VOR: Charlie Enright's (USA) Vestas 11th Hour Racing still leading, Mapfre pressing; race course
ALICANTE, ESP - We continue to use Alicante as the dateline because the Volvo Ocean Race HQ is in that city on Spain's SE coast, and where Leg 1 commenced on Sunday. The USA's Charlie Enright, skipper of Vestas 11th Hour Racing continues to hold a slim lead over Mapfre, the largely Spanish team (sponsor and sailors) which most keen observers say is the overall favorite in this 2017-18 edition. As of 2.5 hours ago (as I finish this post at 0830 PDT) the leaderboard shows how tight the fleet is overall, especially among the last four....
Here is a screen grab from 1300 UTC (0600 PDT) the last time the race tracker was updated. Under race rules, until the last 24 hours of each leg, it will only update every six hours so the teams can't use it to glean real-time tactical and strategic information about their competitors.....
Here is another excellent daily update by Peter Rusch, one of our sports clearest and most concise scribes who, no surprise, has jumped seamlessly from the AC to the Volvo media team – Bermuda to Alicante. Not bad work if you can get it?
Peter's story has the disturbing (at least to your Ed.) news that the race course has just been lengthened, yes, mid-race. Excerpt:
The backmarkers will have an additional opportunity to make up ground as earlier on Wednesday, Race Director Phil Lawrence communicated a change in the race course for Leg 1 to the competitors.
A virtual mark, called ‘Porto Santo North’, approximately 220 miles due north of Port Santo Island, has been added as a mark of the course. Like Porto Santo, the teams will need to leave this mark to starboard, before turning east to head to Lisbon.
Leg 1 has a target time of seven days, and this additional waypoint adds approximately 200 miles to the race course pushing back the ETA for the leaders at the finish line in Lisbon to late Saturday morning.
The teams are fully aware that these course-changing shenanigans are possible; it's in the race rules. But if I were one of the leaders, I would still be mad as hell that the race was lengthened just to "push back to the ETA for the leaders." It just confirms what many believe – the venues and sponsors are more important than the integrity of the competition. Sorry, Mark Turner (VOR CEO) but that's how I see it.
To your Ed., the biggest human interest story continues to be whether Blair Tuke (NZL) on Mapfre or his Olympic and AC-winning partner Peter Burling (NZL) on Team Brunel can win the VOR and complete the triple crown of sailing for the first time – gold medal in the Olympics (Burling/Tuke won the 49er gold in Rio, 2016), the America's Cup (Bermuda, ETNZ, 2017) and the Volvo Ocean Race. So far, it's looking like Mr Tuke, on Mapfre, has the better chance.
Finally, one hears form sources close to Team AkzoNobel that more crew changes are coming in Lisbon. Not exactly a big surprise given the musical chairs of crew before the Leg 1 start in Alicante (Tienpont out as skipper, Jackson in; Kirby added; Tienpont reinstated; Jackson, Salter, Signorini and Kirby quit; others added; Akzo racing only with seven on this leg instead of the normal eight or more). As always, Sailing Illustrated will do our best to bring you tomorrow's answers ASAP, if not today.