by Richard Crockett
MAPFRE looks good to take line honours into Cape Town. At the last position report she had 200nm to go to finish, and was 39nm ahead of Dongfeng.
While that 39nm looks almost unbeatable, those who follow ocean racing closely know that it is anything but ‘safe’, although the MAPFRE team would need to make some seriously poor decisions from here not to win.
The breeze is up, and in the last 24 hours MAPFRE had a 24-hour run of 398nm, the highest in the fleet.
It’s very intriguing out there as each team deploys their tactics and their decision-making is revealed.
Although the leg is coming to a close it is by no means over – and the approach to Cape Town is notoriously tricky. Between their current position and the finish line is a vein of strong winds near 25 knots, but the final miles to the finish could be painstakingly light.
The American skipper of Vestas 11th Hour Racing, Charlie Enright, chose to celebrate Thanksgiving by going stealth mode, a move that suggests they are planning an assault on MAPFRE and Dongfeng in a bid to make it two wins from two legs.
Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag also opted to deploy stealth mode yesterday.
After falling off the back of the easterly-moving cold front Team Brunel have slipped back to 80 miles behind MAPFRE.
It’s not where Bouwe Bekking’s Dutch-flagged crew want to be – but they haven’t given up on a podium spot just yet.
“The pecking order may already be established but we’re going to do our best to see if we can change that,” navigator Andrew Cape said.
“The problem is it’s a ‘rich get richer’ situation. However it can get tricky right at the end, especially around Table Mountain, and we’re not giving up hope.”
Around 250 miles behind Brunel a different game was playing out as team AkzoNobel, Turn the Tide on Plastic and Scallywag battle it out for fifth.
All three were swallowed up by the lighter airs left behind when the cold front passed, leaving them with a massive decision to make – whether to push on directly towards Cape Town or dive south in search of more breeze.
Akzonobel and Turn the Tide on Plastic chose the latter. As for Scallywag, their choice will only become clear when they reappear on the tracker after coming out of stealth mode.
Prior to going into stealth mode, skipper Dave Witt explained their predicament. “We’re in an extremely difficult situation, which looks like a lose-lose for us either way,” he said.
“It’s a little bit heartbreaking when we worked so hard to get back from nowhere to here, and now we end up handicapped because of it. I feel like I’m beating my head against a brick wall.”
Sitting at the nav station looking over their options, Scallywag navigator Steve Hayles said: “It’s honestly the most complicated thing I think I’ve seen.”