NEWPORT, Rhode Island, May 7 – Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) rounded off Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race on Thursday on a perfect, sun-bathed Newport morning with their heads held high, but a burning sense of what might have been.
For so long in the 5,010-nautical mile (nm) leg to the American sailing capital of Newport, from Itajaí, Brazil, the all-women’s crew were right in the mix in the fight for supremacy. But in the final four days of a 17-day stage, they conceded nautical mile after nautical mile to their rivals and ended up finishing sixth again (see panel above), nearly 12 hours adrift of leg winners Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA).
There were plenty of reasons for the gap including the masses of sargasso weed encountered en route that infuriatingly clogged up their keel and slowed their progress at the beginning of the week. But, once again, it was simply a lack of pure offshore experience that primarily proved the difference against the world-class male sailors they are competing against.
Skipper Sam Davies, as ever, put a brave face on a result that probably has satisfied none of the women on board, but adds to their growing bank of hard-won experience. “It feels great to arrive here,” she said in her first interview in dock, with a sea of blue and magenta clad, flag-waving supporters behind her. “We’re really proud on board Team SCA because we do feel this is the best leg we’ve sailed so far, despite still coming in just behind the others.
“We spent a week fighting with the leaders, that’s the longest time we’ve spent with the front group. It almost felt that they were having to work hard to keep up with us at one point. It’s pretty promising for the next three legs.”
However, she added: “In a way we’re a bit frustrated, because if we could go back to Legs 1 and 2 the way we’ve sailed now, we could do a lot better.”
Davies was told about a heartfelt blog midway through the leg written by Charles Caudrelier in which he gloried in Team SCA’s early competitiveness in this leg. But, tellingly, she responded: “We’ve still got to try to find a couple of secrets from them (their male rivals) because there are certain points of sail where we still couldn’t keep up and especially Dongfeng seems to have that edge again.”
One bright point, however, was the overall performance of the Team SCA boat, which Davies beforehand had been concerned would lack pace with a patched-up fractional code zero sail. It prompted a big vote of appreciation from Davies to her shore crew.
“Massive thanks to shore team: We brought the boat into Brazil in a bit of a state and they did massive work to prepare it and get it race ready for us to do this leg. We have an amazing shore team who never really get the limelight.”
That ‘amazing’ shore team will now set to work on a much lighter work list before the next leg to Lisbon begins on May 17.
Davies and her crew will again lick their wounds before setting out for the three final shorter legs that have always promised to deliver their best results.
Before that, they tackle the Team Vestas Wind In-Port Race Newport on May 16. They are the only team in the series to have won two of the races and look serious contenders to take the overall prize, currently lying in third place.