Team Alvimedica’s skipper Charlie Enright won the final offshore battle of the Volvo Ocean Race here today, but the overall trophy belonged firmly with his rival from Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Ian Walker.
The Turkish/American boat led the tightly packed fleet home to crowded docks in the final stopover in Gothenburg, Sweden, to bring to a close 38,739 nautical miles and nine months of some of the closest racing ever witnessed in the 41-year-old offshore marathon.
The Team Alvimedica victory underlined, once more, the incredibly close nature of competition in the first event raced with strictly one-design Volvo Ocean 65 boats.
Only one team, Team Vestas Wind (Chris Nicholson), failed to win a leg – and they missed five because of a boat rebuild.
Behind Enright, in fifth, Walker’s boat, Azzam, slipped almost quietly into port, but the mile-wide smiles on all the crews’ faces told their own story: We are the Champions! It seals one of the greatest global sporting triumphs for the Gulf region and makes Walker the first British skipper to win the overall trophy.
Dongfeng – a Victory for China
Dongfeng Race Team secured a place on the podium of the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 at their first attempt today in Gothenburg, Sweden – an incredible achievement for Charles Caudrelier and his Chinese backed team.
However this podium finish reaches further than just the realms of the team. It touches the Chinese sponsors Dongfeng Trucks, Aeolus Tyres and the city of Shiyan, who took the risk of financially backing the campaign, for whom sponsorship and sailing were completely new just last year. It is a huge reward for the professional sailors and shore team who embraced the project knowing that it was not labelled a ‘winning’ campaign.
This 12th edition of the Volvo Ocean Race has been epic and unbelievably, after 11 countries, over 41,000 nautical miles, two leg wins, five podium results out of nine, one broken mast and it all came down to the last few miles. Dongfeng Race Team finished leg 9 in fourth place behind Team Alvimedica, Team Brunel and MAPFRE. The Spanish frustratingly managed to slip in front of Dongfeng a few hundred metres from the line after being covered all the way from The Hague by the Caudrelier-Bidegorry duo. But it was enough for Dongfeng to secure the overall podium place they deserved – Mapfre had to beat Dongfeng by two places to overtake them in the overall standings.
“I want to thank Dongfeng and Bruno for giving me this opportunity. A year ago I never would have believed this possible. I have lived the most incredible human story with this team and I am so proud of the progress of the Chinese sailors. Turning Chinese athletes into professional offshore sailors was challenging but it was worth every second.” – Charles Caudrelier.
Hardly race favourites, from day one this Chinese campaign has faced adversity and sometimes it’s been draining, both physically and emotionally. It’s a given that if we had a dollar for every tear, drop of sweat and laughter over the last nine months, we would be millionaires today.
As a campaign we wanted to reignite offshore sailing in China. We wanted to build a campaign the Chinese people could take ownership of, something they were proud of. We wanted to inspire a new generation of sailors and we had a mission to teach and train young Chinese sailors, take a first step in the right direction to bring offshore sailing to China and if we could, leave a Volvo Ocean Race legacy.
“There is still a long way to go but I know from the reaction back home this project has been great for offshore sailing in China,” said Yang Jiru (Wolf). “I hope it will inspire young Chinese sailors for years to come. Eighteen months of this life with this team has taught me a lot. Besides offshore sailing it has taught me how to deal with situations and emotions I would have never otherwise faced.”
Team SCA Paints Their Home Town Magenta
The rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the crowds that lined the river and dockside for SCA’s arrival, where they were greeted by thousands of well-wishers welcoming them home.
Speaking after arrival Skipper Sam Davies said: “We are really, really proud of everything we have achieved. What we have done is huge, now we are racing against the best in the world and it’s an incredible feeling to have progressed this far.
It’s the first time we have sailed into Sweden and that’s a pretty proud moment for the whole team. The support is amazing, and here there were people lining the river all the way along with pink flags, banners – even in the rain.”
Team SCA had one aim, to bring female sailors back to the world’s toughest ocean race and to compete at the same level as their male counterparts. It has been over a decade since the race had seen an all-female entry. Earlier this month Team SCA sailed into the history books winning Leg 8, from Lisbon to Lorient by becoming the first all-female team in 25 years to win a leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. Over 200 applicants went through the trial process where a squad of thirteen sailors and two onboard Reporters (OR’s) were selected for the gruelling race ahead.
“Commercially it has been a great success, we won the race onshore. The fact that the SCA brand was more or less unknown globally as a consumer brand, has changed. Now both clients, investors and employees are talking about SCA as a company that really understands how to build a brand, and they are as well-known as some of their competitors,” commented Richard Brisius, Team SCA Managing Director.
Brunel – Podium Finish Guaranteed
After a blood-curdling final leg, Team Brunel has succeeded in defending its second place in the Volvo Ocean Race overall ranking. The Dutch sailing team crossed the finish line in Gothenburg in second place. Team Brunel’s biggest rivals, MAPFRE and Dongfeng Race Team ended in third and fourth place respectively.
“We’re incredibly happy with second place,” said a visibly elated Bouwe Bekking on the quayside in Gothenburg. “The lads have done fantastic work. We can honestly look each other in the eye and say that we did our best. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing was simply the best team. I’d like to congratulate them on their victory here and now.”
“I’d like to thank Knut Frostad and his team. The introduction of a single class made this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race extremely exciting. My first race was certainly the best, but this one certainly ranks second.”
“This whole leg was nerve-racking,” said Gerd-Jan Poortman. “After the re-start in The Hague, we were lucky that MAPFRE made a mistake. They wanted to take a route close to the Wadden Islands and saw too late that we’d opted for the more northerly route. We were sailing close-hauled and unexpectedly fast. We overtook Dongfeng Race Team on speed alone. We could see the other boats all the way to Gothenburg and just before the finish the whole field grouped together. Sometimes there was no more than 500 metres between us, MAPFRE and Dongfeng Race Team. That was pretty stressful. We can be very, very proud that we’ve come second in the Volvo Ocean Race.”
And now, after more than 38,000 nautical miles, it’s all over. On Saturday, the teams will sail a final in-port race but, because Team Brunel has assured its second place overall, this will be purely for show. “Nobody can take our podium place away from us,” says Gerd-Jan Poortman, “but we’re still going to try to win the in-port race. After all, we’re top professionals, and we always go for the win.”