Punta del Este will be racing to its home port on a huge high after claiming a win in the opening race to Portimão in Portugal.
Despite being as low as sixth in the standings earlier in the day, the Spanish Skipper of Punta del Este Skipper, Jeronimo Santos Gonzalez, used his local knowledge and, along with his crew, navigated the light winds off Portugal with precision to cross the finish line in first place.
Says Sir Robin Knox-Johnston: “This has been a lesson in land-sea breezes. As the land cools off at night, the water remains warm. So you are looking for that breeze that develops between the land and the sea. It probably goes out a couple of miles, but it’s well worth looking for. And that’s obviously what the winning boat found. They came creeping by, inside the others, and here they are in first place.”
It has been an incredibly successful race overall for Punta del Este. As well as the eleven points for the win, the team will also add three bonus points to its overall tally after setting the fastest time in the Ocean Sprint.
Punta del Este Skipper Jeronimo Santos Gonzalez said: “It has been a bit of a challenging one but it feels amazing. My team has worked so hard and I am just ecstatic, just over the moon.
“I think the moment was when we went through Finisterre. We pushed ourselves so hard day and night, day and night. We won the Ocean Sprint and that kept us motivated and focussed.”
Another team that saw success in the light conditions was Dare To Lead, who snared second place after finishing one hour and three seconds behind Punta del Este.
Dare To Lead Skipper Guy Waites said: “It was a long, long slog today. Definitely felt like the longest day of the whole week.
“It was a great effort by the team and my mate Hugues was fantastic as well. We put a huge amount of effort in for the finish and second place is very much deserved.”
Despite leading for much of the race, Qingdao had to settle for third place after falling victim to the dying breeze off the southern coast of Portugal.
Skipper Chris Brooks said: “It was epic, hard work. We tried everything we could and it was just mother nature in the end that didn’t allow it to happen. It’s great to come third, I think it is a good foundation for Qingdao to go off and win the race.”
But while Qingdao missed out on the win, the team is still looking very good in the standings. As well as collecting nine race points for third, Qingdao also earned three bonus points in Race 1 after being the first team across the Scoring Gate.
Skipper Chris added: “Having been the first boat to score points in the race and now coming second overall, we just want to work on that and improve it and be first by the time we arrive in Punta del Este!”
The Marina de Portimão literally rolled out the red carpet for the top three teams, with the crew treated to a well-earned VIP drinks reception. As well as being able to enjoy the sun, sand and surf the Algarve is famous for, Portimão will be putting on a show, with wine tastings, museum tours, and a beachside pool Prizegiving party.
The next stop after Portimão is the Uruguayan city, Punta del Este. After crossing their first ocean of the circumnavigation – the North Atlantic – the teams are due to arrive in the ‘St Tropez of South America’ between the 12th and 15th of October.
On the sixth day of racing the big winds and surfing conditions continued.
Skippers reported boat speed records being broken with Nick Leggatt, Skipper of Zhuhai, saying: “We were still under reefed Main and Yankee 2 at the time, running downwind in a gale. Almost as soon as I took the helm, the boat pitched her bow down a steep wave and launched herself to a speed of 28.9 knots. A new record for the Zhuhai team.”
The Ocean Sprint, a time trial between two lines of longitude or two lines of latitude, is an opportunity for teams to gain extra race points, and the results are in!
The fastest yacht, which will add three bonus points to its overall tally, was Punta del Este. Skipper Jeronimo, First Mate Ryan Barkey and their team completed the sprint in 15hrs, 2mins and 26secs. Second fastest was Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam, taking 15hrs, 51mins and 4secs. This result means that Skipper Josh Stickland, First Mate Hugo Picard and crew will be claiming two bonus points. And scooping the final bonus point, in a time of 15hrs, 53mins, was Zhuhai. Skipper Nick Leggatt, First Mate James Finney and crew will be adding to the point they already claimed from the Scoring Gate.