The Volvo Remains Anybody’s Race

Publish date:
Social count:
AkzoNobel’s Leg 6 win highlighted the fact that midway through, the Volvo Ocean Race remains very much up for grabs

AkzoNobel’s Leg 6 win highlighted the fact that midway through, the Volvo Ocean Race remains very much up for grabs

It’s now official: midway through the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race, not just second and third, but even first place remains very much up for grabs, Mapfre’s current leaderboard position notwithstanding.

Indeed, with the exception of Dee Caffari’s Turn the Tide on Plastic, which seems to have a tendency to come up short when the pressure is on, you could make the argument that any one of the other teams could still win this thing.

Take David Witt’s rough-and-tumble Sung Hung Kai/Scallywag. When the boat’s less-experienced crew took first place in 5,600-mile-long Leg 4, from Australia to its home port of Hong Kong, many wrote the victory off as a fluke. However, after a solid second-place finish in recently completed Leg 6, from Hong Kong to Auckland, New Zealand, it’s beginning to look an awful lot like skill.

Then there’s the case of Leg 6-winner, Dutch-flagged Team AkzoNobel. Back in Alicante, Spain, the team appeared to be in a shambles when it’s skipper, Simeon Tienpont, was abruptly cut from the squad shortly before the start. The crew then continued to struggle in the wake of his equally sudden return.

Now, however, all that is beginning to feel like ancient history as the crew finds itself tied for fourth place overall with Vestas 11 Hour Racing (which did not take part in Leg 6 as a result of its collision with a fishing boat at the end of Leg 4) and just three points out of third.

AkzoNobel and Sung Hung Kai/Scallywag match-raced their way down much of the New Zealand coast

AkzoNobel and Sung Hung Kai/Scallywag match-raced their way down much of the New Zealand coast

Finally, there’s the manner in which these two teams managed to engineer their recent success: scratching and clawing their way down the New Zealand coast with the rest of the fleet marching up from behind and threatening to eliminate what only a few short days earlier had looked like an insurmountable lead. Talk about grit!

“It’s been a 6,500-mile match race, it’s unreal,” an exhausted, but elated Tienpont said afterward. “I’ve never sailed a race like this in my life. We’ve always been in each other’s sights. They were always there. It’s been neck-and-neck. Huge respect to Scallywag, they never stopped fighting, and we never stopped defending. I’m so proud of our crew. They never flinched.”

As for Scallywag, in the words of skipper David Witt: “Our team never gives up. We just didn’t pull it off this time. We had our chances, but AkzoNobel were just a little bit too good this time. But we’ve come a long way since Leg 1.”

In the end, AkzoNobel edged out Witt and company by just two minutes after 20 days of racing. Right behind them were Spain’s Mapfre, Chinese-flagged Dongfeng and Turn the Tide on Plastic, all finishing within a half-hour of the two leaders. How the crews are able to muster up the mental fortitude to continue sailing the way they do through these kinds of pressure-cooker conditions is still nothing less than incredible.

After six legs of racing, nearly the entire fleet remains within reach of an overall podium finish

After six legs of racing, nearly the entire fleet remains within reach of an overall podium finish

Looking forward, next up is another Southern Ocean leg, a 7,600 marathon round Cape Horn to Itajai, Brazil: one of the defining legs of the entire race, and a leg that includes both double points and a bonus for the first boat to double Cape Horn. In the past, Mapfre and Dongfeng have proved adept at grinding down the rest of the competition in the course of just these kinds of speed runs. But the rest of the competition now has plenty of sea miles under it belts as well, making running them down increasingly difficult.

As for Vetas 11 Hour Racing, one of the pre-race favorites, at the very least, the team is now fighting for its life following the disaster that was Leg 4. You can bet that, in addition to now being well rested, the crew will be pulling out all the stops as it tries to get back into the game.

Finally, this is the Volvo Ocean Race, in which the sea itself is as big a factor as the competitors themselves. A single bad gybe, a single broach in a nighttime squall, a single large wave, and the next thing you know someone has snapped a couple of battens or even lost an entire rig, which can throw the entire leaderboard into disarray in the blink of an eye.

In the final analysis: hard as it might be to believe given the dramatic VORs of the recent past, this one just might prove to be the most competitive yet. For the latest on the Volvo Ocean Race, click here

February 2018



Landing Page Lead

The Volvo Returns to the Southern Ocean

Since the Volvo Ocean Race’s inception, the Southern Ocean has made it what it is. And no part of the race says “Southern Ocean” like Leg 7 from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajaí, Brazil. The 7,600-mile leg, which starts this Sunday, is not only the longest of the event, but far more


SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comTeak deck paradise  I had a call recently from the man who replaced the deck on my Mason 44 five years ago. He was worried about the way people are wrecking their teak decks trying to get the green off. more


Gear: ATN Multi Awning

THROW SOME SHADEAmong the many virtues of cruising cats is the large expanse of netting between their bows, which is the ideal place to hang out with a cold one after a hard day’s sailing and let the breeze blow your worries away. Only trouble is it can get a bit hot up there more


How to Sail the Med

“After spending so many years sailing the Caribbean, I was frankly astounded at how much more I enjoy the Mediterranean,” says Scott Farquharson of charter brokers Proteus Yacht Charters. “The culture, the history, the food, the weather, friendly people, crystal-clear water—there more


Know-How: Rigging Emergency Rudders

We were 1,100 miles from the nearest land when we received a text message on our Iridium GO: “Rudder gone. Water in bilge. Worried pumps can’t keep up. Please call!”We had been in contact with the owners of Rosinante, a 38ft Island Packet, since they had first announced over the more


Experience: Hard Aground

This is a story of how mistakes are made and judgment is dulled to the point of catastrophe. It is also about how prudent planning, good equipment and a bit of luck can bring you back from the brink.We departed Norfolk, Virginia, on December 15 bound for Jacksonville, Florida, more


Vestas Discusses Fatal Collision, Recovery

Vestas 11th Hour Racing co-captains Mark Towill and Charlie Enright discuss the collision near the end of Leg 4 as well as the efforts the team has made to get back into racing trimJust over a month after 11th Hour Racing’s fatal collision with a commercial fishing vessel shortly more