Team Brunel accomplished its first goal on Sunday afternoon, taking the early lead on Leg 9 of the Volvo Ocean Race from Newport, Rhode Island to Cardiff, Wales.
The Dutch team, led by eight-time race veteran Bouwe Bekking, has been on a tear over the last two months of the race and is attempting to muscle its way from a podium position into a battle for the overall race lead.
Leg 9 is a 3,300 nautical mile transatlantic race and the third and final double-point scoring leg. The results on this leg will go a long way to determining overall finishing position in this edition of the race.
“We know we have to beat the red boats,” said Bekking before the start, referring to overall race leader MAPFRE and Dongfeng Race Team, who hold second place.
“Ideally we would win the leg and they would finish sixth and seventh, but we can’t control that part. All we can do is sail our best and work to get a good result.”
Sunday dawned with a thick fog cloaking the Fort Adams race village and start area. In the lead up to race time, the fog would recede and come back, before finally burning off just in time for the race start.
It made for a spectacular Sunday afternoon race start, with huge crowds along the Fort Adams shoreline as well on the water, and hundreds of spectator boats chasing the fleet around Narragansett Bay.
“It’s been an unbelievable stopover here in Newport with all the support we’ve had,” said Vestas 11th Hour Racing skipper Charlie Enright, on the last day of his hometown stopover. “Newport has shown its true colours this week, it’s been astounding.”
“It’s a treat to be here,” agreed team AkzoNobel skipper Simeon Tienpont. “Everyone is so into the race – the whole town is built around sailing. But as good as it is here, we’re getting that feeling that it’s time to get out on the water again. So we’re happy with the good reception we had here in Newport, but as a Dutch team, we’re getting closer to finish and looking forward to getting there as well.”
The forecast for the leg is complex, with several weather systems in play, as well as the Gulf Stream to navigate. The ETA for the leg is in the eight to nine day range.
“It’s a very tricky leg,” said Dongfeng Race Team skipper Charles Caudrelier. “We have an early decision to make, which could see a split in the fleet. It could be the key decision of the leg.
"And after that we have strong winds. We are going to push and the danger is to push too much. But we have no choice, we are going to push 100 percent and it is going to be very interesting to follow from the shore because we are going to go very fast.”
Current Volvo Ocean Race Overall Leaderboard
1. MAPFRE – 53 points
2. Dongfeng Race Team – 50 points
3. Team Brunel – 42 points
4. team AkzoNobel – 36 points
5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing – 28 points
6. Sun Hung Kai / Scallywag – 27 points
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic – 22 points