Caudrelier said he would love to stage a last gasp comeback against the Spanish team who took the lead a week ago, but he said they do not deserve to lose at the death.
“MAPFRE is far ahead of us and, even if I hope we can make a comeback at the tricky finishing line, I do not wish this terrible end to the leg on MAPFRE,” Caudrelier wrote in his final message from the chart table before the finish.
“Xabi’s team and my crew have had a fantastic race since the start but they made one less mistake and deserve this first place,” he added.
This morning MAPFRE had only just over 100 nautical miles left to sail to the line under Table Mountain with Dongfeng leading the charge behind them, 42 miles further west.
Caudrelier’s crew were still working hard to ensure that Charlie Enright and his team on Vestas 11th Hour Racing remain behind them. Both boats went into Stealth Mode last night during a phase when they both lost miles to MAPFRE and Dongfeng managed to improve its position over Vestas without deviating from her previous course.
The finish looks relatively straightforward with a strengthening southeasterly breeze blowing up the South African coast and across Cape Town where it accelerates between the highlands in the west and Table Mountain. The only danger is to get too close to the Mountain and fall into its wind shadow.
Like everyone else on Dongfeng, Caudrelier is looking forward to seeing the Mountain at the end of what he revealed is his favourite Volvo Ocean Race leg.
“For me it’s the most interesting and difficult leg of the whole race. It is also the longest and it has been so intensive. For three weeks now we have been racing just like we do in inshore mode; we have always been in AIS contact with another boat and fighting to be faster. This is really a terrible pressure,” he said.
The Frenchman is also looking forward to some rest: “I will be happy to have a short break from tomorrow and eat some good food. Three weeks of freeze dried food is really too much for a Frenchman! When I see my kids and eat a hamburger tomorrow, I will be the happiest man in the world.”
While the first four boats including fourth-placed Team Brunel continue on their fast route into the finish, there is an extraordinary match-race developing among the three backmarkers who became trapped in light airs and have slipped to around 450 miles behind.
This morning Team AkzoNobel, Turn The Tide on Plastic and Team Sun Hung Kai Scallywag were all within two miles of each other after 20 days at sea.