The intriguing aspect on the 13th day of this epic leg from Auckland to Itajai is the impact that MAPFRE’s decision to stop for repairs could have, not just on this leg but on the overall standings at the top of the leaderboard.
The battle for glory in this Volvo Ocean Race has been between the two red boats from the start and MAPFRE has managed to build a five-point lead over Dongfeng through winning legs and sailing consistently well and at high intensity.
However on this leg the Spanish team has incurred serious damage to the mast track which holds the mainsail to the rig and also ripped the sail itself in half in its upper sections.
Skipper Xabi Fernandez took the difficult but sensible decision to suspend racing just before Cape Horn for what turned out to be a 13-hour pit-stop for repairs.
The Spanish red boat is now back in the race – having re-started from the point where she suspended racing – but she is now 273 miles behind the leg leader Team Brunel and 238 miles behind Dongfeng.
Clearly Charles Caudreleir and his crew have a great opportunity to finish not only ahead of MAPFRE but to do so with several boats in between, which could cut the points deficit significantly.
But the remainder of this leg looks anything but straightforward. After another 24 hours of reaching in strong northerly winds, the leading crews will start to sail into more moderate conditions and then come into the influence of a ragged high pressure system developing off the Argentinian coast.
It will be tricky and there are going to be very light patches which could not only catch Dongfeng out but give MAPFRE a chance to sail right back into contention. It is going to be a fascinating few days as this leg reaches its climax with less than 1,700 nautical miles to go now.
The good news is that Dongfeng is now in second place having overhauled Vestas 11th Hour Racing. The red and white Volvo Ocean 65 sponsored by Dongfeng Motor Corporation is now 34 miles behind Team Brunel with Vestas just a mile astern. Then there is a gap to Team AkzoNobel in fourth place (+65.3), with Turn the Tide on Plastic in fifth position, 78 miles behind the leader.
On board Dongfeng, Chen Jinhao, aka Horace, has been celebrating rounding Cape Horn – a huge personal achievement for him and the fulfillment of a dream after he missed this leg in the last race due to injury.
“From the start this leg has had a different meaning for me,” he said. “I was very excited this morning because three years ago I missed this leg. But I have done it now. I have sailed with Dongfeng past Cape Horn and we still continue to fight to the finish line.”
Caudrelier, meanwhile, spoke about leaving the Southern Ocean and passing Cape Horn with a heavy heart.
“Yes we did it,” he said. “We passed it after probably one of the toughest legs of the Volvo Ocean Race, but unfortunately one of the most dramatic ones too. John Fisher has left us and the Cape Horn passage was not the one we expected; we can’t forget John and his family.
“My thoughts go also to David his friend and skipper, and all his team. Scallywag was the smile of the race and I enjoyed their spirit. I would like to give my support to David; as a skipper this is the nightmare that we fear most in our job, losing a crew member. But this is unfortunately also a part of our sport. As the climbers and the free riders in the mountains know, this risk does exist. It is very small compared to the mountains but it does exist.
“We always try to sail safe but we are racing on a high speed boat in the most dangerous ocean. This is part of the race and its legend and we are all coming to face the challenge of this ocean and push the limit,” Caudrelier added.
Latest position report at 0700 UTC:
1. Team Brunel. DTL: 1,669.3nm
2. Dongfeng Race Team. DTL: 34.2nm
3. Vestas 11th Hour Racing. DTL: 35.2nm
4. Team AkzoNobel. DTL: 65.3nm
5. Turn the Tide on Plastic. DTL: 77.6nm
6. MAPFRE. DTL: 272.9nm