ALICANTE, ESP – The preliminaries of the Volvo Ocean Race are (finally!) over and the fleet is that much closer to hitting the open sea. The Spanish team MAPFRE has won the Prologue Leg, holding off a late charge from Team Brunel after race management shortened the course by converting the compulsory gate at Cabo de Gata into the finishing line. It was a continuation of the success skipper Xabi Fernández and his team had in winning Leg 0 during the summer.
“It’s all good on board,” Fernández said shortly after crossing the virtual finish line. “It’s been really good training. It’s been a close race and I’m really happy with the team’s performance.”
Team Brunel was a close second.
Both of the leading teams owed their performance in large part to a decision they took early in the leg, shortly after the start at Lisbon, Portugal, when they hugged the coast of Portugal in contrast to the rest of the fleet further offshore.
The coastal route paid in a big way, and less than 24-hours after the start, MAPFRE and Team Brunel held a decisive lead over the fleet, turning this into a two-boat race.
But the chasing pack had a hard-fought battle for third place, with team AkzoNobel squeaking in just ahead of Turn the Tide on Plastic and Vestas 11th Hour Racing.
At the back of the pack, Dongfeng Racing held off Team Sun Hung Kai / Scallywag.
With the shortened course putting the finishing line some 120 miles away, the teams motorsailed the rest of the way to Alicante, the starting point for the bluewater classic.
2016 Olympic gold medal teammates and America's Cup winners with Emirates Team New Zealand, Blair Tuke and Peter Burling, are pitted against each other in the Volvo, aboard arch-rivals Brunel (Burling) and Mapfre (Tuke), as New Zealand's stuff.co.nz website reports here.
Blair Tuke (NZL) and Peter Burling (NZL) had a stellar 2016-17, winning Olympic gold together at Rio in the 49er class, and then the America's Cup in Bermuda. Now they are opponents in the Volvo Ocean Race, with Tuke's team Mapfre winning the Prologue. Photo: Ricardo Pinto / ACEA.
The Race Village opened Wednesday evening, with entertainment, ceremonies and fireworks.
There will be practice racing Friday and the MAPFRE in-Port Race Alicante will be Saturday. Leg One of the Volvo Ocean Race starts on Saturday, Oct. 22.
Mapfre and Brunel had a slow drift-fest for much of the Volvo Ocean Race's Prologue Leg that had to be shortened 120 miles from the intended finish at Alicante, Spain. Mapfre won the non-counting "feeder" race. Photo: Rich Edwards / Volvo Ocean Race.