MAPFRE wins stage three of Leg Zero into St-Malo, securing their lead in the Leg standings. After Lorient featured in the last two editions of the Volvo Ocean Race
Xabi Fernández and his in-form MAPFRE team made it two wins and a runners-up spot from the three Leg Zero qualifiers to date with another commanding performance in the build-up to the Volvo Ocean Race.
MAPFRE had a lead of seven nautical miles when they crossed the finish line at 0629 UTC off the coast of the walled city of Saint-Malo.
Team Brunel had another great result with second place, around 40 minutes behind, in their first race sailing with new recruit Peter Burling, the Olympic gold medallist and America’s Cup winning helmsman.
Dongfeng Race Team completed the podium to maintain their own excellent form in the series, and were followed by Vestas 11th Hour Racing, team AkzoNobel, Turn the Tide on Plastic and Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag.
MAPFRE’s latest victory was barely in doubt in a race they dominated following a decisive moment shortly after the Plymouth start.
“It’s a very good result for us, it’s been a really good leg for us from beginning to end,” said MAPFRE skipper Xabi Fernández. “We made some good choices going offshore, finding the sea breeze and beating the current, we watched the other teams struggle with the current. I’m really pleased with our result.
“Racing in the last edition of the race was extremely close and we’re seeing more and more of it in Leg Zero. The speed of the teams is similar and I think winning will come down to the small details. we’ve been training for a while so it’s good to see the hard work pay off.”
MAPFRE chose to dive south with Vestas 11th Hour Racing and Turn the Tide on Plastic. The others chose a route down the coast that required an exhausting gybing duel. When the fleet came back together, the offshore option had paid off, and Brunel and Dongfeng Race Team switched sides to choose the southern option with MAPFRE and Vestas 11th Hour Racing.
The fleet then had to negotiate a barrier of light winds that blocked the route. The calms were narrower in the south and the four boats that had invested in this option slowed but continued moving whereas Sun Hung Kai/ Scallywag went backwards on the tide, completely becalmed.
At 1700 UTC the fleet was grouped together just east of Start Point. Two hours later, Sun Hung Kai/ Scallywag had barely moved but MAPFRE, first to touch the new wind, was half way across Lyme Bay and cruising at 16 knots.
After the turning mark by the Needles (a familiar landmark in this series after featuring in the Around the Island race and the Rolex Fastnet) and a drag race across the English Channel, excitement awaited in the tidal acceleration zone next to the French coast.
Just like stepping onto a moving walkway at the airport, the speeds on every boat jumped from 13 knots to 19 as they were pushed by the river in the ocean.
From there, MAPFRE were never challenged.
Leg Zero, stage 3 results, Plymouth to Saint-Malo:
1. MAPFRE finish time 06:29 UTC
2. Team Brunel 07:10
3. Dongfeng Race Team 07:19
4. Vestas 11th Hour Racing 07:28
5. Team AkzoNobel 07:32
6. Turn the Tide on Plastic 08:35 (unofficial)
7. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag 09:08 (unofficial)
French sailing fans will now get to see the fleet of Volvo Ocean 65s in the inner harbour before a non-scoring Pro-Am Race on Saturday.
The teams will complete Leg Zero qualifying with a race from Saint-Malo to Lisbon, starting on Sunday and with an ETA on Wednesday.
“It’s really interesting to add Saint–Malo to the mix as it’s quite technical to get here, a lot of tidal racing with the Channel Islands and navigational hazards, so it tests the navigators,” said Turn the Tide on Plastic skipper Dee Caffari.
MAPFRE now have a three-point advantage at the top of the Leg Zero standings. While an overall winner will be declared, no points will be carried forward to the Volvo Ocean Race itself, which starts on 22 October.
Overall Leg Zero standings after 3 of 4 races:
1. MAPFRE 23 points
2. Team Brunel 20
3. Dongfeng Race Team 19
4. Team AkzoNobel 15
5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing 12
6. Turn the Tide on Plastic 9
7. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag 7