Photo © Jen Edney / Volvo Ocean Race
At exactly 11h49m04s the Spanish boat, competing in the coming round-the-world race, crossed the finish line to win the Prologue leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, which began on Sunday at 17.15h Spanish time, in Lisbon (Portugal).
Two days and 18 hours after leaving the Portuguese capital, the MAPFRE crew, skippered by Basque sailor Xabi Fernández, concluded the non-scoring leg of the race, which despite not counting in points, will very likely ensure positive team spirit and a calmer outlook ahead of the imminent start of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-2018, on 22nd October from Alicante.
Cabo de Gata: End of the leg
At 10:00h this morning Race Management contacted the fleet to inform them that due to extremely light wind conditions, the decision had been taken to shorten the leg. The first scoring event, the Alicante coastal race is only three days away, and scarce wind conditions in the Mediterranean promised a very long, drawn-out end to the Prologue leg.
As MAPFRE navigator Joan Vila explained, "Conditions were quite tough as we were expecting; the wind was very unstable, and not at all consistent, with heavy currents, and shifty wind conditions changing directions...it was very difficult sailing."
When the news from Race Management came in, MAPFRE was just 15 miles from the new finish line in Cabo de Gata, and likewise from Team Brunel. Without letting the Dutch team out of their sight for a moment, it was clearly set to be a battle up until the very end.
Team Brunel continued to fight to catch the Spanish team; sailing consistently and without error despite the very light wind conditions. At 12.06h, just 17 minutes and 2 seconds behind MAPFRE, Bouwe Bekking's crew finished the Prologue Leg in second place.
The rest of the fleet are expected to arrive at 15:00h today.
Two out of two (non-scoring)
As well as the Prologue leg, the seven VO65, which will compete in the coming edition of the round-the-world race, have also sailed together in "Leg Zero", which was held in August, and included four stages: a lap around the Isle of Wight, the Rolex Fastnet Race, a leg between Plymouth and St. Malo and another from the French port to Lisbon (also shortened due to lack of wind).
MAPFRE has won both events, however neither Fernández nor his crew, are keen on being named favourites, which many are already designating the Spanish team.
"It is important to keep working hard; we are happy but by no means are we going to relax. There are some very good sailors here, and we won't let our guard down, not for a second," declared the skipper from Ibarra.
As to prove his words, Joan Vila shared his thoughts on the final sprint up to the start of the race,
"We will dedicate the next ten days in Alicante to preparing the boat as best possible. We will keep pushing so the team is at its utmost best, and will even try to improve some aspects, which we believe we can do better."
"We are really happy to be arriving in Alicante. As the Spanish team, we are really looking forward to being in Alicante and making the final preparations before the Volvo Ocean Race", he added.
Prologue Leg Provisional Results: (non-scoring)
1. MAPFRE (ESP, Xabi Fernández). CROSSED FINISH LINE: 11:49h Spanish time
2. Team Brunel (NED, Bouwe Bekking) CROSSED FINISH LINE: 12:06h Spanish time
3. Team AkzoNobel (NED, Simeon Tienpont), 20.70 miles from finish line
4. Turn The Tide on Plastic (Naciones Unidas, Dee Caffari), 21.10 miles from finish line
5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (USA, Charlie Enright), 21.80 miles from finish line
6. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN, Charles Caudrelier), 24.70 miles from finish line
7. Sun Hung Kai Scallywag (HKG, David Witt), 25.40 miles from finish line
MAPFRE Sailing Crew in Prologue Leg:
- Xabi Fernández (ESP)
- Joan Vila (ESP)
- Pablo Arrarte (ESP)
- Rob Greenhalgh (GBR)
- Antonio "Ñeti" Cuervas-Mons (ESP)
- Blair Tuke (NZL)
- Willy Altadill (ESP)
- Támara Echegoyen (ESP)
- Sophie Ciszek (USA/AUS)
- Jen Edney (USA) *OBR (onboard reporter)