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Volvo Ocean Race: Dongfeng win challenging New Zealand Herald In Port Race

by Volvo Ocean Race 9 Mar 22:42 PST 10 March 2018
Auckland Stopover - The New Zealand Herald In-Port Race. © Jesus Renedo / Volvo Ocean Race

Dongfeng Race Team earned a spectacular come from behind win on Saturday afternoon in New Zealand.

Dongfeng Race Team showed great concentration and resilience in winning the New Zealand Herald In Port Race in Auckland, New Zealand on Saturday.

Conditions were extremely light, shifty and patchy on the Waitemata Harbour, making for plenty of lead changes over the course of the one hour race.

Team AkzoNobel finished in second place, while early leaders MAPFRE completed the podium to retain the overall lead in the In Port Race Series.

"It was very tricky, very difficult," said Dongfeng skipper Charles Caudrelier following the race. "We had a terrible start but there was so much happening during the first leg that it wasn't always good to be in the lead as you just showed the others where the light spots were. We were able to pick up on that and sail around the leaders.

"We worked hard on our speed, and managed to come back slowly."

The race started in spectacular fashion, considering how light the wind was. MAPFRE positioned well to leeward of the fleet, was first across the line, with David Witt's Scallywag barging through with speed ahead of a big group clustered near the pin end.

But in fact, it was Team Brunel who were causing the pile-up at the pin, forcing three boats outside of the start line, with Dongfeng, Turn the Tide on Plastic and team AkzoNobel all required to re-start well behind the leaders.

That left MAPFRE and Scallywag as the early leaders, charging up what appeared to be a one-tack leg.

But as they approached the top third of the leg, the wind died, and the trailing boats were able to sail around the leading pair on both sides, with AkzoNobel and Vestas 11th Hour Racing squeezing through just ahead of Dongfeng Race Team and Brunel Sailing.

On the nominally downwind second leg, AkzoNobel and Dongfeng found a vein of pressure to grab the lead, and on a shortened two-lap course, it was Dongfeng who were able to ease ahead and hold on for the win.

"It was a good team win," said Caudrelier. "Very good for the mood of the team."

The results mean MAPFRE retains the overall lead in the series, with Dongfeng reducing the gap to second place and team AkzoNobel leapfrogging Brunel to take third.

New Zealand Herald In Port Race Results:

  1. Dongfeng Race Team
  2. team AkzoNobel
  3. Mapfre
  4. Team Vestas 11th Hour Racing
  5. Team Brunel
  6. Sun Hung Kai / Scallywag
  7. Turn the Tide on Plastic

Current Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Race Series Leaderboard:

  1. MAPFRE – 37 points
  2. Dongfeng Race Team – 34 points
  3. team AkzoNobel – 27 points
  4. Team Brunel – 26 points
  5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing – 18 points
  6. Sun Hung Kai / Scallywag – 15 points
  7. Turn the Tide on Plastic – 11 points

Victory for Charles Caudrelier and his crew in the New Zealand Herald In-Port Race (from Dongfeng Race Team)

Today's In-Port Race on the Waitemata Harbour in Auckland proved a tough one for the Volvo Ocean Race fleet, with Dongfeng Race Team finally securing the win by just over one minute after various lead changes and tricky, shifty conditions on a shortened two-lap course.

It wasn't all smooth sailing for the Chinese boat, sponsored by Dongfeng Motor Corporation, with the team forced to re-start minutes after the starting gun due to Team Brunel forcing them, and competitors Turn the Tide on Plastic (Dee Caffari) and team AkzoNobel (Simeon Tienpoint), outside of the start line.

The trailing trio were quick to split as they fought to come back, with Dongfeng Race Team opting for the left-hand side of the course, a strategy that paid off when early leaders, MAPFRE and Scallywag parked up in the middle of the course with no wind. AkzoNobel and Vestas 11th Hour Racing were first around the top mark, approaching from the right hand side but Dongfeng were quick to take advantage of the new breeze and come back on the new leaders.

With just seconds separating the two rivals, AkzoNobel and Dongfeng Race Team, the focus was on the fluent execution of manoeuvres and retaining consistent speed in the light winds, Dongfeng Race Team made the most of every zhephyr of wind and in the final stages of the race, the red boat eased over the top of team AkzoNobel at the final gate to cross the line in first place, with MAPFRE securing the final podium spot and retaining their lead position overall in the In-Port Race series.

