Leg 2 arrivals: three-way tie for Team Brunel (NED), Dongfeng Race Team (CHN) and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (UAE)
Bouwe Bekking (NED) and Team Brunel found a very timely change of gear to sweep past Dongfeng Race Team and edge to a 16-minute victory in an incident-packed Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race on Saturday.
The Dutch campaigner, competing in a record-equalling seventh race, looked likely to have lost out in a thrilling sprint to the finish in the 5,200 nautical mile second stage with some five hours to go.
Suddenly, at 0300UTC today, Team Brunel found an extra surge of wind pressure to sweep past Charles Caudrelier’s (FRA) men even though the boats were only a couple of hundred metres apart and before long they were a mile clear.
Bouwe and his equally experienced navigator, Andrew Cape (AUS), have too much know-how to let an advantage like that slip and for the second leg running, the Chinese boat was forced to settle for runners-up spot.
In the first leg from Alicante to Cape Town, they were pipped by 12 minutes by Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR). This time it was 16 minutes, an agonisingly small distance after more than three weeks at sea. Team Brunel’s final elapsed time was 23 days 16 hours 25 minutes and 20 seconds.
The leg may always be remembered for the grounding of the Team Vestas Wind (Chris Nicholson/AUS) boat on a reef in the middle of the Indian Ocean on November 29, 10 days after the departure from Cape Town, which forced their abandonment from the stage, but this grandstand finish will also stay long in the memory.
Certainly, Bekking will not forget it in a hurry. The Dutch skipper, 51, who took part in his first Whitbread Round the World Race back in 1985-86, showed off his trademark wide smile as he cruised from the finish to a packed dock in Abu Dhabi on a flawless, sun-drenched morning.
Caudrelier could not conceal his disappointment in a pre-finish call to Race HQ:
“We’re not so happy (about being second). We always want to improve, but for sure it’s good news for Dongfeng. We try to do the leg and try to improve it every leg. We showed that we can play the match with the best, and we’re proud of that.”
There is consolation, though, for Caudrelier and his crew. Their second runners-up spot leaves them equal on points at the top of the standings with Team Brunel and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, who were easing in for third place.
They all have four points but Team Brunel and Ian Walker’s (GBR) men are ranked above Dongfeng Race Team because of victories each has already achieved.
The Dutch boat get the highest placing because they have the most recent victory but after the successive second super-tight finish one thing is for sure: there’s all to play for with seven legs to go before the race finale in Gothenburg on June 27.