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Leg 3, Cape Town to Melbourne, arrivals - Volvo Ocean Race 2017 - photo © Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race
Leg 3, Cape Town to Melbourne, arrivals - Volvo Ocean Race 2017 - photo © Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race

VOR

Vestas 11th Hour Racing grab podium; Team Brunel take fourth in Melbourne

Vestas 11th Hour Racing beat Team Brunel to grab the final podium position on Leg 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race.

A third place finish into Melbourne on Leg 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race has Vestas 11th Hour Racing on equal points for second place on the overall leaderboard. Leg 3 was a difficult challenge for the Volvo Ocean Race fleet, a 6,500 nautical mile test of the crews and the boats that took the sailors down to the Roaring Forties, the Southern Ocean, where storm force winds battered the fleet for most of the leg.

Just after crossing the finishing line, Mark Towill, team director and co-skipper acknowledged the scale of the achievement:

“It was a tough leg. We’re happy to be on the podium again. It’s great to be in on Christmas and I know we’re all looking forward to getting ashore. It was a difficult leg, hard on the bodies, but everyone has held up well.”

The Vestas 11th Hour Racing crew finished behind Dongfeng Race Team but ahead of Team Brunel. At one point, with about 36 hours to go, the race tracker showed nothing to choose between Vestas and Dongfeng in terms of distance to finish, but in reality, the tactical situation favoured the Chinese/French boat.

“It was looking pretty close for a little while, but they were always ahead,” Towill said. “They were always comfortable. Brunel sailed well too so credit to them. It was challenging conditions and we’re all happy to be here and in one piece.”

For Team Brunel, this is a second consecutive mid-fleet finish. Skipper Bouwe Bekking knows it keeps his team in touch with leaders, but time is running out to make a charge for the podium on the overall leaderboard.

“It’s been a really hard leg. We always expected it would be tough and it lived up to that,” Bekking said. “Plenty of breeze and some awesome sailing as well.

“We don’t have any big issues. We could start for Leg 4 in 10 minutes! The boat has done incredibly well.”

Bekking also revealed that Annie Lush, injured earlier in the leg, has been taking light shifts on deck over the past couple of days, great news about one of the toughest sailors in the fleet.

As on Leg 2, the winner this leg was the Spanish MAPFRE team, followed by Dongfeng Race Team in second place.

Interestingly, Team Brunel did post the best 24-hour run so far on this leg, at 538.1 nautical miles, for an average speed of 22.4 knots. And that happened just yesterday.

“We had an excellent day on board TeamBrunel in many ways,” Bekking wrote in his daily email on Sunday morning. “Not enough to overtake Vestas, but we haven’t given up, we know strange things can happen…”

Leg 3, Cape Town to Melbourne, arrivals - Volvo Ocean Race 2017 - photo © Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race

Leg 3, Cape Town to Melbourne, arrivals – Volvo Ocean Race 2017 – photo © Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race

And that may well be his philosophy the rest of the way. Don’t give up; keep the pressure on, strange things can happen.

That means three boats will remain at sea for Christmas, with SHK/Scallywag battling to the end with Turn the Tide on Plastic for fifth place. Their ETA is currently around 0400 UTC on December 26.

Team AkzoNobel, with over 550 nautical miles to go at this point, isn’t expected to finish in Melbourne before 0800 UTC on December 27.

Leg 3 – Provisional Results –at Sunday 24 December (Leg 3, Day 15) at 23:30 UTC

  1. MAPFRE — FINISHED — 16:07.21 UTC – 14 days, 04h:07m:21s
  2. Dongfeng Race Team — FINISHED – 20:10:16 UTC – 14 days, 08h:10m:16s
  3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing — FINISHED – 21:52:11 UTC – 14 days, 09h:52m:11s
  4. Team Brunel — FINISHED – 23:36:27 UTC – 14 days, 11h:36m:27s
  5. team AkzoNobel — RACING
  6. Turn the Tide on Plastic — RACING
  7. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag — RACING

Volvo Ocean Race – Current Leaderboard

  1. MAPFRE — FINISHED — 29 points (after Leg 3)
  2. Dongfeng Race Team — FINISHED — 23 points (after Leg 3)
  3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing — FINISHED — 23 points (after Leg 3)
  4. Team Brunel — FINISHED — 14 points (after Leg 3)
  5. team AkzoNobel — RACING — 7 points (after Leg 2)
  6. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag — RACING — 5 points (after Leg 2)
  7. Turn the Tide on Plastic — RACING — 2 points (after Leg 2)

Podium finish for Vestas 11th Hour Racing finishes on Christmas Day in Melbourne for Leg 3 of VOR (from Vestas 11th Hour Racing)

Close racing from beginning to end of Leg 3 challenged the crew of Vestas 11th Hour Racing since departing December 10th from Cape Town, South Africa and finishing on Christmas Day in Melbourne, Australia. The sailors clenched another podium finishing in third place at 8:52 Local Time or 21:52:11 UTC.

