Dongfeng Race Team fights for the lead in the Celtic Sea  

Since leaving the Isle of Wight in their wake at midday on Sunday, the seven Volvo Ocean 65s have not let each other out of their sight, sailing in close contact as they tick off the miles on the beat up to the Fastnet lighthouse, which they’re likely to round in the early hours of Tuesday.

First out of the starting blocks off the Royal Yacht Squadron in Cowes, Dongfeng was leading the way throughout last night in the sprint along the English coast. Charles Caudrelier and his crew managed to stave off an attack by the Spanish crew on MAPFRE who passed just a handful of miles astern of them.

However, in the early hours of this morning, the Dutch crew on AkzoNobel began to pose a threat, ultimately snatching the lead thanks to a favourable tack put in shortly before Lizard Point, juts west of Falmouth. Neck-and-neck, Dongfeng, AkzoNobel and then MAPFRE slowly rounded the western tip of England, before leaving the massive Land’s End TSS (Traffic Separation Zone) and its heavy shipping to port.

“Right now it’s all about positioning in relation to your rivals as the crews wait for the wind to switch round to the North, filling as it does so over the course of the evening,” explained Fabien Delahaye, who is in charge of performance in Dongfeng Race Team and is currently in transit with the shore crew between Gosport and Plymouth. They’ll be ready to welcome the fleet from Tuesday evening through into Wednesday night.

“It’s going to be interesting to see when each crew opts to alter course as positioning is crucial if they want to stand a chance of making Fastnet in one tack. From there, the fleet will be able to slip along downwind at pace towards the Isles of Scilly with this same northerly wind, which could well serve up 20-25 knots of breeze. This could open up the playing field a little more, particularly with regards to sail choices and the timing of the gybes.”

So far this Rolex Fastnet Race, the second part of the “Leg Zero” warm-up series for the Volvo Ocean Race, is underlining that once again the competition in this fleet on the global racecourse is likely to be incredibly tight.

Ranking for the VO65 fleet at 14:45 (GMT)

1 - Team Akzo Nobel (NEL), S.Tienpont, 390 nm to finish, 7.7 kts

2 - Dongfeng Race Team (CHN), C.Caudrelier, 391 nm, 7.7 kts

3 - Vestas 11th Hour Racing (USA), C.Enright, 391nm, 7.7 kts

4 - MAPFRE (ESP), X., 391 nm, 7.7 kts

5 - Scallywag (HK), D.Witt, 392 nm, 7.7 kts

6 - Team Brunel (NEL), B.Bekking, 392 nm, 7.6 miles

7 - Turn The Tide (Int), D.Caffari, 394 nm, 7.6 miles