Dramatic Volvo Ocean Race Finish in Lisbon - Sail Magazine

Dramatic Volvo Ocean Race Finish in Lisbon

Author:
Publish date:
Alvimedica shows Dongfeng the way home after passing its rival within sight of the finish in Lisbon

Alvimedica shows Dongfeng the way home after passing its rival within sight of the finish in Lisbon. Photo courtesy of VOR/Ricardo Pinto

So much for the match race between Dongfeng and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam.

In the run-up to Leg 7 from Newport, Rhode Island, to Lisbon, Portugal, it was pretty much assumed that, barring any kind of catastrophe, overall leader Azzam had the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race well in hand.

The one possible threat was the surging Sino-European team aboard Dongfeng, which seemed to have unlocked the secret to wringing out just a touch more boatspeed than the rest of the fleet—an advantage that could theoretically erase Azzam’s six-point lead, given the right set of circumstances.

Dongfeng in hot pursuit of MAPFRE in the open Atlantic midway through the race. Photo courtesy of Yann Riou/Dongfeng

Dongfeng in hot pursuit of MAPFRE in the open Atlantic midway through the race. Photo courtesy of Yann Riou/Dongfeng

And indeed, midway through the relatively short 2,800-mile transatlantic leg, it appeared skipper Charles Caudrelier and crew had managed to do just that: when Azzam sailed into a hole that not only sent it into last place, but put the entire fleet (and the all-important points those boats represent) between them and their Chinese rivals.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to a dramatic Chinese comeback—seven-time race veteran Bouwe Bekking aboard Dutch-flagged Brunel, and the scrappy young crew aboard the Turkish-American boat, Alvimedica.

[advertisement]

The first to strike was Bekking and company, when they hooked onto a small system about a week into the race that propelled them to the head of the fleet, in front of Dongfeng. The Dutch team’s margin was never very great—typically under 10 miles—but Brunel still managed to hang on, even in the fluky winds at the finish, for the leg win.

Footage of first-place Brunel and second-place MAPFRE finishing in Lisbon

Worse yet for Dongfeng was Alvimedica, which represented an important point as the young, largely American crew remained between them and Azzam. Although Alvimedica had been stuck toward the back of the fleet ever since leaving Newport, it suddenly came on in the final hours, working the land breeze to thread its way through the fleet and then besting Dongfeng in a tacking duel right before the finish to take third behind MAPFRE. The final delta: a mere 55 seconds after nine and a half days of racing.

“We have been awake for the last 24 hours, so it’s still settling in,” Alvimedica’s exhausted but elated skipper, Charlie Enright, said of the close finish. “No one gave up, and we kept ourselves in touch so that we could make a play in the end.”

“Training here a year ago was a big part of it,” said watch captain Mark Towill. “We also did a lot of pre-leg preparation for the final 30 miles of the race, and it all came down to that. A big credit to [navigator] Will Oxley and the navigation team for the pre-race work: It was quite a grind-off and a physical challenge in the last few miles. It was a huge credit to the guys on the boathandling.”

Meanwhile, aboard Dongfeng, Caudrelier made no attempt to hide his disappointment after leading the leg for so long and seeing a podium place disappear in the final miles.

Vestas: Vestas Wind arrives in Lisbon after undergoing extensive repairs in Italy in preparation for rejoining the race for Leg 8 Photo courtesy of VOR/Ricardo Pinto

Vestas: Vestas Wind arrives in Lisbon after undergoing extensive repairs in Italy in preparation for rejoining the race for Leg 8. Photo courtesy of VOR/Ricardo Pinto

"I'm feeling very bad, very upset and very sad," Caudrelier said. "We deserved better, but I guess that's life. Most of all, I'm upset with myself, because my crew did a great job…. We really missed a chance in this leg with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing finishing fifth."

Although the boat came in ahead of Azzam, Dongfeng’s fourth-place finish means it still remains five points behind the overall leader. Worse yet, the crew also has to worry about Brunel, which is now nipping at its heels, just a single point back in third. Four points behind Brunel, MAPFRE remains in fourth, with Alvimedica just another point behind in fifth.

Further complicating things as the VOR heads into its final two offshore legs is the fact that Vestas Wind—refloated and repaired after running aground in the Indian Ocean last winter—is set to re-join the race for the leg from Lisbon to Lorient, France, and the bigger the fleet, the more opportunity for the teams to put points between themselves and their rivals.

Clearly, as the 2014-15 VOR enters the final stages leading up to its ultimate conclusion in Gothenburg, Sweden, this race is far from over.

[advertisement]

Related

Seascape24

Boat Review: Seascape 24

Since its inception in 2008, Slovenian builder Seascape, founded by a pair of Mini Transat sailors, has focused solely on creating boats that are both simple and loads of fun to sail. With their 18-footer and then a 27-footer they succeeded in putting out a pair of trailerable ...read more

01-Trash-Tiki_in-partnership-with-Subtch-Sports_starting

The Adventurers Aboard Trash-Tiki

If you were in Gotland, a popular island vacation destination off the coast of Sweden, on the morning of July 3, your holiday might have been interrupted by a startling sight: a tiny island of trash approaching shore with people aboard. It was, in fact, a sailboat made from ...read more

atlantic-cup-trailer

2018 Atlantic Cup Video Mini-Series

Atlantic Cup 2018: TrailerThis past spring, SAIL magazine was on-hand to document the 2018 Atlantic Cup, a two-week-long Class 40 regatta spanning the U.S. East Coast and one of the toughest events in all of North America. The preview above will give you a taste of the four-video ...read more

hardangerfjord

Cruising: Holland to Norway

In 2015, we cruised to Norway’s Lofoten Islands on our Nordic 40, Juanona, which we’d sailed transatlantic from Maine to England. Our 2016 plan was to cruise through the Netherlands to the Kiel Canal, sail into the Baltic as far as Stockholm, then cruise the western coast of ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comThe Watch-keeper’s Nightmare The commercial watchkeeper’s most awkward decisions come with a vessel converging from abaft the starboard beam showing a red light. If he’s more than 2 points, or around 22 ...read more

cosair760R

Boat Review: Corsair 760R

We’d only been out on Miami’s Biscayne Bay aboard the Corsair 760R a few minutes when Corsair Marine marketing manager Shane Grover and I began bemoaning the fact neither of us had a GPS with us to determine our boatspeed. Moments later, though, we both came to the same ...read more

ChildrenOfCorn

Ethanol in Fuel

One of the first stories I ever edited for publication in a boat magazine, way back in 1986, was about the dangers and general inconvenience imposed on recreational boaters by the blending of alcohol with gasoline. As I recall I arranged to illustrate it with a sensational gothic ...read more

nomad

Digital Yacht: Portable Nomad

AIS FOR NOMADsWant AIS, but not the hassle and expense of installing a transponder and its associated paraphernalia? The fully portable Nomad from Digital Yacht could be the answer. It combines Class B AIS and GPS functionality with the ability to connect via WiFi or AIS to up to ...read more