Fleet reaches halfway mark on Leg 5
ALICANTE, Spain, March 27 – The Volvo Ocean Race fleet reached the halfway point of their nine-month marathon – midway through the fifth leg of nine – on Friday and were still glued together in some of the closest racing in the event’s 41-year history.
For those on shore, the day offered the chance to take stock following a dramatic week in which three boats suffered Chinese gybes, but for the crews it was business as usual as they tussled head-to-head approaching the key landmark of Cape Horn.
At 1240 UTC, just 7.7 nautical miles separated the first five boats, with 3200+nm to go.
Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA) must think they are on some kind of Southern Ocean crazy rollercoaster.
On Tuesday, they were part of the trio of boats – MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP) and Team SCA were the others – to crash over on their sides in a so-called Chinese gybe. But, remarkably, all the crews managed to right themselves without overly serious damage to either sailor or boat and within 48 hours of the incidents, Dongfeng Race Team found themselves at the head of the fleet.
This was no time to take it easy, however, for anyone.
The 1240 UTC position report on Friday showed the Chinese boat had lost pressure again and slipped back to fifth place behind new leaders, MAPFRE, with Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/U.S.), Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) sandwiched in between.
All was certainly not lost for Caudrelier and his crew, however, with MAPFRE virtually within view.
For Dongfeng’s helmsman, Damian Foxall (IRL), it has already been a memorable ride, after being called up to sail just this 6,779nm leg.
“It is hard to describe the stress on board after the Chinese gybe – ‘is everyone here, is anything damaged?’ Yet three hours later, incredibly, we were back on track,” he wrote in a blog.
Sam Davies, skipper of Team SCA, was also in a reflective mood early on Friday. “It has been a hard few days; full of emotion, stress, adrenaline,” she wrote in her blog. “As skipper it is hard to find the balance between pushing the boat and crew, but making sure we stay safe and keeping our boat in one piece. “Out here, there is little margin for error. I feel like we have found our limits, and proved to ourselves that we are pushing hard.
“We suffered from our wipeout with the damage we sustained and it is frustrating to lose the miles like that, but we are slowly getting back to as near 100 per cent as possible.”
The fleet is expected to reach Cape Horn on Sunday, and then their Leg 5 destination, Itajaí in south-eastern Brazil, around April 4.
The race, with four and a half legs still to negotiate and six more ports to visit, remains too close to call, with the two overall leaders, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Dongfeng Race Team, fighting it on a level eight points apiece, and currently just 4.8nm apart.
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To view their positions, click here.