MAPFRE set the Volvo Ocean Race bar with overall Leg Zero victory
Ugo Fonolla/Volvo Ocean Race
Konrad Frost/Volvo Ocean Race
Konrad Frost/Volvo Ocean Race
MAPFRE completed Leg Zero victory while Vestas 11th Hour Racing celebrated a first stage win in another sign of just how competitive this Volvo Ocean Race is shaping up to be (full story below)
Spanish team MAPFRE completed overall Leg Zero victory in the early hours of Wednesday (16 August) and struck the first psychological blow in the build-up to the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18.
But what the Leg Zero series of qualifiers confirmed above all is that all the teams boasting race experience and/or preparation time are extremely closely matched.
The newer teams know they have more work to do, but there are still plenty of positives to take from the progress they have made – and they still have time to close the gap with more than two months to go before the race starts from Alicante on 22 October.
Charlie Enright’s Vestas 11th Hour Racing became the third team to grab a victory from four stages in Leg Zero – a series of pre-race qualifying stages for the next edition of the round-the-world race – as they sneaked ahead of MAPFRE in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
With team AkzoNobel also overtaking MAPFRE to grab second place, it was more proof that the leaders will always have to watch their backs.
For experienced teams and new entries alike, Leg Zero has proved to be an extremely valuable test.
The teams faced a variety of conditions, from a rough rounding of the Isle of Wight in conditions that Turn the Tide on Plastic skipper Dee Caffari described as ‘almost as hard as the Southern Ocean’; a classic Rolex Fastnet Race; a quick sprint from Plymouth to Saint-Malo and an agonising drift in the leg from Saint-Malo to Lisbon, which eventually led to the stage being split in two and then brought to a premature close at 0430 UTC on Wednesday.
Enright was particularly satisfied to be able to grab an early victory heading into the 2017-18 edition.
“There may never be another one quite like that, but we’ll take it,” said the American. “We’ve been improving every day we spend on the boat together and it’s nice to see that improvement manifest itself in the form of a win.”
First-time skipper Simeon Tienpont on team AkzoNobel said after the series finish: “We knew already it’s close action but definitely learnt how important it is to have the routine on board right and keep everyone focused all the time.”
After months of training together in all conditions MAPFRE skipper Xabi Fernández is eager for his team to recuperate before attacking the final preparations. “One of the things we have to do now is have a good rest because it has been a lot of work over this last month,” he said. “Then we work on the small details of the boat, do the last push in the gym, make sure everyone is healthy, then be focused on the start.
There will be no rest for British skipper Dee Caffari as Turn the Tide on Plastic – carrying the message of the United Nations Environment Clean Seas campaign – will be running at full speed in order to finalise their crew selection.
They may be playing catch-up but the 50/50 male/female, predominantly youth team, can certainly challenge the rest of the fleet as they proved in the last 48 hours: “To actually lead the fleet in this final stage of Leg Zero was absolutely awesome. The confidence it gave the team, you could see it, and the focus, the intensity, everyone raised their game because they could see the other boats so close.”