Published: Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) completed a triumphant Leg 7 from the US to Europe early on Wednesday May 27 to bolster hopes of finishing with a final podium place in the Volvo Ocean Race and also keep alive the possibility of overall victory.

Team Brunel Claims Volvo Leg 7 5

(Photo: Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race)

The Dutch boat sailed a near faultless transatlantic stage, edging Mapfre (Iker Martínez/ESP) into second, just under 22 minutes behind after more than nine days at sea and 2,800 nautical miles. Brunel’s elapsed time was 9d 11h 09min 49s to Mapfre’s 9d 11h 31min 39s.

Team Brunel Claims Volvo Leg 7 3

(Photo: Ricardo Pinto / Volvo Ocean Race)

Chinese entry Dongfeng Race Team had an up-and-down leg, to put it mildly. Bouncing from first to the back of the pack, then clinging to third place on the way into Lisbon, Dongfeng (09d 12h 51m 44s) lost out on third place at the last tack as Alvimedica (09d 12h 50m 49s) sailed past to claim the final podium spot by just 55 seconds.

Team Brunel Claims Volvo Leg 7 1

(Photo: Yann Riou / Dongfeng Race Team / Volvo Ocean Race)

About half an hour later Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, still the overall leader, finished in fifth (09d 13h 24m 34s). The all-female Team SCA was sixth.

Team Brunel Claims Volvo Leg 7

(Photo: Matt Knighton / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing / Volvo Ocean Race)

Few sailors in the fleet will savour a win over one of the race’s trademark legs more than Team Brunel’s 51-year-old skipper, Bouwe Bekking, in his record-equalling seventh appearance.

Team Brunel Claims Volvo Leg 7 4

(Photo: Ricardo Pinto / Volvo Ocean Race)

He certainly has experienced the ups and downs of sailing the Atlantic. Few will forget the agonising position he faced in 2006 before he was finally forced to abandon his sinking movistar boat during the same stage of that Volvo Ocean Race.

Bekking insisted last week that he had not lost “a single night’s sleep” over the incident and the confident way that Team Brunel sailed the leg would bear that out.

Team Brunel were harried all the way over the past 24 hours by both Mapfre and Dongfeng Race Team, especially over the final few miles in a ‘park-up’ in the Tagus River as they approached the Lisbon finish.

“We sailed a tremendous leg but just at the end when there was no wind, it was getting a bit gnarly,” says Bekking. “But we pulled it off.”

Team Brunel Claims Volvo Leg 7 2

(Photo: Ricardo Pinto / Volvo Ocean Race)

The victory was achieved with two newcomers on board, Adam Minoprio (NZL) and Timo Hagoort (NED), the latter replacing the injured Gerd-Jan Poortman (NED).

“It was good to have those young guys on board, they did a fantastic job,” adds Bekking. 

The final two stages, to Lorient (France) and then Gothenburg (Sweden) via a pit-stop in The Hague (Netherlands), will once again be contested by seven boats.

Team Vestas Wind (Chris Nicholson/AUS) rejoins the fleet for the first time since November 29, when the boat was grounded on a reef in the Indian Ocean.

After a four-month rebuild in the Persico boatyard in Bergamo, Italy the boat was transported by sea and road to Lisbon, arriving a few hours before the rest of the fleet in the small hours of Wednesday morning.

Over the next few days, the rig will be stepped ahead of the Danish-backed team’s competitive comeback on June 6 in the Lisbon In-Port Race. Leg 8 to Lorient, a relative sprint at 647nm, begins a day later.

The race concludes on June 27 with the In-Port Race in Gothenburg after nine months and 38,739nm of sailing, visiting 11 ports and every continent.