(January 8, 2018; Leg 4; Day 7) – The new week started with a reshuffle of the Leg 4 leaderboard as the Volvo Ocean Race fleet eased into the Doldrums for the second time so far this race.
Making a move along the Solomon Islands turning mark was Vestas 11th Hour Racing which slid to the west of the frontrunners to move from fourth to first, with Turn the Tide on Plastic benefiting from a similar move.
However, the reality of the top five is each team is just one cloud away from reshuffling the order. With the current forecast for the next several hundred miles of light winds through the Doldrums, characterized by random wind holes, thunder storms and squalls, no team is fully in charge of their destiny.
With the finish line in Hong Kong to the northeast of the fleet, the key to success for all seven teams lies in how soon they can escape the clutches of the Doldrums. That means heading north as quickly as possible to get to the north-easterly trade winds and the better, more stable breeze they promise.
The next 36 hours will arguably be among the most vital of the 5,600 nm stage – and could ultimately determine the Leg 4 podium despite there still being more than 3,000 miles left to sail. The enormity of the situation has not been lost on the sailors.
“Everyone’s had their chance at leading in this front pack,” notes Vestas 11th Hour Racing crewmember Tom Johnson. “You’ve just got to make the right tactical call, get the right cloud, take the shift and it’s all up for grabs.”
While the battle raged for first place, Team Brunel in sixth, around 20 miles south of the leading group, had other things than just racing to contend with when they bore the brunt of a particularly violent electric storm.
“The stable breeze instantly changed and before we knew it we were becalmed,” skipper Bouwe Bekking revealed. “Then a huge lightning strike hit, so close the sparks were flying off the mast and runners. Rome [Kirby], who was driving, was lying flat on the deck, just from the shock of the massive sound as well.”
None of the sailors were injured, and miraculously their boat electronics survived intact too. Whether the nerves of the sailors across the fleet survive as well over the coming days is an open question.
1. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Mark Towill (USA), 3332.9 nm DTF
2. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), 2.5 nm DTL
3. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), 2.6 nm DTL
4. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 6.1 nm DTL
5. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), 9.4 nm DTL
6. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), 10.4 nm DTL
7. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS), 36.6 nm DTL
DTF – Distance to Finish; DTL – Distance to Leader
Beginning on January 2, Leg 4 is a 5,600 nautical mile race up the east coast of Australia from Melbourne, into the Coral Sea and up north to Hong Kong. The ETA for Hong Kong will be more certain after the boats clear the Doldrums but is penciled in for January 20 to 21.
Overall Results (after 3 of 11 legs)
1. MAPFRE (ESP), Xabi Fernández (ESP), 29 points
2. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 23
3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA), Charlie Enright (USA), 23
4. Team Brunel (NED), Bouwe Bekking (NED), 14
5. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG), David Witt (AUS), 11
6. Team AkzoNobel (NED), Simeon Tienpont (NED), 9
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic (POR), Dee Caffari (GBR), 6
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