Damien Foxall from Ireland, onboard Groupama Sailing Team during leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa. (Credit: Yann Riou/Groupama Sailing Team/Volvo Ocean Race)
In the final part of the series on the most experienced sailors in the Volvo Ocean Race, Groupama watch captain Damian Foxall reveals to the Volvo Ocean race media team, what it will take to win this race, and why victory has never been so close.
You’re top of the table going into the final stages of the race. How do you see them playing out?
It’s basically a Volvo Ocean Race restart. We’ve got a slight advantage because we have a few points on the boats behind us but from the four front boats any one of them could win. I don’t really consider that we’re in the lead defending the win of the Volvo Ocean Race. The race restarts here in Lisbon. We have three inshores and two offshore to go out and race.
Does anything change in your approach to the legs or the in-ports?
It’s a totally different mindset as to how we sail the boat, how we set up the boat. We also have to build on what we’ve done technically for the last year.
Could the overall race come down to the results of the Galway In-Port Race?
For sure. I think 19 per cent of the overall points are up for grabs in the in-port series but now it’s a bit different because we’re left with two legs and three in-ports so in terms of percentage the in-port races become more important. Luckily we have built a bit of momentum in the in-ports, it’s been going well recently. Heads up to [French Olympic gold medallist] Thierry Péponnet who has been coaching us from the start. That’s had a big impact on our programme.
How dangerous are the likes of Abu Dhabi and Sanya in these final stages?
Everyone seems to have their day in the in-ports and even on the shorter legs. Sanya and Abu Dhabi will be punching above their weight I’m sure. It will be very easy for them to get into the mix, and if they get in between the top four boats it’s going to have a big impact on points.
Do you feel more or less pressure now you’re leaders?
We’ve got a small advantage in points but all four boats are going for the win. It’s a race restart. We’re not defending a big lead, we’ve just got to go out there and be very consistent in what we do from now on. We can all look back in hindsight at the points we’ve lost so far in this race -- our inshore in Alicante wasn’t good, the second leg could have worked out very well for us but we lost it right at the end -- but there’s no point doing that. All you can do is look forward. We’re sailing the boat better, we’re still learning new things, and that’s been a very important part of putting our team in a position where we can win the race. We started with a good team and a fast boat and we’ve continued developing throughout the race. We’re where we want to be and it’s going to be a great race through to the finish.
What’s going to give the winning team the edge?
Momentum. That’s very important. Then just consistency, good sailing and a little bit of luck, and someone’s going to come out on top!
You’re a man with plenty of experience in this race. What do you say to the other less experienced guys on your team at this stage of the race?
I think everyone in our team whether they’ve done this race or not has been in this position before. I’m certainly not going to be the one to teach them to suck eggs. This is probably the closest a lot of us have been or will be to winning the Volvo Ocean Race and the next six weeks will be incredibly important.