This was a double points leg so Vestas 11th Hour Racing earns 10 points which now puts the team in third place overall just seven points from the lead.

“It was a tough leg, both physically and mentally,” said team co-founder Mark Towill (USA) upon finishing. “We are happy to be on the podium again and happy to be on land for Christmas.”

After struggling for the first few days out of Cape Town – starting in 30 knots of upwind conditions then transitioning into lighter, shifty wind – they caught up with the fleet after taking a different northerly route and sailing a more favorable angle to get south by Day 4.

From there, the team sailed into the Southern Ocean in third place and held that position for the thousands of miles of gybing along the Antarctic Ice Exclusion Zone – or “ice gates” – the southern boundary the Race Control has forbidden the yachts from crossing to prevent close proximity to known icebergs.

“We saw ice that was hundreds of thousands years old when we were at the University of Cambridge last summer learning from the British Antarctic Survey,” said rookie sailor, Jena Mai Hansen (DEN), “but I would like to keep it so that is the only ice we see in this race.”

Leg 3, Cape Town to Melbourne, arrivals. 24 December - Volvo Ocean Race 2017 - photo © Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race

Leg 3, Cape Town to Melbourne, arrivals. 24 December – Volvo Ocean Race 2017 – photo © Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race

Anticipation followed by the reality of strong winds and big seas pushed the sailors to their physical and mental limits. For days on end, the sailors faced winds in excess of 40 knots and a large sea state the southern ocean is notorious known for.

“We are sending it down mountainous waves. That is not an exaggeration. They look like something out of another world,” said onboard reporter Sam Greenfield (USA) on Day 5.

Sailing as far south as possible affords the team the ability to travel the shortest distance to Melbourne, but the wind direction from astern means the trade-off is to constantly gybe in order to stay close to the ice gate.

“When it’s really windy like this, maneuvers are really expensive,” said skipper Charlie Enright. “When you know it’s the right thing to do, but the right thing to do takes two hours and 100% of everybody’s effort, sometimes it’s hard to reach that conclusion. Lucky for us we bit the bullet and have stayed in touch with the group.”

The highest recorded gust on the blue boat was 50 knots and the top recorded boat speed was 38 knots. The crew did an excess of 30 gybes, once 10 in just 19 hours, and saw as low as an air temp of 9ºC and a water temp of 9 degreesC.

“Cold. Tired. Stiff. Gybe after gybe after gybe. Grinding along the ice gate has turned us into a boat of the gybing dead,” commented Greenfield halfway through the leg.

By Day 11, they passed the last ice gate and turned north for Melbourne. From there, the estimates looked like a Christmas arrival and the motivation of the sailors was evident.

“It’s really nice to finally be free of the ice gates,” said Simon Fisher (UK), navigator onboard. “Now we’re looking forward to some fast sailing and getting warm.”

No one was more happy than the two Australian sailors onboard, Stacey Jackson and Tom Johnson.

“I really hope someone is waiting for me on the dock with a sausage with tomato sauce or a vegemite sandwich” said Jackson just 48 hours before finishing.

“I’m super excited about getting to Melbourne to see my family,” added Tom. “The only thing on everybody’s mind right now is going fast.”

In the last push, the team opted to go into Stealth Mode hiding their position reports from their fellow competitors. The leading boats MAPFRE and Dongfeng opted to turn north sooner than Vestas 11th Hour Racing and the close fourth place boat, Brunel. When the Stealth Mode was over, the team was sailing just 11 miles ahead of Brunel and closing the gap on Dongfeng.

It was the last stretch in the harbour in Melbourne that really pushed the sailors mentally. With warm shower and a cold beer practically within sight, it was just a narrow channel full of ripping currents between them and docking.

The sailors are now off to recover for a few days before ProAm sailing on December 30th and the start of Leg 4 to Hong Kong on January 2nd, 2018 where they will be joined by #Take3fortheSea founder, Tim Silverwood. The organization focused on keeping our oceans clean will receive a grant from 11th Hour Racing to continue their efforts and to highlight the team’s legacy project as they travel around the world with the Volvo Ocean Race.

by Volvo Ocean Race

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