04 April 2018: Team Brunel has seized a narrow win in Leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race after one of the hardest stages in the history of the round the world challenge.
At the end of the 7,600 nautical mile leg, the margin between the victors and second placed Dongfeng Race Team on arrival in Itajaí, Brazil was less than 15 minutes. But despite the nailbiting finish, the sailors’ thoughts were never far from the tragic loss overboard of Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag crew member John Fisher.
The leg from Auckland, New Zealand took the teams deep into the Southern Ocean. Down in the ‘Furious Fifties’ the wind and cold was relentless. Steady gale force winds of 30-35 knots with four to six metre seas was normal, but squalls could bring gusts upwards of 50 knots and towering seas. The temperature plummeted to just above freezing and snow and hail were common.
The teams jostled for position throughout the first seven days of the leg, but as the boats gybed along the Ice Exclusion Zone, Brunel slid south from a position slightly further north of the leaders, and emerged with a 20-mile lead.
For Dongfeng Race Team, the second place finish may be enough to grab the overall lead from MAPFRE, who have led the race since Leg 2. With a damaged mast track and main sail, MAPFRE hasn’t been able to hold on to the leaders and is now in fifth place, unlikely to finish until the weekend.
Dongfeng skipper Charles Caudrelier said: “It’s a fantastic result for us. But the first thing was to finish the leg with everyone on board and safe. Of course we are thinking about what happened to Scallywag and John Fisher – I’m so sad for his family and the whole Scallywag team. But we are here to push the limits; that’s why we sail in this area.”
Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag has now reached Chile, where the team will decide on their future plans. Vestas 11th Hour Racing remain in the Falkland Islands, assessing logistical options to rejoin the race following a dismasting just hours after passing Cape Horn.
Next to finish Leg 7 will likely be team AkzoNobel who are approximately 36 hours behind the leaders, in what appears to be a safe position for a podium finish.
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