For a number of years now, the Volvo Ocean Race has been synonymous with photo finishes at the conclusion of thousands of miles of racing. Still, even by VOR standards, Tuesday’s Leg 8 finish in Newport, Rhode Island, was an extraordinary one: with Spain’s Mapfre not only leapfrogging from fifth place right up into the thick of things in the final 24 hours, but pipping long-time leg-leader Team Brunel at the post just 50 yards shy of the line after the better part of 6,000 miles of racing. Incredible!
In doing so, the team also grabbed the lead overall, an incredible turnaround from a disappointing Leg 7 around Cape Horn when the team finished fifth after having to temporarily suspend racing in order to repair its damaged main.
“This is unbelievable,” Mapfre skipper Xabi Fernández said moments after crossing the finish line. “I can’t be happier. We were always hoping to come back a little bit, but to be honest, we were not expecting to win this leg, so we’re super happy. Our hopes were always that there would be a compression so we could catch someone… Last night [it was] crazy how much everything has closed up and everyone on board did an amazing job.”
Meanwhile, at the other end of the emotional spectrum were Team Brunel’s skipper Bouwe Bekking and Dongfeng’s French-born skipper Charles Caudrelier, whose team had appeared to be well positioned for a possible win as the fleet first began battling its way through the fog and zephyrs guarding the finish off Fort Adams in Narragansett Bay, but instead ended up in fourth.
“We’re very disappointed,” said Caudrelier, whose team had been in first overall at the start of the leg, but is now three points off the pace in second. “We were dreaming about a victory here…. It makes me angry, and I will be better on the next one. I am already focused on the future, and I promise Dongfeng will do a fantastic job on the next one.”
As for Bekking, whose team is now securely in third overall with six points between it and fourth-place AkzoNobel, while he and his team were understandably disappointed, they remained philosophical as well.
"In the end, it was an annoying finish line for us. But it was exciting, so I hope the audience was able to enjoy it,” said Bekking, whose team had been on top ever since being the first to emerge from the doldrums over a week ago. “Mapfre was the first to cross the finish line, so they have rightly won."
"Obviously I'm pretty disappointed,” added America’s Cup hero and Team Brunel trimmer Peter Burling. “I felt like we sailed a really good leg. To lose the lead to Mapfre with only 0.5 mile to go on one puff drifting along is hard. But we're happy that we're second. It could be way worse. Look at what happened to Dongfeng."
Rounding out the podium was Charlie Enright and Mark Towill’s joint U.S./Danish effort, Vestas 11th Hour Racing, which is now very much racing for pride after missing out on no less than four finishes after a collision with a fishing vessel during Leg 4 and a dismasting in Leg 7. For video of the entire Newport finish in all its nail-biting glory, click here.
Meanwhile, the fleet having blasted its way north in record time, the Volvo Race Village out on Newport’s Fort Adam is now officially open, with dozens of activities on tap for race fans of all ages. Between now and the start of Leg 9, across the Atlantic to Cardiff, Wales, on May 20, there will also be a number of on-the-water events, including a practice race on Wednesday, May 16, a Pro-Am Race on May 17, and the official VOR in-port race on Saturday, May 19.
For complete details on the Newport stopover, click here.