The Volvo Ocean Race fleet found fair winds rather than the ill fortune of repute as they raced through the Bermuda Triangle in the thrilling leg six race towards Newport, Rhode Island, USA, on Monday.
They all have under 1,000 nautical miles (nm) to go.
The six boats had feared a slow-down and fleet compression through an area of low pressure mid-Atlantic in the geographic triangle that separates Bermuda, Costa Rica and Miami, but instead the crews continued virtually unhindered.
Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA), so determined to close the seven-point gap on overall race leaders Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR), continued to hold a slight 7.4nm advantage in the latest position report on Monday (0940 UTC).
Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) led the chasing pack with Azzam hot on their heels 3.3nm astern of them (see panel above). The three had opened up a small gap over MAPFRE (Xabi Fernández/ESP), who were having their own dogfight with Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA), some 17nm behind Ian Walker’s crew.
MAPFRE suffered a brief scare when the boat was knocked down to crash flat on its side, before it swifly righted itself courtesy of swift teamwork among the crew.
Team SCA, to the east of those two packs, were still struggling to keep pace, some 82.9nm behind Dongfeng.
The six boats are expected to escape the Bermuda Triangle later in the day and then face one last major gybe on Tuesday evening before the final sprint for the finish line after an absorbing 5,010nm leg.
Many of the sailors have been admitting that the relentless close quarter sailing of six well-matched crews on identical Volvo Ocean 65 boats is beginning to take its toll on nerves and body alike after seven months at sea.
Charles Caudrelier, skipper of the stage leaders Dongfeng Race Team, summed up: “According to the clouds and narrow corridors of wind, we have good and bad phases. It grinds down the nerves. The one-design (boat) has totally changed the regatta on the water.”
At the other end of the fleet, Sam Davies, of Team SCA, is equally feeling the pace. “I feel like the last seven months of racing is taking its toll on my body and I am trying to play catch-up in order to be able to do my job properly,” she wrote. “This racing is a crazy life.”
The boats are forecasted to arrive in Newport on May 7 after 17 days of sailing from Itajaí, Brazil. They will then have 10 days in dock for maintenance before setting off for the final transatlantic crossing to Lisbon, Portugal.
There are then two more legs taking in France (Lorient), The Netherlands (The Hague) and Sweden, with the race concluding on June 27 in Gothenburg after nine months of racing.