The Volvo Remains Anybody’s Race - Sail Magazine

The Volvo Remains Anybody’s Race

Author:
Publish date:
W1772_SAIL_WEB_BANNERS_700x150
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

W1772_SAIL_WEB_BANNERS_700x150_V3

Related

USCGReadyForRescue_Identifier_FullColor

USCG Ready for Rescue Challenge

The U.S. Coast Guard is now collaborating with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on something it calls the “Ready for Rescue,” a $255,000 prize competition that is looking for ways that will make it easier to locate people, MOB victims in particular, in the water.The ...read more

04-CLR1718md1085-jpg

A Historic Win for Wendy Tuck

This past summer Australian sailor, Wendy Tuck (inset), became the first woman to win a round-the-world yacht race when she and her crew aboard Sanya Serenity Coast claimed the overall victory in the 2017-18 Clipper Race. “I am just so happy,” Tuck said at the finish in ...read more

daviscards

Davis Instruments: Quick Reference Cards

CHECK THESEIf you’re sailing with new crew this summer or your kids have suddenly and inexplicably started to look up from their phones and take an interest in the finer points of cruising, these Quick Reference Cards from Davis are a great way to further their boating education. ...read more

01-rbir18-596

Another Epic Round Britain Race

There are basically two kinds of offshore sailboat races out there: those that take place annually, like the Fastnet and Chicago-to-Mackinac races; and those that take place every other year, like the Transpac and Newport-Bermuda race, in part so the competitors have sufficient ...read more

01b_WALKING-KEDGE-OUT-cmykpromo

Getting More Use From Kedge Anchors

If you are cruising, you need at least two anchors on board for the simple reason that you must have a backup. Imagine having to slip your anchor on a stormy night with other boats dragging down on yours, or having your rope rode severed by some unseen underwater obstacle, ...read more

SailAwayCharter

How-to: Navigating on a Bareboat Charter

So you graduated from navigation class where you practiced dead reckoning, doubling the angle on the bow and maybe even celestial nav, and you now feel well prepared for your first charter trip. Well, you won’t be doing any of that on vacation—not past the first day, anyway.Most ...read more

04-Turtle-rescue

Turtle Rescue in the Vic-Maui

Strange and often wonderful things can happen in the course of an offshore sailboat race, and one of the strangest and most wonderful things we’ve heard of recently took place during the 2,300-mile 2018 Vic-Maui race, from Victoria, British Columbia, to Lahaina, Hawaii.It ...read more