Lorient, France (June 16, 2015; Day 1) – The Volvo Ocean Race fleet set off for Gothenburg, 960 nautical miles away from Lorient, via The Hague, in perfect sailing conditions today with Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) leading the chase to reach the Dutch pit stop first.
There was drama from the very first seconds with Leg 8 winners, Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR), and Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA) both finding themselves on the wrong side of the line at the start and were forced back to cross for a second time.
Bouwe Bekking, in contrast, stormed away to the perfect start and was still narrowly ahead as he led the fleet out of a packed Lorient with all six boats in hot pursuit after five laps around the port.
Team Brunel, like three other boats, have podium positions to sail for in this final leg to Sweden after more than eight months at sea, despite Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) already having the overall title virtually sewn up with an unassailable eight-point lead.
The Dutch boat is currently in second place on 27 points after eight legs, two clear of Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier), and four ahead of MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP). Fifth-placed Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA), with 33 points, could even sneak in to grab the runners-up spot.
As Ian Walker put it, meanwhile, his tactics on board Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing are pretty simple on a stage which is full of exclusion zones, avoiding a busy shipping route skirted by rocks: “Don’t hit any rocks and avoid breaking any rules.”
Iker Martínez, skipper of MAPFRE, notes that the final leg offers fairly unique challenges.
“There are lots of rocks involved, and our first priority is not to hit the rocks. There’s going to be lot of current, but it’s difficult to know where the key of the leg is going to be. We could arrive in Scheveningen and then the whole thing starts again. The best thing is to be in front in any case.”
The boats will be precisely timed as they pass the interim line in Scheveningen, near The Hague, on Friday. No points will be awarded for how they finish there.
From 1200 local time onwards the following day, they will depart for Gothenburg with whatever advantage or deficit they took into the pit stop on their rivals.
They are expected to arrive in Gothenburg on Monday (June 22), or, possibly the following day. The Volvo Ocean Race officially concludes following the final In-Port race in Gothenburg on June 27.
Tracker: The race ‘fanatic’ will be well served on the final leg as the web and app Tracker will be in ‘live’ mode instead of the three hour update increment. Details on how to follow here.
Bummer: An incident near the start line involving a boat not related to the race and a marshal rib from the Lorient stopover resulted in a woman on the boat being seriously injured. The woman was taken to a hospital; no further update at press time.
Leg 9 (930 nm) Position Report (as of 22:09 UTC)
1. Team Brunel, Bouwe Bekking (NED), 959.2 nm Distance to Finish
2. MAPFRE, Iker Martínez (ESP), .1 nm Distance to Lead
3. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Ian Walker (GBR), 1.0 nm DTL
4. Dongfeng Race Team, Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 1.0 nm DTL
5. Team Alvimedica, Charlie Enright (USA), 1.5 nm DTL
6. Team Vestas Wind, Chris Nicholson (AUS) 2.4 nm DTL
7. Team SCA, Sam Davies (GBR), 2.4 nm DTL
Click headline for video replay of start.