After an extremely exciting finish, Team Brunel has won the seventh leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. Skipper Bouwe Bekking’s sailing team took 9 days and 11 hours to complete the leg to the Portuguese capital of Lisbon.
Team Brunel is now third in the general ranking – only one point behind the second-placed Dongfeng Race Team so there is still loads more to race for.
“The men delivered some great work,” said a visibly happy Bouwe Bekking after the finish in Lisbon. “But big compliments are also due to the technical shore crew who brought the boat into tip-top condition in Newport.”
“It was one of the calmest trans-Atlantic legs that I’ve ever sailed,” continued Bekking. “We had hardly any wind. Only on one occasion last night we had a 24-knot wind but the rest of the leg was mostly cruising over a flat Atlantic Ocean. On the other hand, the racing was particularly intense. With such short distances between the boats, you can’t relax for one second. Every mistake is punished mercilessly. After this leg, the race is wide open again. We still have two legs to sail and we’ll continue to fight for the highest possible position right to the end.”
“This is not just a victory,” said Brunel’s CEO Jan Arie van Barneveld as he shook skipper Bouwe Bekking’s hand. “This result has turned the ranking upside down. The finish was amazingly exciting and beautiful. When we met the boat last night, there was hardly any wind and it was as quiet as the grave on the water. Nobody was talking on board. The sailors were totally focussed. Bouwe and his team have sailed a fantastic leg. If they can keep up this speed, the last two legs look very promising. The excitement is back. That’s good for the sport, the event and, most of all, for Team Brunel.”
Mafre was second into Lisbon, and just 55 seconds separated Alvimedica (3rd) from Dongfeng (4th).
After 2,800 nautical miles it was a simple crew error saw Dongfeng lose third place to Team Alvimedica after an intense and exhausting match-racing finish to the Leg 7 finish.
“I am really angry with myself for the mistake we made just before the finish line, but at myself not the team – they did a great job. My main mission is to keep my anger in me and to apologise to my team, as I don’t think I was a very good skipper this morning. They had a very good spirit and mine was negative which was maybe why we lost that position. I need to work on me. I need to spend a few days back with my family to recover” said skipper Charles Caudrelier.
Picture this, Dongfeng are sailing less than one nautical mile behind MAPFRE, Team Brunel are in first place but parked up in less than 2 knots of breeze by the finish line and there is still very much everything to play for.
Suddenly out of nowhere a gust of wind pushes MAPFRE forward. It was an identical boat in the same spot of ocean and somehow they got lucky, so lucky in fact they caught up with Team Brunel and crossed the finish line in second place.
Dongfeng, however, were forced to stay put – watching over their shoulders knowing that Abu Dhabi were ready to creep up on them any minute. But it wasn’t Abu Dhabi that crept up on them… it was Team Alvimedica. In the harshest of ocean racing hammers Dongfeng found Team Alvimedica (who were over 30 miles behind the day before) sail right up and straight past. With the final twist of a dagger, after failing to break Alvimedica’s well delivered ‘cover’ in an hour long match race, Dongfeng was offered a nice shift of breeze just 300 metres from the finish line, but didn’t manage to take advantage of it after a failed tack saw them stopped dead in the water.
Hearts sank for those that were watching. And no doubt onboard too. There was some anger perhaps unfairly upon himself from the skipper Charles, and frustration for the team on the dock.
Finishing times in Lisbon
1 Team Brunel 09d 11h 09m 49s
2 MAPFRE 09d 11h 31m 39s
3 Team Alvimedica 09d 12h 50m 49s
4 Dongfeng Race Team 09d 12h 51m 44s
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 09d 13h 24m 34s
6 Team SCA 09d 15h 32m 38s