This leg could still sink a team’s hopes

Published on May 20th, 2018

by Conrad Colman, New Zealand Herald
There were a few grumpy sea dogs complaining about how unfair the finish to the last leg of the Volvo Ocean Race in Newport (Leg 8) was when we saw the lead change in the last 500m due to thick fog, a strong current and no wind.

Well, that’s just part of ocean racing. Back in the days of the huge sailing clippers that delivered tea and other goods around the world, sailors didn’t stop when they crossed an imaginary line out at sea. They couldn’t count a ‘win’ until they were safely docked up and the goods had fetched a good price at the markets.

You could say Mapfre got the best price in the last leg. It was an astonishing victory, especially given their troubles through the Doldrums where they lost huge ground and also had to sail most of the leg with a mechanical breakdown because of a problem with their keel.

They never gave up and it proved the proverb that, the harder you work the luckier you get.

Points are incredibly tight, with Mapfre only three points ahead of Dongfeng Race Team, I believe they are again the favourites to take home the overall trophy.

They are hungry for victory, especially after all their troubles over the last couple of legs that also included a ripped mainsail, and it would be amazing to see Blair Tuke achieve an unprecedented triple crown of Olympic gold, America’s Cup victory and the Volvo Ocean Race.

Although Peter Burling’s Team Brunel are still in with an outside chance, nine points behind Mapfre, it’s really coming down to the grudge match between the two red boats, Mapfre and Dongfeng Race Team.

There are interesting subplots at play. Mapfre skipper Xabi Fernandez has never won it in five times of trying and Charles Caudrelier has also never won it as a skipper and he knows he has a massive opportunity this time around with a sponsor who spared no expense in the pursuit of victory.

Either way, it’s going to be historic.

The next leg to Cardiff is going to be pivotal, especially with double points on offer. I’ve sailed across the North Atlantic a number of times and it can be awesome, but it can also be cruel.

Anyone who thinks they’ve ‘made it’ as a sailor because they’ve been through the Southern Ocean needs to maintain their concentration for the final stretch because it’s a stretch of water that deserves the utmost respect.

Most of my troubles when sailing around the world have been in the North Atlantic rather than the Southern Ocean and it’s where I dismasted in a storm on last year’s Vendee Globe.

It’s going to be a sleigh ride with plenty of low-pressure systems racing across from North America to northern Europe, and whoever can hook onto one of these and stay there the longest will win. Conversely, anyone who falls off the back will be left behind meaning we could see a much bigger spread in the boats than the nail-bitingly close finish in Newport.

Interestingly, the fleet will be sailing over where the Titanic sank. There won’t be any ice this time because of global warming but this leg could still sink a team’s hopes.

Conrad Colman competed in the 2016-17 Vendee Globe solo, non-stop round the world race and is a regular commentator for the Volvo Ocean Race.

COURSE: Starting on May 20, Leg 9 takes the fleet from Newport, USA to Cardiff, Wales. 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 organizers say Leg 9 is 3300nm whereas the actual distance from the tracker is 2878.4nm.

For crew lists… click here.

Race detailsTrackerScoreboardRace routeFacebookYouTube

Overall Results (after 8 of 11 legs)
1. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), 53 points
2. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 50
3. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), 42
4. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), 36
5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), 28
6. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS), 27
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), 22

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.

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