due west on Tuesday afternoon local time, away from the finish port of Gothenburg, as they battled to get across the ridge 100 miles west of the Irish coast.
After almost two days at sea in the penultimate stage of the 11-leg race – and with fewer than 1,000 miles remaining – just seven miles split the seven crews.
Today it was the turn of Spanish outfit MAPFRE to occupy the top spot, though Team AkzoNobel have since (as of 3.04pm Irish time) pipped them to pole position by the slimmest of margins.
Early leg leaders Dongfeng Race Team, who currently top the overall scoreboard, have been relegated to fourth behind Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag.
However the current standings aren’t all they seem. In reality, Scallywag likely trails the fleet by around 16 miles, but is technically closer to the finish line some 970 miles to the east.
While boat speeds were down to just a handful of knots as of 2pm Irish time, the teams all know that on the other side of the ridge lies stronger south westerlies that will allow them to point north and start to blast towards the top of Scotland.
The first teams into the stronger breeze will get the opportunity to pull away from their rivals — and with just three points separating the top three teams on the overall leaderboard, it could prove crucial to the outcome of the entire race.
“It’s been very tricky since the start as I’m sure you’ve seen,” said MAPFRE skipper Xabi Fernández. “We are a little bit nervous about crossing the ridge as the first one through will look very good, so we are trying to gain to the west as much as can … Happy to be here in the north and looking good, but still quite nervous to be honest.”
“Three or four days still to go and anything can happen,” MAPFRE bowman Willy Altadil said. “Maybe the Volvo Ocean Race will be decided in the next 10 hours – after that the wind will come and it will be harder to pass people.”
Having wiggled their way back to the front of the fleet, Team AkzoNobel’s thoughts now turn to what lies in store later in the leg.
The forecast is for testing conditions: 40 knots of breeze and poor visibility around Scotland, a breezy upwind passage across the North Sea, then even stronger winds and bigger seas off the coast of Norway.
“Most of the boats are pretty much in a line, south east to north west, coming into the ridge,” AkzoNobel watch captain Chris Nicholson said. “What’s weird is that it’s the same ridge that we crossed two weeks ago [on Leg 9, into Cardiff]. We’re hoping things will be a little bit better for us crossing the ridge a little further to the north.
“I don’t think anyone really knows where they need to be but we’ve pretty much stuck to our plan so in that regard we’re reasonably happy. Now we’re just gearing up talking about how we’re going to change and adjust sails really efficiently from after we cross the ridge to the finish. I think that’s going to be the trick.”
The approach on Vestas 11th Hour Racing, the most southerly boat in the fleet, was equally simple.
“Hopefully we get in alright, get out alright and end up in first place,” Tom Johnson said. “That’s the plan, anyway.”
The ETA into the finish in Gothenburg, Sweden is currently Thursday night 14 June.
Leg 10 Position Report, Tuesday 12 June (Day 3) at 3.04pm Irish time/2.04pm UTC:
- Team AkzoNobel – DTF 971.9 nautical miles
- MAPFRE +0.0 nautical miles
- Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag +1.4
- Dongfeng Race Team +6.5
- Turn the Tide on Plastic +6.5
- Vestas 11th Hour Racing +6.8
- Team Brunel +6.9