The Chinese red and white Volvo Ocean 65 led the fleet around the top mark off southern Norway – Steingrunnen – and was at that stage just 0.1 of a mile ahead of her nearest pursuer – and old rival for overall honours – MAPFRE.
However on the longest day of the year, which featured just a couple of hours of true darkness, Dongfeng has now extended on the run south with a margin over MAPFRE of over three miles. Vestas 11th Hour Racing is 10 miles back in third place, while Team Brunel is fourth, 23 miles behind Dongfeng.
Right now the boats are slaloming downwind in the Kattegat at speeds of 20 knots before a fresh northerly breeze and with around 80 miles to go to the turning mark off the Danish city of Aarhus when the beat north will begin again.
Dongfeng Race Team is sailing at high intensity with little time for sleep on board as the crew try to maximize their advantage at the front of the fleet. On the way to Steingrunnen Kevin Escoffier sounded happy with progress.
“Right now the position is not too bad,” he said. “We have now to be first and still keep pushing, pushing, pushing. So the first big step of this leg is done – next is the (rounding) and then downwind.”
On the run, Marie Riou, who is back on board after taking a rest during Leg 10, was in good spirits despite little sleep. “No night!” she exclaimed, indicating the gloom outside in the small hours. “There is no night. In the north in Sweden there is no night and it is quite the same on Dongfeng – that means not so much sleep.
“We had a good day yesterday,” she added with a smile. “We rounded first at the mark off Norway and now we are still leading and making 20-15 knots downwind. There are lots of manoeuvres – it’s OK for the moment.”
On board the boat that is bidding to become the first Chinese-flagged team to win the Volvo Ocean Race, early driving duties have been shared by “Magic Stu” Bannatyne, skipper Charles Caudrelier and watch captain Daryl Wislang.
This is turning into a spectacular short sprint to finish this epic battle…