While the red and white Volvo Ocean 65 skippered by Charles Caudrelier has been making excellent progress in the north, overtaking Vestas 11th Hour Racing and with Team AkzoNobel four miles behind, the boats further south – including Dongfeng’s major rival MAPFRE – have lost big miles while stalled under clouds.
In the last 48 hours MAPFRE has gone from being almost level-pegging with Dongfeng to nearly 100 miles behind in terms of distance to the finish of this leg at Hong Kong. An interesting fly in the ointment is Team Sun Hung Kai Scallywag, Dave Witt’s boat that is based in Hong Kong and whose skipper is desperate to try and win this leg at all costs.
Scallywag has been trying to cut the corner in the south and today she is still in second place just a fraction of a mile off Dongfeng’s lead. But she is also 120 miles south-southwest and to leeward of Dongfeng and it will be interesting to see, as the boats continue further west, whether she can hold onto that ranking.
Up ahead, now that the main Doldrums phase is finally behind all the boats, there are around 1,400 miles of northeast trade wind sailing to come and then almost the same again in the stronger and more northerly-inclined winds of the northeast monsoon.
So this is going to come down to boatspeed – how fast you can go for hour-after-hour power-reaching and then running. We know Dongfeng is quick on a reach; we know MAPFRE is quick downwind and we know that the crew on Vestas 11th Hour Racing is pretty good in both modes. It is going to be fascinating to see how small differences in set-up and speed work themselves out over the next few days.
For Dongfeng the objective is not only to try and win the leg but to keep as many boats between her and MAPFRE as possible. Of course they cannot control that but can only push as hard as possible to stretch the fleet on the way past the northern tip of the Philippines and then onto Hong Kong.
Recent pictures from on board Dongfeng show the crew working hard in the heat and in tropical downpours. Not long before Dongfeng started moving in the trades navigator Franck Cammas summed up his hopes for the transition – an assessment that we can now see was pretty much spot-on.
1. Dongfeng Race Team. DTF: 2,745 nm
2. Team Sun Hung Kai / Scallywag: DTL: 0.2 nm
3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing. DTL: 4.8 nm
4. Team AkzoNobel. DTL: 4.9nm
5. MAPFRE. DTL: 93.2nm
6. Turn the Tide on Plastic. DTL: 106.9nm
7. Team Brunel. DTL: 107.5nm