A spectacular Cape Town finish for the leading trio as MAPFRE take a well-deserved win ahead of Dongfeng Race Team from Vestas 11th Hour Racing
The ‘Cape Doctor’, the dry south-easterly breeze which blows onto Cape Town, was in full force for last night’s arrivals as the MAPFRE stormed to first place, closely followed by the leading pack completing the podium for Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race.
With no danger of the breeze shutting down on the final approach to the South African city, the leg win was in the bag for the Spanish team of MAPFRE by the final 24 hours, Xabi Fernandez and crew having led ever since they made a critically perfectly timed gybe to the south-west on day 14 of Leg 2.
Even second-placed rivals Dongfeng Race Team, who could have been forgiven for praying that MAPFRE might be slowed by the wind shadow often cast by Table Mountain and the tricksy local effects which can turn the final approach to Cape Town into an opportunity for chasing boats, wished the Spanish team nothing but fair winds to end what was a perfectly sailed leg.
“MAPFRE is far ahead of us and, even if I hope we can make a comeback at the tricky finishing line, I do not wish this terrible end to the leg on MAPFRE,” Caudrelier blogged from the boat yesterday. “Xabi’s team and my crew have had a fantastic race since the start but they made one less mistake and deserve this first place,” he added.
The Spanish crew arrived into a packed V&A waterfront in Cape Town three hours ahead of Dongfeng after a fast 19-day Atlantic leg. “It’s amazing, we’re super-happy. We came here in one piece and in front of the others, we can’t ask for more,” skipper Xabi Fernández said moments after finishing.
“This is what we will see all the way around the world. Super-tight racing, everyone has good speed and small mistakes are very expensive. This time we were luck to do the least mistakes and that’s why we won.”
For Blair Tuke, the ETNZ America’s Cup winning sailor who is making his offshore racing debut in this Volvo Ocean Race, the 6,000-mile Atlantic leg was his longest race yet. “I’m stoked to be part of this awesome team,” he said, grinning as he landed on the dock. “This was my first long leg and there were so many different aspects to it – it was really fast out of Lisbon, and then a great run across the South Atlantic which was pretty fast. So it’s awesome to be here, great to get my first long leg under my belt, and stoked to be leading the race overall but there’s a long, long way to go.”
Rob Greenhalgh, by contrast, is part of a cohort of exceptionally experienced Volvo Ocean Race sailors on the squad that includes navigator Juan Vila, also on his fifth Volvo Ocean Race, while six-time veteran of the event Neal McDonald is the team’s performance manager.
“It was still a bit of an unknown with the weather, even though you many only be 20 or 30 miles apart with different routings it’s always a bit nerve-wracking in case the weather doesn’t go quite to plan things can change. So we were a little bit nervous until we got through that final ridge, and into the south-easterly wind, but once we were into the south-easterly wind we were kind of home free,” said Greenhalgh after finishing.
“Juan [Vila] made great decisions, and the key decision was obviously hooking onto the front at the south-west corner of the St Helena High and not getting too close to the ridge like Dongfeng did, and that bumped us into the lead. Obviously we had less breeze than the guys behind for a while, but managed to hang in there.
“I think we’re all very conscious of the fact that we’ve only just begun and we’ve got to keep pushing hard, because everyone’s going to get better so we’ve got to keep improving.”
Dongfeng Race Team finished in second place, arriving under a spectacular Cape Town sunset as pink-tinged clouds swirled down from Table Mountain and fierce gusts swept Table Bay. The Chinese-backed team were in good spirits as they crossed the line, philosophical about their second place.
“I think the team did a fantastic job, we led the race 75 percent of the time before we made a big mistake,” said Caudrelier, “We did so many complicated things to take the lead and we just did one stupid thing. We lost so much, but the team is amazing, and we pushed to come back with fantastic speed to get second place.
“So it’s a nice second place after what happened, of course, I think if we’d decided to gybe a bit earlier we could have taken the lead, as we saw with MAPFRE, but that’s the game, to make less mistakes and MAPFRE made one less than us. So well done to them, and well done to my team to come back because it was not easy.”
Third place was filled by Vestas 11th Hour Racing an hour later. Charlie Enright’s crew have had a storming start to their Volvo Ocean Race, having also taken the leg one win. Some five hours behind was Team Brunel, who finished fourth – not the result Bouwe Bekking and crew will have been hoping for after their sixth in Leg 1.
The chasing pack of AkzoNobel, Turn the Tide on Plastic and Team Sui/Scallywag are due in tonight, within two hours of each other as their Atlantic match race continues; Dee Caffari’s Turn the Tide on Plastic and David Witt’s Scallywag crew having been within eyesight or AIS range of each other for almost the entire 6,000 mile leg. The trio are separated by just four miles this morning with 180 miles to go.