Leaders of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 begin Leg 4 from Melbourne, Australia to Hong Kong. After a powerful start, the crew, led by Xabi Fernández headed to the first and second marks with an important lead over the rest of the fleet, on the right side of the course, and with a clean wind enabling them to sail with up to two knots more wind speed. The leg may last up to 20 days.

1415 local time (3.15 UTC), the Spanish team are back in race mode, eagerly awaiting the six-hourly position reports, and once again committed to sending videos, photos and mails. After seven days in Melbourne, MAPFRE and the Volvo Ocean Race fleet are back competing in the round-the-world race, this time heading to Hong Kong. Today’s start saw a temperature of 22º C, a steadily increasing 10-15 knots of South-South-Easterly wind, and a moderate sea swell. 

The team were ready to get back on the water, as their smiling faces made it very clear.

We are looking forward to racing again, as it is what we are here for, and it’s what we love. We might not have rested as much as we have in other legs, where we had more time, but we are ready, and eager to keep fighting,” said Pablo Arrarte, one of the team’s watch captain and main helmsmen.

It has been a short stop-over, and we haven’t been able to do much, but we made the most of the time to rest, to train again, and to physically recover a little, from where we left off before the start of the last leg,” added Willy Altadill, the youngest member of Xabi Fernández’s crew.

From the left: Xabi, Támara, Pablo, Willy, Louis, Sophie & Vila © María Muiña/MAPFRE

Leg four consists of 6,000 nautical miles, and the fleet will have to pass through the Bass Strait (separating Tasmania from the Australian mainland), and head north along the Australian coast, with the handicap of the strong current against them. The teams will also encounter the trade winds, the Doldrums, the Coral Sea, and have to juggle multiple islands and reefs, before finally reaching Hong Kong. It is the first time the Volvo Ocean Race makes a stop-over in this particular port.

Leg 4 is therefore a very different leg from the previous cold Southern Ocean route. So is it a relief for the team?

Not really, as Altadill explains,

If we were heading straight to Brazil that wouldn’t be too bad!” he jokes, “It is always easier on the body not to have to face the cold and the water, but this leg is going to have its fair share of tricky parts, and you can’t start a leg thinking it is going to be a lot easier.”

An intense first 24 hours

Once outside Port Phillip, MAPFRE will face strong upwind conditions, and a sea current against them; a challenging combination of short waves and a very rough sea.

Leaving here is going to be very complicated as we are going to have to make a lot of manoeuvres,” Altadill explained.

We will have about 20-25 knots, quite a big swell, and a lot of boat handling,” agreed Arrarte.

Once across the Bass Strait, the team will tack to head East, with reaching conditions enabling fast sailing.

“At least until we reach Sydney, it looks like we will have to hug the coast, and there will be a lot of boat handling,” explained the Cantabrian sailor, with a touch of resignation.

Perhaps in an attempt to encourage his teammate, Willy seems to shrug it off,

I think the first two days will be the toughest, and from then onwards the wind will drop a little. We will then get into the trade winds, and start to head north…”

PROVISIONAL RANKING LEG 4
MELBOURNE (AUSTRALIA) – HONG KONG- 6,000 miles
Day 1 – 0720 UTC 2nd January 2018

  1. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (USA/DEN, Mark Towill), 5,532.6 miles from the finish line
  2. MAPFRE (ESP, Xabi Fernández), + 0.3 miles
  3. Team Brunel (NED, Bouwe Bekking), +0.7 miles
  4. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN, Charles Caudrelier), +0.9 miles
  5. 5. Turn The Tide on Plastic (Naciones Unidas, Dee Caffari), +1.4 miles
  6. 6. Team Sun Hung Kai Scallywag (HKG, David Witt), +2.6 miles
  7. Team AkzoNobel (NED, Simeon Tienpont), +3.9 miles

PROVISIONAL OVERALL RANKING VOLVO OCEAN RACE 2017-18 

  1. MAPFRE (ESP, Xabi Fernández), 29 points
  2. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN, Charles Caudrelier), 23 points
  3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (USA/DEN, Charlie Enright), 23 points
  4. Team Brunel (NED, Bouwe Bekking), 14 points
  5. Sun Hung Kai Scallywag (HKG, David Witt), 11 points
  6. Team AkzoNobel (NED, Simeon Tienpont), 9 points
  7. Turn The Tide on Plastic (Naciones Unidas, Dee Caffari), 6 points