Lorient, France June 15, 2015) – Four boats, 960 nautical miles (nm), six days sailing, one objective – to join Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing on the Volvo Ocean Racing 2014-15 podium.
That is the sum of it for a quartet of challengers after nearly 38,000nm of navigating some of the most treacherous seas on earth over more than eight months of gruelling competition for professional sport’s longest challenge.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) have already all but secured the overall trophy in Lorient, France, after claiming their seventh podium position (third) of the eight legs sailed so far.
Even if they finish last in the final leg to Gothenburg from Lorient, starting on Tuesday (June 16) at 1700 CEST (0500 EDT) via a pit stop in The Hague, they still cannot be caught by their closest pursuers, Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED), eight points behind them.
Only a catastrophic breach of rules leading to two or more penalty points coupled with a last-placed finish in Sweden can deprive Walker of the honour of lifting the trophy now – and that is very, very unlikely to happen.
There’s still much to sail for, though, with Ian Walker determined to finish in style.
Meantime, Bouwe Bekking and his second-placed crew are desperate to take that second step on the podium. But no less than three teams are breathing down their necks and determined to pass them on the final leg.
Just six points separate the Dutch boat (27 points) from Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA – 29 points), MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP – 31 points) and Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA – 33).
And both Leg 8 winners, Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR), and runners-up, Team Vestas Wind (Chris Nicholson/AUS), have ample reason to upset them all too. They will each be desperate to prove that their fantastic performances from Lisbon to Lorient were no flashes in the pan.
It’s all boiling up to be one final, enthralling, leg – especially with what promises to be a massively attended 24-hour pit stop in The Hague, added to the mix on Friday/Saturday (June 19-20).
Click headline for full report and to watch live broadcast of Leg 9 start (0445 EDT).