Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) found wind pressure on Monday while the rest of the fleet were parked up in the Pacific Ocean to make inroads into their deficit on Leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race – but their happiness could be short-lived.
At 1240 UTC, the all-women’s crew were just 15.3 nautical miles (nm) behind leaders Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA) and apparently gaining fast on the rest of the fleet who were all within 3.2nm of the Chinese pace-setters.
Over the weekend, Team SCA had been more than 60nm further adrift of the main pack.
However, Race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante warned that the Swedish-backed boat were likely to miss out on gathering winds and were in danger of falling back again, with Dongfeng the most ideally placed at the eastern edge of the fleet.
Whatever transpires, the 5,264nm leg from Sanya, China, to Auckland, New Zealand, could not be more intriguingly poised in what is shaping up to be one of the most closely contested legs by the entire fleet in the race’s 41 years.
The fleet had just over 1,350nm to sail before reaching the ‘City of Sails’ on New Zealand’s North Island. It is expected to arrive between February 27-28, according to the latest computer predictions at Race HQ.
Dongfeng led MAPFRE (Xabi Fernández/ESP) by just 2nm with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR), Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) and Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA) in that order, no more than 1.2nm further behind.
The Chinese team’s comeback from a disjointed mast track – the part which connects the mast to the mainsail – was remarkable in itself after the crew had been in the depths of despair towards the end of last week.
However, Caudrelier’s men have already proved time and again in this edition that they are more than capable of bouncing back from setbacks.
The skipper’s comments from the boat said it all. “We’ve got our smile back over these past two days and our efforts have paid off,” he wrote.
“Our easterly position might work out well for us, but just one cloud can either launch you to the front or stop you totally for several hours.”
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s British skipper Walker agreed with Caudrelier that all was still to play for. “It’s turning into a fantastic race and, with light winds forecast for the end, it will surely be a nail-biter,” he wrote in his blog from the boat.
This is the fourth of nine legs in the nine-month, 38,739nm marathon. Dongfeng Race Team had a one-point advantage over Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing going into the current leg, having won the previous stage from Abu Dhabi to Sanya last month.
– Volvo Ocean Race Media