June 24, 2018; Day 4) – In a story nobody could have written, Dongfeng has won the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 by winning a completely nutty final 963 nm leg from Gothenburg, SWE to The Hague, NED.
The last day of the leg was setting up for grind-fest between MAPFRE, Team Brunel and Dongfeng Race Team, all virtually tied for the overall lead and to which the finishing order for these three boats on this final leg would determine their position on the overall race podium.
But with TSS Exclusion Zones littering the course, it was Dongfeng skipper Charles Caudrelier and his crew who made a bold call last night to take a coastal route to the finish, which squeezed them tight against the shoreline and separated from the other leaders that had gone offshore.
“We were not in such a good position, but we trusted our choice and we pushed,” said Caudrelier. “The others didn’t follow us, but we believed and we won…”
The decision hurt the team in the short term, falling back by as much 50 nm behind the others. But by this morning, with less than 100 miles left to race, weather routing projections had the top boats finishing within minutes of each other.
“We knew that we would fall behind initially and that if it came good it would only be at the end,” admitted Caudrelier. “The last position report (1300 UTC today) we were 27-miles from the finish and they were 20-miles and we thought it was over. But then I did a small weather routing and it showed we could end up one-mile ahead so I woke everyone up and said, ‘let’s push!’”
As the teams finally converged again this afternoon, just a few miles from the finish, Dongfeng was flying down the coast from the north with a better reaching angle to slide in front of the offshore group to earn their first leg win, propelling Caudrelier’s team to overall victory.
“We always trusted each other. Nobody thought we were going to win this last leg, but I had a good feeling,” said Caudrelier. “I said ‘we can’t lose, we can’t lose, we can’t lose’… and we won!”
The overall results make this the closest finish in the 45-year history of the race and marks the first win for a Chinese-flagged team. It also means Carolijn Brouwer and Marie Riou were on board as the first women sailors to win the Volvo Ocean Race.
Xabi Fernández’s MAPFRE was third on the leg, which put the team into second overall.
“It has been tough,” Fernández admitted. “We sailed very well the whole way around the world and on this leg as well, so naturally we’re a bit disappointed. We were very, very close this time, but it was not quite enough. So we have to say congratulations to Dongfeng who sailed a little bit better than us.”
Team Brunel skipper Bouwe Bekking would have liked nothing more than to win the race for the first time in eight tries with a home finish in The Netherlands. But it wasn’t to be. His fourth place leg finish left the team in third place overall.
“Third place, still on the podium, I think we can be pretty proud of that as a team,” he said. “We thought we had made the right choice (to go further offshore) and we expected a windshift. It came 90-minutes too late and that was the race. But that’s yacht racing.”
Second place on the final leg into The Hague was Dutch skipper Simeon Tienpont and his team AkzoNobel, who had previously secured fourth place on the overall leaderboard.
“It’s incredible to finish on the podium in our hometown,” Tienpont said. “We would have loved to have been fighting into The Hague for the final podium but to have set the 24-hour speed record and to get six podium finishes in the race is a testament to the job everyone on our team – on the boat and on shore – have done.”
Vestas 11th Hour Racing had already been locked into fifth place on the scoreboard and after a promising start to Leg 11, had a disappointing seventh place finish on the leg.
“We have a great group of folks on this team,” skipper Charlie Enright said. “We’ve been through a lot and I’m not sure any other group could have dealt with the challenges we have faced the way we did. It’s something special and we’re going to continue to work together moving forward. This was a tough way to go out certainly, but we have one more opportunity with the In-Port Race this weekend.”
That In-Port Race, scheduled for June 30, will determine the sixth and seventh place positions in this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. Both SHK/Scallywag and Turn the Tide on Plastic finished the Volvo Ocean Race on equal points.
The tie-break mechanism is the In-Port Race Series, where David Witt’s Scallywag team currently holds the lead. But Dee Caffari’s Turn the Tide on Plastic is just three points behind and a strong finish on Saturday could lift them off the bottom of the leaderboard.
“We can’t help but smile today. We’ve done it,” said Caffari. “This leg was like the longest In-Port Race ever. A lot of corners to go around, and we gave it 100 per cent and left nothing in the tank.”
For David Witt, the finish was bittersweet the loss of John Fisher overboard in the Southern Ocean top of mind.
“I have very mixed emotions right now,” Witt said dockside immediately after finishing. “I’m incredibly proud of our team both on and off the water. We’re very tight and we have gone through a lot… But I’m also sad of course. I didn’t finish it with my best mate (John Fisher) who we started with. So very mixed emotions, but I’m glad we finished it.”
Leg 11 – Final Results
1. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), Finished 15:22:32 UTC
2. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), Finished 15:38:31 UTC
3. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), Finished 15:39:25 UTC
4. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), Finished 15:45:52 UTC
5. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), Finished 15:56:56 UTC
6. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS), Finished 16:01:32 UTC
7. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), Finished 16:05:36 UTC
Overall Results (after 11 of 11 legs)
1. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 73 points
2. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), 70
3. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), 69
4. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), 59
5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), 39
6. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS), 32
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), 32
NOTE: The In-Port Race Series is a separate event, but should there be a tie on the overall race leaderboard at the end of the offshore legs, the In-Port Race Series standings will be used to break the tie.
Overall In-Port Race Results (after 10 of 11 races)
1. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), 61 points
2. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 50
3. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), 45
4. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), 43
5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), 33
6. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS), 24
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), 21
The race course for Leg 11 was revised prior to the start, adjusting the length to 963.4nm to ensure fan-friendly arrival times along the route and finish.
After the start on June 21, the boats were sent west out of the islets dotting the entrance to Gothenburg before turning north to head to a turning mark just off the coast of Norway. Then, it’s a dive south to round a mark near the Danish city of Aarhus, followed by a return north around the top of Denmark before racing south to The Hague to the finish on June 24.
For crew list… click here.
2017-18 Edition: Entered Teams – Skippers
• Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED)
• Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA)
• MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP)
• Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA)
• Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS)
• Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR)
• Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED)
Background: Racing the one design Volvo Ocean 65, the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race begins in Alicante, Spain on October 22 2017 with the final finish in The Hague, Netherlands on June 30 2018. In total, the 11-leg race will visit 12 cities in six continents: Alicante, Lisbon, Cape Town, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport, Cardiff, Gothenburg, and The Hague. A maximum of eight teams will compete.
Source: Volvo Ocean Race