Early lead for Dongfeng in Fastnet Race

Published on August 6th, 2017

Cowes, UK (August 6, 2017) – Dongfeng Race Team stormed down the western Solent to lead the fleet of Volvo Ocean 65s in the Rolex Fastnet Race – part two of the Leg Zero qualifying series for the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18.

With 2.5 knots of outgoing tide against 18-21 knots of south westerly wind, the Chinese team, skippered by Charles Caudrelier, secured their lead by expertly covering the rest of the tightly bunched fleet.

The two red boats, MAPFRE and Dongfeng Racing won the start but the Spanish team were held up by bad wind coming off Nikata, the biggest boat in the race at 115 feet. In fact, all the Volvo Ocean Race sailors were challenged by having to sail around the record 390-boat fleet in this 603-nautical mile offshore classic.

Sailing in a mixed boat fleet will not be a challenge after this section of Leg Zero. Following the Fastnet, the Volvo Ocean Race fleet will complete two more legs – Plymouth to Saint-Malo and Saint-Malo to Lisbon – without any other boats as a distraction, or hindrance.

The opening leg of Leg Zero was a 50nm sprint around the Isle of Wight, won in record-breaking fashion by MAPFRE.

That makes the Fastnet the first offshore test for the teams that will take the start line of the Volvo Ocean Race on October 22 in Alicante, Spain.

“It’s the first time we are all going to sail offshore against the other boats so it’s important to see where we are amongst the other boats,” said Caudrelier. “It’s a good race to train, to start racing together.”

As the boats reached the famous chalky cliffs of the Needles, Dongfeng led by 0.3 nm from Vestas 11th Hour Racing, with MAPFRE in third.

Team AkzoNobel, Team Brunel, Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag and Turn the Tide on Plastic were closely grouped behind, with only 0.6 nm separating the entire fleet.

Leaving the Isle of Wight behind, the fleet will face stable upwind conditions until Land’s End where scrambled winds from an old cold front, and strong tides await. This transition will be hard fought and could split the fleet, with opportunities for more experienced teams to react faster to the changing circumstances.

While an overall Leg Zero winner will be declared, no points will be carried through to the Volvo Ocean Race itself, meaning there’s particular value in the series for some of the later teams to enter.

David Witt, skipper of Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, said: “The longer we can sail in the same water as MAPFRE and Dongfeng, the more we’re going to learn. Just don’t expect us to set the world on fire until the real stuff happens.”

The boats are due at the Fastnet Rock at around 0600 UTC on Tuesday (Aug 8), whereupon they will sail downwind in conditions building from 15-20 knots before a reach to the finish in Plymouth late on Tuesday night.

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Background: The 603nm Rolex Fastnet Race is organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) and just 7 boats sailed in the first race in 1925. The race has been sponsored since 2001 by Rolex SA of Geneva and is legendary within the world of ocean racing. A record-sized fleet of 368 boats started the 47th edition of the biennial race off the Royal Yacht Squadron line, Cowes, Isle of Wight on Sunday 6th August 2017. It is the largest offshore race in the world and attracts the most diverse fleet of yachts.


The seven teams in the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race must compete in required qualification races, known as Leg Zero, to prepare for the October 22 start in Alicante, Spain.

Two legs combined with scheduled events:
• August 2: The immensely popular Round the Island Race, a 50-nautical mile sprint around the Isle of Wight.
• August 6: The famous 603 nm Rolex Fastnet Race featuring some of the hottest yachting hardware on the planet in a coastal race that has historically served up a hearty dose of danger – and a lot of stressed navigators.

Two legs just for the Volvo Open 65 teams:
• August 10: Plymouth, England to St Malo in France (125 nm)
• August 13: St Malo to Lisbon, Portugal (770 nm)

NOTE: There remains the possibility for an 8th team to still enter. If this occurs, the Notice of Race has a provision to ensure qualification sailing at the direction of the race organizer occurs.

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2017-18 Edition: Entered Teams – Skippers
Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED)
Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA)
MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP)
Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA)
Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS)
Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR)
Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED)

Background: Racing the one design Volvo Ocean 65, the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race begins in Alicante, Spain on October 22 2017 with the final finish in The Hague, Netherlands on June 30 2018. In total, the 11-leg race will visit 12 cities in six continents: Alicante, Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport, Cardiff, Gothenburg, and The Hague. A maximum of eight teams will compete.

Source: Volvo Ocean Race

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