Top three in Volvo Ocean Race start to pull away and extend lead to nearly 300 miles

The Abu Dhabi port is the next stop and conclusion of Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean race as Dongfeng chase leaders Team Brunel with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's Azzam in third.
Team Brunel have surged to the front at the Volvo Ocean Race as they are followed by Dongfeng and ADOR’s Azzam. Courtesy VOR
Team Brunel have surged to the front at the Volvo Ocean Race as they are followed by Dongfeng and ADOR’s Azzam. Courtesy VOR

As Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race approaches its climax in Abu Dhabi this week, the fleet has divided into halves: the contenders and the pretenders.

The boats that finished 1-2-3 in Leg 1 had leads of nearly 300 miles over the other three teams as the fleet concluded its 19th day at sea while approaching the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula.

Team Brunel, the Dutch team, were incrementally adding to their nine-mile lead over Dongfeng, the Chinese boat manned by a mostly French crew.

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Dongfeng had Team Brunel in sight for much of the day, but watched skipper Bouwe Bekking’s boat edging over the horizon.

“We’ve been on the same tack for 48 hours … where in the best case, we’d be matching the speed of our sparring partner, Brunel. But in two days, instead, we’ve gone from eight miles ahead to six miles behind,” wrote Yann Riou, the onboard reporter for Dongfeng.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam was running third, nearly 30 miles behind Brunel, after having led the race for several days last week.

“We need a lift, a shift in the wind rotating to the right, to help us gain speed and have a chance at Brunel and Dongfeng to the next mark on the course,” wrote Matt Knighton, Azzam’s onboard reporter. “It’s been a battle all day, seemingly bleeding miles to the two teams to windward.

“There is still plenty of race track left: a reaching drag race to Oman, then the light air of the Strait of Hormuz and finally the unpredictable Arabian Gulf as we close in on Abu Dhabi.”

If the leaders finish in their current order, it would create a three-way tie for first place in the overall standings, with each of the teams on four points after two of the nine legs. Points are awarded according to finish, and the low cumulative score wins the round-the-world race.

The Dutch crew was in a fine mood yesterday as they crept away from their closest pursuers. Onboard reporter Stefan Coopers wrote that Bekking “is beaming at the thought of a victory, but he warns, ‘We will pass through the Strait of Hormuz before arriving in Abu Dhabi. It’s a piece of water surrounded by high mountains. … It may be the most difficult part of the race’.”

Team Alvimedica led the second half of the fleet, some 20 miles ahead of Mapfre, who in turn led Team SCA by 75 miles.

The seventh boat, Team Vestas Wind, abandoned the leg after running aground near Mauritius. As in Leg 1, from Alicante to Cape Town, the all-women SCA boat led early in the leg before losing touch with the fleet, in this case because of time spent in light winds.

“Because of these flukey conditions, we can’t help but feel a bit disheartened,” wrote Corinna Halloran, the SCA onboard reporter.

“What have we done to the wind for it to show up for the rest of the fleet and not for us?

“All this said, we’re keeping our heads down – not like an ostrich and in the sand, but more like an eagle building a nest in the mountains. We’re staying focused and really pulling every inch out of every shift and whisper of wind.”

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Published: December 8, 2014 04:00 AM

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