Brunel holds on to win Leg 7 in Itajaí
Published on April 3rd, 2018
Itajaí, Brazil (April 3, 2018; Day 17) – It was easily the most difficult stage of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18, and the sailors will almost certainly rank it as one of the hardest in the history of the race.
But Bouwe Bekking used his veteran nous to fight through all the challenges and lead Team Brunel to an incredibly narrow win over Charles Caudrelier’s Dongfeng Race Team. After racing nearly 7,600 nautical miles over the ground, the margin at the finish was less than 15 minutes.
“It’s been an unbelievable leg,” Bekking said. “We are sad in our hearts about the loss of John Fisher (SHK/Scallywag) and that sits very deep with us, but from a sporting standpoint we sailed a very nice leg so we take confidence from that.”
The course from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajaí, Brazil took the teams deep into the South Pacific, with an amended Ice Exclusion Zone set as far south as 60-degrees south latitude.
Down in the ‘Furious Fifties’ (south of 50-degrees latitude) the wind and cold was relentless. Steady gale force winds of 30-35 knots, with 4 to 6 metre seas was a normal day. Squalls could bring gusts upwards of 50 knots and towering seas. The temperature plummeted to just above freezing and snow and hail were common.
The teams jostled for position throughout the first 7 days of the leg, but as the boats gybed along the Ice Exclusion Zone, Brunel slid south from a position slightly further north of the leaders, and emerged with a 20-mile lead.
Bekking and his navigator Andrew Cape were able to hold this advantage past Cape Horn, picking up the first bonus point available on this leg. And apart from one position report three days ago where Dongfeng showed as the leader by virtue of a slightly more westerly position, Brunel has nursed this delicate lead all the way to the finish line in Brazil.
It hasn’t been easy. In the final 48 hours they’ve had Dongfeng close to within one mile, and over the final hours, in the lighter, shifty conditions near the finish line, it was an open contest; either team could win.
For Brunel, the victory means the team has collected all 16 points available for this leg (14 for winning the double-point scoring leg, a one point bonus for Cape Horn and a one point win bonus) and nearly doubled its point total from 20 to 36 points. Bekking and Brunel are back in the game.
“We always wanted to aim for the maximum points this leg, as it means we would most likely be top three,” Bekking said. “From now on it will be a matter of just chipping away. We’ve seen stranger things happen in the past in this race so I think we’re now in great shape to go for the finish in The Hague.”
For Caudrelier, the second place finish and 12 points won may be enough to grab the overall lead from MAPFRE, who have led the race since Leg 2. With a damaged mast track and main sail, MAPFRE hasn’t been able to hold on to the leaders and is now in fifth place, battling to salvage two more points by trying to overtake Turn the Tide on Plastic. Those boats are not likely to finish until the weekend.
“It’s a fantastic result for us. We have managed to come back into MAPFRE after plenty of frustration on the previous legs,” said Caudrelier. “This time we’ve managed to keep them back and far away and if Turn the Tide on Plastic can hold on we have a chance to take the overall lead.
“But the first thing was to finish the leg with everyone on board and safe,” Caudrelier continued. “Of course we are thinking about what happened to Scallywag and John Fisher… I’m so sad for his family and the whole Scallywag team. That is a fantastic team and they lost one of their own… But we are here to push the limits; that’s why we sail in this area. Sadly, it happens, and it’s always too much, but I think about John and all of our team thinks about him and his family.”
Next to finish Leg 7 will likely be team AkzoNobel who are approximately 36 hours behind the leaders, in what appears to be a safe position for a podium finish.
Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag have now made landfall in Chile but their future of continuing in the race remains unclear (details). Vestas 11th Hour Racing remain in the Falkland Islands, assessing logistical options to re-join the race following a dismasting just hours after passing Cape Horn. The upcoming schedule includes an In-Port Race in Itajaí on April 20 and the start of Leg 8 on April 22 to Newport, USA.
COURSE: Starting on March 18, Leg 7 takes the teams from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajaí, Brazil. Race organizers choose to estimate the tactical distance for each leg rather than list the actual distance, an unusual decision that’s revealed once the race starts and the tracker lists the actual distance to finish. The VOR says Leg 7 is 7600 nm whereas the truth is more like 6623 nm with an ETA in Itajaí between April 4 and 6.
For crew lists … click here.
Leg 7 – Position Report (17:27 UTC)
1. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), Finished on Apr 3 at 14:45:18 UTC
2. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), Finished on Apr 3 at 15:00:08 UTC
3. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), 244.4 nm DTF
4. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), 684.8 nm DTF
5. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), 776.3 nm DTF
RET. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA)
RET. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS)
DTF – Distance to Finish; DTL – Distance to Lead; RET – Retired
Overall Results (after 6 of 11 legs)
1. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), 39 points
2. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 34
3. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS), 26
4. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), 23
5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), 23
6. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), 20
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), 12
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