Leg 6, Day 1: Dongfeng heads out into a rough South China Sea

They’re off! Leg 6 is underway and Dongfeng Race Team has said its goodbyes to China and Hong Kong after an amazing stopover as guests of Dongfeng Motor Corporation.

Now the crew is heading to windward into a rough early phase of what promises to be another very tough 6,100-nautical mile stage to Auckland.

The fleet was led across the startline in Hong Kong by Team AkzoNobel skippered by Simeon Tienpont, followed by local boat SHK/Scallywag and Team Brunel. Dongfeng made a conservative start as the boats lined up on port tack in a light easterly breeze.

Quickly the skyscrapers and coast of Hong Kong fell behind as the crews continued eastwards into the South China Sea with the breeze increasing all the time and set to ramp up even more as the fleet crosses under Taiwan.

“It’s quiet now but in a few hours we will probably be slamming upwind in 35 knots,” said bowman Jack Bouttell. “But yeah, we got out of Hong Kong OK and we had nice scenery as we left and a good stopover in Hong Kong and Guangzhou – it will be good to get to Auckland but there is a long way to go.”

Skipper Charles Caudrelier was in cheerful mood as he helmed Dongfeng through the first tacks of the race. “Our start was very good but the start of the race was very good too because there was a bit of wind, which is not always the case when you leave Hong Kong…so we are at the back of the fleet but it’s good because we have a strategy to start at the back and then come back!”

In fact after four hours at sea there was very kittle between the leading boats with Team AkzoNobel still fractionally ahead of Dongfeng in second place with Team Brunel third and race leader MAPFRE fourth. The boats were making just under 12 knots of speed in 18 knots of breeze with 5,420 miles to go.

In response to a developing Tropical Storm to the south of the course, the race officer has imposed a Tropical Storm Exclusion Zone that stretches 1,200 miles to the east of the Philippines. This will help to dictate the area where the navigators choose to begin their crossing of the Doldrums which could, once again, prove the critical phase of the leg.

Trimming the mainsheet on Dongfeng in the early stages of the race, Kiwi watch captain Daryl Wislang, was already savouring the finish of this leg in Auckland. “I’m looking forward to sailing into Auckland,” he said, “but that’s obviously 20 days away – I don’t want to get too excited yet!”

Latest position report at 0845 UTC

1. team Akzo Nobel. DTF: 5,402nm
2. MAPFRE. DTL: 0.3nm
3. Dongfeng Race Team. DTL: 0.4nm
4. Team Brunel. DTL: 0.5nm
5. Team Sun Hung Kai / Scallywag. DTL: 1.1nm
6. Turn the Tide on Plastic. DTL: 1.6nm
7. Vestas 11th Hour Racing. DNS