MAPFRE claims Volvo Ocean Race Leg Zero victory
Published: Thursday, 17 August 2017
Spanish team MAPFRE completed overall Leg Zero victory in the early hours of Wednesday August 16 and struck the first psychological blow in the build-up to the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18.
(Photos: Ugo Fonolla, James Blake, Martin Keruzore, Konrad Frost / Volvo Ocean Race - MAPFRE)
Charlie Enright’s Vestas 11th Hour Racing became the third team to grab a victory from four stages in Leg Zero – a series of pre-race qualifying stages for the next edition of the round-the-world race – as they sneaked ahead of MAPFRE in the early hours of Wednesday morning, while team AkzoNobel overtook MAPFRE to grab second place.
The teams faced a variety of conditions, from a rough rounding of the Isle of Wight in conditions that Turn the Tide on Plastic skipper Dee Caffari described as ‘almost as hard as the Southern Ocean’; a classic Rolex Fastnet Race; a quick sprint from Plymouth to Saint-Malo and an agonising drift in the leg from Saint-Malo to Lisbon, which eventually led to the stage being split in two and then brought to a premature close at 04:30 UTC on Wednesday.
Enright was satisfied to be able to grab an early victory heading into the 2017-18 edition. “There may never be another one quite like that, but we'll take it. We've been improving every day we spend on the boat together and it's nice to see that improvement manifest itself in the form of a win.”
(Dongfeng Race Team)
First-time skipper Simeon Tienpont on team AkzoNobel said after the series finish: "We knew already it’s close action but definitely learnt how important it is to have the routine on board right and keep everyone focused all the time."
After months of training together in all conditions, MAPFRE skipper Xabi Fernández is eager for his team to recuperate before attacking the final preparations. “One of the things we have to do now is have a good rest because it has been a lot of work over this last month. Then we work on the small details of the boat, do the last push in the gym, make sure everyone is healthy, then be focused on the start.
There will be no rest for British skipper Dee Caffari as Turn the Tide on Plastic – carrying the message of the United Nations Environment Clean Seas campaign – will be running at full speed in order to finalise their crew selection.
(Vesta 11th Hour Racing)
They may be playing catch-up but the 50/50 male/female, predominantly youth team, can certainly challenge the rest of the fleet as they proved in the last 48 hours: “To actually lead the fleet in this final stage of Leg Zero was absolutely awesome. The confidence it gave the team, you could see it, and the focus, the intensity, everyone raised their game because they could see the other boats so close.”
These few weeks will be precious for Hong Kong entry Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, who had less than a week of training before starting Leg Zero.
Skipper David Witt and his team have years of experience of sailing together and will now redouble their efforts to extract the best from their One Design Volvo Ocean 65.
Witt said: “The racing on Leg Zero has shown us what we’re strong at, what we’re weak at. MAPFRE have dominated, they’ve shown everybody how strong they are and they’ve set the bar where we’ve all got to get to. We are not weak in all areas – there are some areas we are quite good at. It’s good to find this out now rather than on Leg 2 of the race. And now we’ve got five weeks to fix, I’ve got a pretty good idea how to fix it and now we’ve just got to get on with it.”
While it’s tempting to label MAPFRE as favourites going into the race, none of the skippers will be taking anything for granted.
Xabi of MAPFRE said: “I think Dongfeng is well prepared and they have been working hard all the winter as well. The new teams, like AkzoNobel, are coming together with some good experience and improving every day they sail together. There is a good mix of crew across Brunel, very experienced and they will be very competitive.”
Charles Caudrelier, whose Dongfeng team finished second overall and won the Volvo Ocean 65 class in the Fastnet, added: “I think I am happy. I think we had a good speed and a good spirit onboard. I’m pretty sure we can do very well."
Standing on the dock in Alicante in a couple of months’ time, the crews will have 45,000 miles of sailing in front of them – and the knowledge that anything could happen.
Leg Zero, overall final rankings:
1. MAPFRE 29 points
2. Dongfeng Race Team 24
3. Team Brunel 23
4. team AkzoNobel 22
5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing 20
6. Turn the Tide on Plastic 13
7. Sun Hung Kai Scallywag 9