After nine months of racing, Dongfeng Race Team has won the closest ever Volvo Ocean Race

BREAKING NEWS: After nine months of racing, the Volvo Ocean Race was undecided until the final cross this afternoon.

The short last leg to The Hague was littered with traffic separation zones one the final few hundred miles. Dongfeng made an audacious tactical call to split from their equal rivals Mapfre and Team Brunel, heading east and inshore, with no-go TSS zones dividing the waters between them and the main pack.

As Dongfeng reached into the final mark with three headsails flying, Brunel and Mapfre were gybing in on a lower course. It wasn’t until the final hour of the race that the verdict came in: Dongfeng crossed in front, the Volvo Ocean Race was won.

The fleet had set out on Thursday 21st June with an unprecedented points tie – a three-way tie in a dead heat on the overall leaderboard. The finishing order between MAPFRE, Team Brunel and Dongfeng Race Team at The Hague would determine their place on the overall race podium.

Each of those three teams led at various points on the leg and had their opportunities to grab the prize.

But Dongfeng skipper Charles Caudrelier and his team made a bold call on Saturday evening to take a coastal route to the finish, pinned against the shoreline by a series of Exclusion Zones. It hurt them in the short term as they tumbled down the leaderboard.

However, by Sunday morning, with less than 100 miles left to race, weather routing projections had the top teams finishing within minutes of each other. None had been able to breakaway, despite the significant splits on the race course.

At 15:22:32 UTC, Dongfeng Race Team, flew down the coast from the north to win the leg, and the race.

Leg 11, from Gothenburg to The Hague. 24 June, 2018.

It was the closest finish in the 45-year history of the race and the first win for a Chinese-flagged team. It was also, remarkably, the first leg win for Dongfeng, who had scored consistent podium places but missed out on the leg 1st place throughout the event.

“It has been an amazing opportunity to lead this dream team, and I am so proud to realise their dreams,” said an emotional Caudrelier shortly after the start.

This is the second Volvo Ocean Race win for Caudrelier, who previously won as a crew member with Franck Cammas’s Groupama in 2012 before leading Dongfeng Race Team to 3rd in the last edition.

Leg 11, from Gothenburg to The Hague, day 04. Helicopter shots taken as the fleet blast south to The Hague. 24 June, 2018.

The final results were 1st Dongfeng Race Team, 2nd Mapfre, 3rd Team Brunel, 4th Team AkzoNobel, 5th Vestas 11th Hour Racing. Sun Hung Kai Scallywag and Turn the Tide on Plastic are currently tied on 32 points apiece for 6th place, a split which will be decided by the result of the in-port race series. The final in-port race takes place in The Hague on Sunday 1st July.

Look out for a full report, as well as an in-depth look at the future for this legendary event, in next month’s Yachting World, out 12thJuly.