Dominating the race from Lisbon to orient the all women Team SCA has scored its first offshore win but Vestas Wind and Abu Dhabi were also celebrating at the dockside
Sam Davies’ Team SCA crossed the finish line in Lorient this morning to take their first leg win of the event. In an impressive performance the all women team crossed the finish line after 3 days 13 hours 11 minutes and 11 seconds to take their first leg win of the Volvo Ocean Race in Lorient.
Close on their tails Chris Nicholson’s newly re-built and re-launched Vestas Wind finished the leg in second place, another impressive performance for a boat that had only been put back on the water days before the start after a total rebuild following their Indian Ocean crisis last year.
The third celebration in the French port that marks the end of the penultimate leg, was aboard an Walker’s Abu Dhabi who finished third placing more points between themselves and arch rivals Dongfeng Racing and Brunel Racing who came in last and fifth respectively.
The leg from Lisbon to Lorient was an intense 647-mile charge north with a bit of everything, from light winds at the start to the brutal upwind conditions in the Bay of Biscay. Conditions that saw several crew members hit hard with seasickness: “Sea sickness has taken its prisoners onboard,” said Annie Lush. “Luckily we were prepared for the Bay of Biscay. It has been 24 hours of endless bouncing around upwind. For some onboard it has been 24 hours of hell, a repetitive cycle of drinking, trying to eat, being sick, and trying again [but] the fact that we’re winning makes it all the more bearable.”
Team SCA led the fleet for more than half the leg and once in pole position, then dominated. A tactical decision to choose the more offshore course as they headed into the Bay of Biscay and forecasted 30 plus knot upwind conditions paid dividends. The fleet split with four boats taking the inshore route, hugging the coastline. For Team SCA it was a case of being the hunted rather than the hunter and holding their position over the others.
The team held their nerve throughout the final hours of Thursday morning to seal a comfortable victory over the fleet.
The performance of the team has been improving leg by leg, winning this leg silences some critics who have felt that all female team could not be competitive in this fleet. “They were up there in performance with the guys but sometimes to do well, you need to sail well. They were just missing a few bits and pieces and on this leg they got it right, and when you get it right, you win,” commented Team SCA Coach, Joca Signorini.
Speaking dockside skipper Sam Davies said. “Thanks to everybody for all your support. It’s a reward for all the hard work we have done. It’s going to be huge for us. We’ve had a mountain to climb to get here”. Sam continued, “ The conditions might have been man breaking but they were not women breaking. It feels great to have held that lead in the conditions we had. It was not easy in the Bay of Biscay. But I am proud of how we sailed. It was pretty violent onboard – we had a tough 36 hours across there. If I chose one leg to win it would be this one coming into Lorient, so I am doubly happy”.
The victory was the first leg win by a female crew in offshore sailing’s toughest challenge since Tracy Edwards’ Maiden clinched two stage wins in Class D of the 1989-90 race, won overall by Sir Peter Blake’s famous Steinlager 2.
In finishing third Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew has all but clinched the 12th edition of the Volvo Ocean Race by an eight-point lead over second placed Brunel Racing in the Volvo Ocean Race.
“It’s not really sunk in yet,” said a still dazed Ian after reaching the Lorient dock. “When we passed the finish line we all went quiet and asked ourselves, ‘is that it?’.”
Only a very unlikely combination of a last-place finish in Leg 9 to Gothenburg from Lorient plus at least two penalty points can deprive the team of a remarkable achievement.
For double Olympic silver medalist Ian, 45, it is the realisation of a career ambition to become the first British skipper to win the overall trophy in the 41-year-old event, although John Chittenden on Creighton’s Naturally won the Cruising Division of the 1989-90 edition won overall by Sir Peter Blake’s Steinlager 2.