An eventful opening 24 hours in the Volvo Ocean Race has seen skipper Charlie Enright’s Vestas 11th Hour Racing grab the lead as the fleet converged on the Strait of Gibraltar.
The Vestas boat, along with team AkzoNobel, was the first to make a break for the Spanish coast as night fell on Sunday evening after the Leg 1 start in Alicante. They have since benefited mightily from favorable conditions and emerged at the front of the pack.
“We took the inshore route with good angle, and we know we crossed ahead of the fleet when we converged with them again,” Enright said. “For now, the only boat in sight is AkzoNobel. But we like our sail setup. We feel like we’re going through the water well.”
That’s an understatement. By Monday afternoon, the team, along with second-placed AkzoNobel was picking up a nice shift as well as increased pressure and was looking to extend their lead as they enter into the Strait. To see the latest fleet positions, click here.
For team AkzoNobel, it’s been a whirlwind 24-hours. After three of the team’s most experienced crew elected not to sail Leg 1, reinstated skipper Simeon Tienpont, who’d been let go by the team a week or so earlier, submitted his final crew list just an hour before leaving the dock. The good news is that the roster has proved to be an effective one.
Not looking so good is, Dongfeng Race Team, one of the pre-race favorites. The team fell back dramatically after leading the fleet out Alicante, following a number of short, dramatic inshore legs that with the intensity an inshore buoy race, as opposed to the first few miles of an offshore leg to Lisbon, Portugal.
"Last night we lost a lot. We are in 5th or 6th position, which is hard for us," said crewmember Chen JinHao on Dongfeng this morning. "We were working all night so we can be faster. It was a bad night, but sailing is sailing. We can come back!”
Of course, it is still early days, not just for the race as a whole, but Leg 1, a 1,450-mile jaunt out to the Madeira islands then back to Lisbon that is projected to take six or seven days. The leaders, in particular, are certainly under no illusion as to what awaits them after the passage through the strait into the Atlantic.
“The race won’t be won or lost (in the strait),” Enright said. “And there’s a big patch of light breeze waiting for us on the other side.”
In fact, the wind is forecast to build through the strait and for the exit into the Atlantic. After that, though, and the “concertina effect” may very well see those at the back working their way up to the leaders again. Time will tell…