CAPE TOWN, RSA – With two legs down and most of the globe still ahead of the fleet, the early trend in the Volvo Ocean Race is that it could be a three-boat race. MAPFRE beat everyone into Cape Town to win Leg 2, followed by Dongfeng Race Team and Vestas 11th Hour Racing. They are the same three teams that shared the podium after the short first leg, when the order of finish from Alicante, ESP, to Lisbon was Vestas, MAPFRE and Dongfeng.
It’s way too early to write off Team Brunel and its veteran skipper, Bouwe Bekking, but the Dutch-flagged team has been off the pace in the early going. They finished sixth in the seven-boat fleet on Leg 1 before moving up to finish fourth on Leg 2.
There’s a clear separation to the last three boats: AkzoNobel, Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag and Turn the Tide on Plastic. They sailed into Cape Town late Saturday night local time, 6th place Scallywag finishing only 68 seconds ahead of last-to-finish TTOP.
After leading from the first night, Dongfeng dropped to fourth place two weeks into the 7,000nm leg. But skipper Charles Caudrelier led his team to an inspiring fight-back into second place.
“A good second place,” Caudrelier said. “For sure at one moment we were hoping for better, but a few days ago it was much worse and we made a fantastic comeback.
“Well done to MAPFRE, they did less mistakes than us, but we never gave up, the crew never complained, they just worked on the comeback… We have amazing speed in strong winds, we’ve worked on that a lot, and it was unbelievable, we were nearly a knot faster sometimes.”
Vestas 11th Hour Racing, led by Ivy Leaguers Charlie Enright and Mark Towill, was always in the mix with the leaders on this leg, but couldn't find a way into the lead.
“We’re happy with a podium result against a lot of good teams,” said Enright, the
skipper. “We’re not satisfied yet with how we're sailing the boat, so we still have a lot of work to do, but we’ll keep chipping away. We’re still trying to get faster through the water and streamline our decision-making, but it’s a long race. We have time.”
That’s Bekking’s outlook, too, but the Dutch skipper was frustrated.
"These last two days have been frustrating in a way, always sailing in less and more headed pressure than the boats ahead, but you know there is nothing you can do.
As a crew we made a lot of improvements compared to Leg 1 and we are starting to get a better grip on the sail crossovers, but there are always some new surprises.
"On the navigational front, there always some points where you look back and say that part maybe we could have done better, but in general I think we did a good job."
At one point, with about a week to go in the leg, Bekking and his team were pushing hard for a second place finish, but they couldn't hold on to the podium.
"We improved hugely on Leg 1," Bekking said. "We’re not fast enough when the breeze is up but we figured out why and that gives us confidence for the next leg.’’
Of course, there are nine legs left with the race ending in The Hague, NED next June.
Leg 3 to Melbourne, which will cover 6,500 nautical miles through the Southern Ocean, starts Dec. 10.
Vestas 11th Hour Racing charges into Cape Town Friday night to finish third in Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race behind MAPFRE and Dongfeng. Photo courtesy of VOR.