"It was very tricky, very difficult," said Dongfeng skipper, Charles Caudrelier following the race. "We had a terrible start but there was so much happening during the first section that it wasn't always good to be in the lead as it just showed the trailing teams where the light spots were. We picked up on that and sailed around the leaders. We worked hard on our speed, and managed to come back slowly."

New Zealand sailor, Daryl Wislang was also thrilled to take the win. "The people of Auckland always love to get out on the water and support. I am thrilled with how many people were out there today to watch the race and of course it is great to win here."

"You could say we were lucky with the breeze today but our strategy was always to be on the left of the race course. We had a bad start but a combination of our strategy and the lack of breeze meant we could come back and take the win today. Of course it is always good to win. It gives the team a good boost and it is good for moral."

Leg 7 starts on Sunday 18 March, with the sailors facing a tough leg to Itajai, Brazil. The 7,600 nautical mile leg will be a defining leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, with double points at stake for the winner and an extra bonus point for the team that rounds Cape Horn first.

Team AkzoNobel takes second place in the Auckland Volvo Ocean Race in port heat after a tense light-airs battle with Dongfeng Race Team (from Team AkzoNobel)

Team AkzoNobel has finished second in the Volvo Ocean Race in port race in Auckland, New Zealand after a tense needle match with China's Dongfeng Race Team in light and fickle winds.

The team AkzoNobel crew had to fight back from a slow start after being trapped outside the left-hand end of the start line when the start gun fired.

Despite setting off in fifth place in the seven-boat fleet the crew soon rallied and was able to capitalise when the wind died to a zephyr on the way to the first windward turning gate allowing them to sail around the leaders and into the lead.

After rounding the left-hand gate buoy narrowly ahead of the pack the team AkzoNobel sailors had to fend off a sustained attack from second placed Dongfeng Race Team on the next two legs of the three and a half-nautical mile (6.5-kilometer) inshore course, before finally succumbing to the pressure and dropping to second behind Dongfeng just before the final turning marker.

Team AkzoNobel in port race helmsman Nicolai Sehested (DEN) put the result down to good crew work and communication on the boat throughout the 50-minute race along the Auckland waterfront.

"It was one of those races where the conditions are so tricky and shifty that you just had to focus on getting the most out of the breeze you have at the time," Sehested said.

"We risked a lot to try to get a good start and it didn't come off for us but in the end it turned out we were better off letting the others go and then being able to sail around them when the wind died."

Australian watch leader Chris Nicholson said the light winds meant the crew had known they needed to be prepared for anything.

"It was always going to be a tricky race," he said.

"We got a little tangled up at the start and that meant we had to fight our way back. There weren't many options but [the opportunities] were always going to be when it was lightest and trickiest.

"We got on the right side on the way to the turning marks and went to the small jib [headsail] so we could maneuver better. We popped through in first having gone from second to last.

"To take a second out of that from where we were at the start is a really good result, so we are stoked to be on the podium again."

Today's result followed the team AkzoNobel crew's victory in the sixth Volvo Ocean Race open-ocean leg from Hong Kong to Auckland 10 days previously and sees the team in third position in the overall in port race series.

The in port race series doesn't count towards the main race points but will be used in the event of a tie between any of the teams at the end of the race at The Hague in the Netherlands in June 2018.

The team must now refocus its attention as the sailors prepare for Leg 7 - arguably the most significant phase of the race as it is a double points ocean passage from Auckland, through the depths of the Southern Ocean and around Cape Horn to Itajaí in Brazil, starting on Sunday March 18.

Team AkzoNobel is currently fourth in the overall Volvo Ocean Race standings, behind Mapfre (ESP), Dongfeng Race Team (CHN) and Sun Hung Kai Scallywag (HKG).

MAPFRE claims their sixth podium in the Auckland In-Port race (from MAPFRE)

A new podium position for MAPFRE in the Auckland in-port race, their sixth to date. A third place for the Spanish team, held today on the Bay of Auckland. A good result in a complicated race, where conditions touched on the bare minimum required to race, due to the lack of wind.

"We did a good job. Holding onto a podium finish is always important, and so we are satisfied," - Xabi Fernández, Skipper.

On Saturday, the sixth in-port race of the Volvo Ocean Race was held in the Bay of Auckland. The four-lap windward-leeward race, was held in very flakey conditions, which stopped and started the fleet (at times almost painfully), due to the clear lack of wind, and was over in little more than 50 minutes.

