Lorient, France (June 11, 2015) – Despite the smiles on the crew’s faces, hearts sunk as the team arrived last into Lorient this morning. Early on Leg 8 from Lisbon, Dongfeng Race Team made a mistake, a small mistake that would cost them a shot at the Volvo Ocean Race overall title and put their podium position at risk.
They say that a bad leg isn’t so bad if you know where you went wrong and maybe the crew will take comfort in that, but for now it’s up to Charles and the team to embrace the pain that comes with losing this chance and shift their focus to what has become an intense battle between four boats for two podium positions.
“Is it better to have almost won and lost it or is it better to have never come within reach so when the disappointment comes, it doesn’t hit you quite so hard,” questioned skipper Charles Caudrelier. It’s a tough one. I don’t know.”
In an athlete’s eyes, every race is about winning or losing. But at the beginning of this campaign, manager Bruno Dubois struggled to find sailors and a skipper who would put that impulse to one side and truly embrace the core objective of this campaign, which was not to win, it wasn’t even to gain a podium position overall. The team’s mission was to teach and train Chinese sailors, take a first step in the right direction to bring offshore sailing to China and if possible, change a few perceptions along the way.
When this campaign became competitive it was more than was expected. Back in October it wasn’t a problem to not get a podium position on the legs. Contending with the best was all that mattered.
Then things changed. The team began to exceed expectations and soon first place overall was within reach. It would be unfair to say that the long-term mission of the team was forgotten but it was certainly overrun by the idea that the team could and (potentially would) win.
Then on Leg 5 everything changed. Breaking the mast will still remain the most heart-breaking moment of this race for the team and ever since it has been a game of catch up (rather well if you take the Leg 6 win in Newport into consideration, but catch up nonetheless).
It’s hard for Charles and the crew to hear, “It’s okay, you took on a challenge that no one else did. You achieved things that no one else could. You have proven yourselves in ways that have never been seen on this race before…” because they’re athletes and to have come so close is almost too much to bear right now.
So with one offshore leg remaining, and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing holding an unassailable lead over the rest of the fleet, it’s a now a four way battle to be on the podium behind them in Gothenburg.
There is Brunel, who also had a disappointing 5th in to Lorient, to chase for second place – Dongfeng needs to beat them by 3 places even though they are 2 points ahead because they have a far superior score on the tie-breaker In Port Series. Then there is an ever-improving Mapfre, just two points behind, and just 1 point ahead on the tiebreaker In Ports. Alvimedica are only 4 points adrift, and with both SCA and Vestas clearly competitive for this final ‘short’ leg, there is plenty of room for a 4 point gap between any of these teams.
So it is all to play for for these four teams – it will probably be tense right until the end!
The final leg from Lorient, France to Gothenburg, Sweden (1,600 nm), which includes a pit-stop in The Hague, begins June 16 with an ETA of June 21-24.
Background: The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race began in Alicante, Spain on Oct. 11 with the final finish on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Racing the new one design Volvo Ocean 65, seven teams will be scoring points in 9 offshore legs to determine the overall Volvo Ocean Race winner. Additionally, the teams will compete in 10 In-Port races at each stopover for a separate competition, the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series.