Leg 9 of the Volvo Ocean Race began today in American waters, as the fleet left the port of Newport (Rhode Island, United States) to sail the 3,300 miles to Cardiff (Wales). MAPFRE, who begin the leg as overall leaders on the general scoreboard for the round-the-world race, had a strong start and were amongst the leading group to head into the Atlantic on this double-scoring leg. The Spanish boat is clearly aiming for the best possible result to affirm their leadership.

© Maria Muiña I MAPFRE

Leg nine of the Volvo Ocean Race began today, 20th May from Newport to Cardiff (Wales), an Atlantic crossing of 3300 miles, which takes the seven teams in the fleet back to Europe, after over six months of sailing since the race start in Alicante. The leg is predicted to take between six to eight days, and MAPFRE will attempt to get the utmost out of the boat in their fight for victory in this third and last double-scoring leg; well aware of the need to obtain the very best result to maintain their overall leadership of the round-the-world race.

“This next leg is very important. It is double-scoring and across the Atlantic, which is always particular. The weather conditions are actually looking really good, as we will have downwind conditions and between 20 and 30 knots most of the way, so we should be in Cardiff in a week’s time,” explained skipper Xabi Fernández before the boat left the dock.

After a warm farewell to the crews, from family, friends and hundreds of race fans out to show their support for the fleet before departure, the seven teams headed out to the race course, where the starting gun sounded at 14:00 local time (20:00h in Spain). The fog that had covered Narragansett Bay in the early hours of the morning, had gradually cleared over the morning allowing for a punctual start with 15 knots of wind.

Before heading for Cardiff, the fleet sailed the seven legs of a coastal course, and MAPFRE pushed hard to be up amongst the front-runners. Slick boat-handling and calling the favoured side of the course, enabled Xabi Fernández’s team to situate themselves in the leading group as the teams headed into the first miles of the leg with winds of 30 knots expected for the first few hours.

Time will tell how these early hours of the leg pan out for the teams, although positions promise to continue being extremely tight for the first stages of the Atlantic crossing.

Into the home straight
Following their victory in leg eight, and having reclaimed overall leadership on the general Volvo Ocean Race scoreboard, MAPFRE heads into this Atlantic crossing with strength, determination and motivation. Leg nine may prove to be essential in determining how the last stages of the round-the-world race unfold, and the crew, led by the Basque double-olympic champion are very aware of it.

“The only thing that doesn’t worry me, is my absolute faith that we will be giving our all; the crew are really motivated, on good form and strong,” Xabi explained, “Everyone is mentally prepared to put their boots on in Newport, and take them off in Cardiff. It is going to be a tough leg, and what I do worry about is the risk of making a mistake and getting left behind, like we did on the last leg.”

However, the crew of the Spanish VO65 has carefully prepared for one of the most important legs in the round-the-world race. The 3300 mile Atlantic crossing is worth double points, and with the general scoreboard being as close as it is, MAPFRE will head out to do everything in their power to defend their lead.

As Spanish sailor Pable Arrarte described,

“We have to be completely confident that we have prepared the boat perfectly, and that we are all ready to give our utmost for the remainder of the round-the-world race, especially in this next leg, which scores double. We are currently three points ahead of Dongfeng. The point accounting for the time spent on the whole round-the-world race is in their favour, so really it is just two points. It is quite close, and there are still so many points at stake until the end of the race, so the aim is to take it little by little.”

MORE QUOTES

Xabi Fernández, Skipper
We are not concerned about the boat, but a few systems have been failing a little and we don’t know why. I think we have made a sound study and good repairs of the whole electric and hydraulic system during the stop-over, so if we are a little more conservative when using and charging the batteries, we shouldn’t have a problem and can be confident.

Pablo Arrarte, watch captain
I don’t think we should be too greedy. Simply finishing ahead of them, is already a victory and that would give us a few more points’ advantage, so we have to sail our own race and take it step by step.

We are now into the final stages of the Volvo Ocean Race. There are only three more legs, and we will finally return to Europe after so many months. It is actually beginning to feel very long: this is a long and tough race. All the teams are tired, both physically and psychologically, and I think it is now when we have to give our maximum. It is also where we could see the differences between the teams who are more fatigued. We will see what happens. We have to keep pushing.