Charles Cauderlier and the crew of Dongfeng Racing get their first win of the new edition in the Rolex Fastnet Race – the race's so-called Leg 0 - but beat MAPRRE by mere seconds
As dawn broke this morning, a skirmish for first blood in the 2017/8 Volvo Ocean Race was still underway in the Rolex Fastnet Race. Spanish team MAPFRE and Dongfeng Racing had been swapping positions overnight, but in the closing miles towards Plymouth it was Charles Caudrelier’s Dongfeng which drew ahead, beating their Spanish rivals by a mere 56 seconds.
The Fastnet Race counts for no points in the round the world race, but the compulsory training event was nonetheless important in establishing teams’ pecking order before the start from Alicante in October.
The race between the VO65s has been among the fiercest of the race. The one-design fleet is very closely matched, despite there being new teams that have only recently formed, such as David Witt’s Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag and Dee Caffari’s Turn the Tide on Plastic.
The entire seven-strong fleet finished within 40 minutes of each other after the race, described by one of the crew as a “really long windward-leeward”.
The race will be remembered for a very long, and often cold, beat out to the Fastnet Rock before a fast and furious race on the shorter leg back to Plymouth. The course distance is 605 miles but many crews reported sailing more than 700 over the ground.
For the Volvo crews, this was a relatively short but exhausting race during which there was no rest.
On the downwind leg from the Rock, frequent rain squalls meant a relentless succession of sail changes. “We went through every sail on board and every reef except the third reef,” said one exhausted crew on Dongfeng Racing.
Dongfeng crossed the line at 0418 this morning with MAPFRE following shortly afterwards at 0419.
Bouwe Bekking’s Team Brunel were next over the line followed by team AkzoNobel in fourth. Vestas 11th Hour Racing were 5th and Team Sun Hung Kai / Scallywag and Turn the Tide on Plastic completed the class only four minutes apart.