Lisbon, Portugal (June 7, 2015; Day 1) – Overall Volvo Ocean Race leaders, Ian Walker (GBR) and his seven Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crewmates, left Lisbon for Leg 8 to Lorient, France, on Sunday with their eyes glued on the weather forecast – and the progress of their two closest rivals.
The penultimate 647-nautical mile (nm) stage is the shortest of the nine-month race by some way, but no less challenging for that.
“There are light winds chasing up the Portuguese coast,” noted Walker, “but by the time we get to Cape Finisterre, it should be a dead beat to Lorient (France), and probably quite windy, over 30 knots. It’ll be interesting as we haven’t had a lot of upwind in this race. We don’t really know what the pecking order is in these conditions, so it could be a very different leg from the others.”
The fleet, restored to seven boats again after the return of Team Vestas Wind (Chris Nicholson/AUS) in Lisbon, following the rebuild from the collision with a reef in Leg 2, should take three to four days to reach Lorient on the Brittany coast.
In-form MAPFRE made the early pace on Sunday at the start of Leg 8 (1400 local time/1300 UTC), only to be relegated to second place by Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) as the fleet left the final mark behind. Conditions in the Tagus River proved to be extremely challenging as the fleet attempted to deal with the tough, near windless conditions, couple with a very strong tide.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, however, were towards the back of the pack, not quite the start that Walker and his crew would have wanted. The race is intriguingly poised with the Emirati boat, on paper, able to clinch overall victory if results go their way when the boats arrive after around four days of sailing.
The fleet is expected to reach Lorient early on Thursday (June 11). Notable on the crew list is that Xabi Fernández has been confirmed as MAPFRE’s skipper for Leg 8, stepping in for Iker Martínez who must fulfill pre-race commitments to train with the Nacra 17 class for the Rio 2016 Games.
Leg 8 (647 nm) Position Report (as of 21:44 UTC)
1. MAPFRE, Iker Martínez (ESP), 664.3 nm Distance to Finish
2. Team Alvimedica, Charlie Enright (USA), 0.3 nm Distance to Lead
3. Team SCA, Sam Davies (GBR), 0.6 nm DTL
4. Dongfeng Race Team, Charles Caudrelier (FRA), 1.6 nm DTL
5. Team Brunel, Bouwe Bekking (NED), 1.6 nm DTL
6. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Ian Walker (GBR), 1.7 nm DTL
7. Team Vestas Wind, Chris Nicholson (AUS) 2.5 nm DTL
Click headline for full report including broadcast of start.