The race began at 14:00h local time (02:00 am Spanish time), with wind intensity not as low as predictions had originally promised. However, the situation was not to last long.

A great start for MAPFRE, as their trimmer and helmsman Willy Altadill confidently declared, "We started really well; we won the start."

"It was a very tricky race, as we had expected, with the conditions we had been promised, and very little wind. Little gusts here and there. I think we started really well," affirmed the MAPFRE skipper, Xabi Fernández.

It was already proving complicated on the first upward leg, with the fleet literally at a standstill for several minutes. MAPFRE moved slowly through the centre of the race course, without any wind, accompanied to one side by Vestas, who managed to overtake the Spanish team on the right-side of the course, whilst Dongfeng moved forwards having opted to stay closer to the coast.

"We had a good lead in the middle of the first upward leg, but then the wind stopped completely, and once again both boats that had been at the very back managed to overtake us all," explained Xabi.

It took the fleet about 25 minutes to get to the first mark, with AkzoNobel leading, followed by Charlie Enright and Charles Caudrelier's teams, whilst MAPFRE rounded in fifth place, having been halted completely.

"A little after the start, it all got quite tricky for us all, I think we were even in fifth place at once point," explained Altadill, "but we knew that once we had a little more wind, we were going to be up the front again, and that is how it has been for us in the race until now".

The first downwind leg on the New Zealand Bay promised to deliver a little more wind, and gradually settled in, and the VO65s began to register speeds of around eight knots.

Team Brunel moved into third place, and MAPFRE began their approach; both teams sailing with two national heroes on board: Peter Burling and Blair Tuke respectively. As the two teams fought to round the mark, Vestas moved ahead with good speed through the middle of the race course, without joining the battle between the Dutch and Spanish teams.

As Brunel's helmsman Burling tried their utmost to luff, MAPFRE's helm for the In-Port races Pablo Arrarte, firmly stood their ground. As such, the third and penultimate leg saw MAPFRE in third, having overtaken Brunel at the mark, with a mere ten-second advantage.

Chinese team Dongfeng were the new leaders of the third leg, practically parallel at times to AkzoNobel in second, whilst MAPFRE hung on tooth and nail to their third place. The leading group remained at the front of the fleet until crossing the finish line, where they received an ovation from the hundreds of spectator boats out on the water to follow the day's racing.

Olympic Match Race champion in London 2012, Támara Echegoyen from Galicia, described the Spanish team's performance,

"We did a great job on the water, and the team is happy. We finished in third place, which is another podium finish, and so we have fulfilled our goal. Although I have to admit that it is always a bitter-sweet feeling when you have been leading, and the conditions were at times questioning the possibility to sail or not."

"In the end the strongest teams are always at the front, whatever the 'lottery', or however you want to refer to the conditions," declared an always forthright Willy Altadill.

One week to the start of the major leg

The seven teams competing in the Volvo Ocean Race are now just eight days away from the key leg of this edition, the very last Southern Ocean leg, and with many points at stake.

"We are now focussed on preparing for the next leg, which is going to be the most important in the whole Volvo Ocean Race, and may well be a turning point in the final results," concluded Altadill.

Team Brunel fifth in Auckland In Port Race (from Team Brunel)

Saturday March 10th Team Brunel finished the In Port race in fifth position after an incredibly nail biting race. The conditions were extremely light, shifty and patchy on the Waitemata Harbour, resulting in plenty of lead changes over the course.

It was Team Brunel who caused the pile-up at the pin, forcing three boats outside of the start line, with Dongfeng, Turn the Tide on Plastic and team AkzoNobel all required to re-start well behind the leaders.

Bekking "it was the luck of the draw"

Bouwe Bekking: "We had potentially a very good start, where Pete actually locked a couple of boats outside the line. We were in third place when it all started turning to custard and the guys who were in last place, basically finished first. It's just one of these things that is happening in a race like this."

"We got a penalty as well. To be honest I still don't understand why. If we got a penalty then Vestas should have one for sure, and the jury came with it like five minutes afterwards. It's one of these things you have to stick away, but today it was the luck of the draw. The guys who were bad at the start won the race."

Burling: not having the best of luck at the moment

For local hero Peter Burling, helming the boat in the In Port race, the result was disappointing. Peter Burling "We definitely are not having the best of luck at the moment. We were a bit unfortunate to get a penalty at the end. I'm still not fully sure what happened there exactly, but I'm sure we will find out pretty soon."

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