A new podium position for MAPFRE in the Auckland in-port race, their sixth to date. A third place for the Spanish team, held today on the Bay of Auckland. A good result in a complicated race, where conditions touched on the bare minimum required to race, due to the lack of wind.
On Saturday, the sixth in-port race of the Volvo Ocean Race was held in the Bay of Auckland. The four-lap windward-leeward race, was held in very flakey conditions, which stopped and started the fleet (at times almost painfully), due to the clear lack of wind, and was over in little more than 50 minutes.
The race began at 14:00h local time (02:00 am Spanish time), with wind intensity not as low as predictions had originally promised. However, the situation was not to last long.
A great start for MAPFRE, as their trimmer and helmsman Willy Altadill confidently declared, “We started really well; we won the start.”
“It was a very tricky race, as we had expected, with the conditions we had been promised, and very little wind. Little gusts here and there. I think we started really well,” affirmed the MAPFRE skipper, Xabi Fernández.
It was already proving complicated on the first upward leg, with the fleet literally at a standstill for several minutes. MAPFRE moved slowly through the centre of the race course, without any wind, accompanied to one side by Vestas, who managed to overtake the Spanish team on the right-side of the course, whilst Dongfeng moved forwards having opted to stay closer to the coast.
“We had a good lead in the middle of the first upward leg, but then the wind stopped completely, and once again both boats that had been at the very back managed to overtake us all,” explained Xabi.
It took the fleet about 25 minutes to get to the first mark, with AkzoNobel leading, followed by Charlie Enright and Charles Caudrelier’s teams, whilst MAPFRE rounded in fifth place, having been halted completely.
“A little after the start, it all got quite tricky for us all, I think we were even in fifth place at once point,” explained Altadill, “but we knew that once we had a little more wind, we were going to be up the front again, and that is how it has been for us in the race until now”.
The first downwind leg on the New Zealand Bay promised to deliver a little more wind, and gradually settled in, and the VO65s began to register speeds of around eight knots.
Team Brunel moved into third place, and MAPFRE began their approach; both teams sailing with two national heroes on board: Peter Burling and Blair Tuke respectively. As the two teams fought to round the mark, Vestas moved ahead with good speed through the middle of the race course, without joining the battle between the Dutch and Spanish teams.
As Brunel’s helmsman Burling tried their utmost to luff, MAPFRE’s helm for the In-Port races Pablo Arrarte, firmly stood their ground. As such, the third and penultimate leg saw MAPFRE in third, having overtaken Brunel at the mark, with a mere ten-second advantage.
Chinese team Dongfeng were the new leaders of the third leg, practically parallel at times to AkzoNobel in second, whilst MAPFRE hung on tooth and nail to their third place. The leading group remained at the front of the fleet until crossing the finish line, where they received an ovation from the hundreds of spectator boats out on the water to follow the day’s racing.
Olympic Match Race champion in London 2012, Támara Echegoyen from Galicia, described the Spanish team’s performance,
“We did a great job on the water, and the team is happy. We finished in third place, which is another podium finish, and so we have fulfilled our goal. Although I have to admit that it is always a bitter-sweet feeling when you have been leading, and the conditions were at times questioning the possibility to sail or not.”
“In the end the strongest teams are always at the front, whatever the ‘lottery’, or however you want to refer to the conditions,” declared an always forthright Willy Altadill.
One week to the start of the major leg
The seven teams competing in the Volvo Ocean Race are now just eight days away from the key leg of this edition, the very last Southern Ocean leg, and with many points at stake.
“We are now focussed on preparing for the next leg, which is going to be the most important in the whole Volvo Ocean Race, and may well be a turning point in the final results,” concluded Altadill.
RESULTS AUCKLAND IN-PORT RACE
1. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN, Charles Caudrelier) – 7 points
2. Team AkzoNobel (NED, Simeon Tienpont) – 6 points
3. MAPFRE (ESP, Xabi Fernández) – 5 points
4. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (USA/DEN, Charlie Enright) – 4 points
5. Team Brunel (NED, Bouwe Bekking) – 3 points
6. Sun Hung Kai Scallywag (HKG, David Witt) – 2 points
7. Turn The Tide on Plastic (Naciones Unidas, Dee Caffari) – 1 point
OVERALL IN-PORT RACE SERIES
1. MAPFRE (ESP, Xabi Fernández), 37 points
2. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN, Charles Caudrelier), 34 points
3. Team AkzoNobel (NED, Simeon Tienpont), 27 points
4. Team Brunel (NED, Bouwe Bekking), 26 points
5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (USA/DEN, Charlie Enright), 16 points
6. Sun Hung Kai Scallywag (HKG, David Witt), 15 points
7. Turn The Tide on Plastic (Naciones Unidas, Dee Caffari), 11 points