Finely balanced Volvo race makes slow start to closing sprints

Team Brunel won leg nine of the Volvo Ocean Race from Newport, Rhode Island, to Cardiff to close in on the two leaders.

Paris (AFP) – The penultimate leg of a closely contested Volvo Ocean Race made a delayed start from Cardiff on Sunday after being briefly becalmed by a lack of wind.

After eight months of racing, Chinese yacht Dongfeng leads Mapfre by one point at the start of a sprint round Ireland and Scotland to Gothenburg in Sweden that is expected to take just five days.

Dongfeng, skippered by  Frenchman Charles Caudrelier, has not finished first in any of the first nine legs but has managed three top three finishes. 

They took the lead from the Spaniards of Mapfre, led by Xabi Fernandez, on the last leg from Newport, Rhode Island, to Cardiff.

Meanwhile, the Dutch boat, Team Brunel, skippered by Bouwe Bekking lurks three points back after winning two of the last three legs.

The yachts set out from Alicante on October 22 and are expected to arrive at the final destination, The Hague around June 24.

“Each time, we say that the stage is going to be decisive, maybe it will be decisive, but maybe we’ll all arrive at Gothenburg level on points and everything will be played out on the last leg,” said Dongfeng crew member Kevin Escoffier.  

“We are leading with two legs left, if we continue to sail in the same way we will stay in the lead until the end.”

Escoffier said the last two legs would be raced “at a crazy speed.”

Standings (after nine stages): 

1. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN) 60 pts

2. Mapfre (ESP) 59

3. Team Brunel (NED) 57

4. Team AkzoNobel (NED) 48

5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (USA/DEN) 36

6. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (HKG) 29

7. Turn the Tide on Plastic (ONU) 26