With less than 100 nautical miles to go, the top five boats were separated by just 6.6nm, and with boats speeds in excess of 20 knots, it was a sprint finish into the city of sails with all crews chasing hard and the leg win still up for grabs.
The Chinese-sponsored crew on board Dongfeng fought a nail-biting duel with Spanish rivals, MAPFRE, right up until the final few miles with nothing more than a boat length separating the two teams at various stages of the 6,100 nm leg.
In the end, it was a bitter-sweet ending for Dongfeng, who managed to take a position from Turn the Tide on Plastic in the final throws, but couldn’t quite catch MAPFRE, crossing the finish line just 2 minutes and 58 seconds behind their Spanish rivals, and 25 minutes behind leg winners, team AkzoNobel.
Their efforts throughout the leg were also rewarded with the 24-hour speed record which they picked up on day 5 of the 21 day leg, covering an impressive 499.71 nautical miles.
Dongfeng Race Team sent out a strong and positive message on reaching Auckland at the end of what has turned out to be a very tough Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18.
Despite obvious disappointment at loosing out to MAPFRE, Skipper Charles Caudrelier was thrilled with his team’s performance throughout the entire leg, especially in the last few miles when a small mistake could have cost them vital points.
“Since the beginning we have always finished just behind MAPFRE and whilst it is frustrating, you can choose to see the positive side or the negative side. We always look at the positive and we know we are in a good position. This race is far from over.”
“Turn the Tide on Plastic also had a fantastic race and I think they deserved a third place finish, but that’s sailing. They’ve been unlucky today and we managed to come back…it was a good surprise,” he added.
Attentions were already turning to the next 7,600 nautical mile leg to Itajai, Brazil, via the famous Cape Horn, where double points are up for grabs, plus a bonus point for the first rounding of the Cape. Whilst it is another big leg for navigator, Pascal Bidegorry, he is confident that the team can perform well.
“If you can arrive into Itajai in a good spirit and mentality then this is very good for the rest of the race. There are double points at stake again here and I think it is the hardest leg of the race. It can throw everything and anything at you. The race is far from over and I know we can do well in the upcoming legs.”
On the overall Volvo Ocean Race scoreboard, Dongfeng Race Team, which is sponsored by the Chinese car and truck manufacturer Dongfeng Motor Corporation, has 34 points. This means it still lies in second place behind MAPFRE which now has a 5-point lead on 39 points.
Dongfeng watch captain Daryl Wislang was pleased to be back in New Zealand, despite wishing for a better result.
“It is good to be here and to see the family on the dock after over 20 days at sea and a complicated leg. It is a bit of a pity about the result. It could have been a lot worse but at the same time you know there were opportunities to come back. To think that five boats have just finished within half an hour of each other after 6,1000 nautical miles is pretty impressive.”
Chinese sailor Black – also known as Xue Liu – said:
“Since the beginning of the leg we all worked very hard and even in the last few hours, in fast conditions and with so many other boats around you, you knew you had to really concentrate. It was crazy.
“If we want to win the race we know that we have to beat MAPFRE and I think we will get there.”
This is Dongfeng Race Team’s second participation in the Volvo Ocean Race – the longest event in professional international sport and the pinnacle event in offshore fully-crewed yacht racing. In the last edition of the race in 2014-15 the team finished third overall.
Apart from trying to improve on that result, Dongfeng Race Team is also committed to helping to develop the sport of offshore ocean racing and sailing in general in China and includes many Chinese team members across the sailing and shore team.
Leg 6 results - Hong Kong to Auckland
1. team AkzoNobel (Simeon Tienpont).
Elapsed time: 20d 09:17:26
2. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag (David Witt)
Elapsed time: 20d 09:19:40
3. MAPFRE (Xabi Fernandez)
Elapsed time: 20d 09:39:38
4. Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier)
Elapsed time: 20d 09:42:36
5. Turn the Tide on Plastic (Dee Caffari)
Elapsed time: 20d 09:45:08
6. Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking)
Elapsed time: 20d 11:14:19
7. Vestas 11th Hour Racing - DNS
1. MAPFRE - 39 points
2. Dongfeng Race Team - 34 points
3. Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag - 26 points
4. team AkzoNobel - 23 points
5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing - 23 points
6. Team Brunel - 20 points
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic - 12 points