Team Brunel captured a Leg 7 victory in the Volvo Ocean Race on Wednesday, as overall race leaders Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR) appeared set for their worst finish yet in a leg.
Brunel arrived first in Lisbon, Portugal from Newport, US to conclude Leg 7 in an official time of 9 days 11 hours 9 min 49 sec. Bouwe Bekking skippered Brunel arrived just more than 20 minutes ahead of second-place-finishing Mapfre.
Abu Dhabi’s closest challenger for the 2014/15 Volvo Ocean Race title, Dongfeng Race Team, surprisingly arrived fourth, being overtaken by Team Alvimedica in a wild final stretch.
ADOR's Azzam, who had been sailing in fourth, were also overtaken by Alvimedica to look headed for a fifth-place finish in a difficult seventh leg for Ian Walker's boat.
In the position reports sent out at 11.15am UAE time on Wednesday, Alvimedica officially arrived about 1 hour 20 min after Mapfre for third with Dongfeng just another minute behind in fourth.
Abu Dhabi were still 6 nautical miles (nm) from the Lisbon finish, with Team SCA a further 5nm but gaining ground fast.
Azzam's string of six straight podium finishes in the round-the-world regatta was broken.
An hour earlier Alvimedica were on Abu Dhabi’s heels, less than 1nm behind; both boats, though, were over 10nm behind Dongfeng at that point.
It counts an especially sweet victory for Bekking, who captained a boat in 2005/06 that had to be abanoned as it sank during the same leg.
“We sailed a tremendous leg,” said the Dutchman, adding that conditions were “getting a bit gnarly” as the his boat ticked off the last miles to the finish furiously holding off Mapfre and Dongfeng.
“But we pulled it off.”
The last two stages will take the fleet from Lisbon to Lorient, France and finally to Gothenburg, Sweden.
While Abu Dhabi will likely see their points total increase to 16 from 11 (points are awarded based on order of finish, with the target of the lowest score), their commanding six-point edge on Dongfeng looks only to be sliced by one with the Chinese boat finishing fourth.
Brunel, with the win, now stand at 22 points in third and maintain a faint hope of catching Azzam.
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