Team Brunel powering downwind on Day one of Leg 2. Photo: Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race
The latest edition of the Volvo Ocean Race has proved to be potentially the most controversial in its 44-year history. Only a few weeks before the race started, the recently appointed CEO, Mark Turner, quit his role. He’s a towering figure in the industry who commands huge respect and whose accomplishments include helping establish Ellen MacArthur onto the world stage and setting up the Extreme Sailing Series from scratch.
Then the day before the first in port race Simeon Tienpont, skipper of AzkoNobel, the longest established and best funded team in this edition, quit his job over a contracts dispute, taking half the crew with him. The story then took another unexpected twist, when a court in the Netherlands took Tienpont’s side, ordering his reinstatement, which precipitated a further shuffle of crew names before the start of the first leg proper.
Sunset on board Dongfeng on the fourth day of Leg 2, from Lisbon to Cape Town. Photo by Jeremie Lecaudey/Volvo Ocean Race
While the one design boats have again proved very closely matched, this hasn’t stopped a lot of nail biting place changing, especially in the second leg from Lisbon to Cape Town. After two weeks at sea – and with some 5,000 miles covered – the fleet was separated by only 74 miles in terms of the distance to the finish. However, this figure didn’t convey the difference in strategy between the teams, with some favouring a shorter course to the east and others a longer route to the west and the south. Which would play out the best?
Before we knew the answer to that Richard Brisius and Johan Salén were appointed as President and co-President, to replace Turner. Both have a long history in the yacht racing world, having founded Atlant Ocean Racing together and worked with seven Volvo Ocean Race campaigns over the past 28 years, having started as sailors in the 1989-90 race.
Richard Brisius and Johan Salén are the new President and co-President of the Volvo Ocean Race. Credit: Ainhoa Sanchez/Volvo Ocean Race
Despite big differences in the experience levels on each boat, and the teams’ levels of financial backing, more than half the fleet has topped the leaderboard at some point during the leg.
As the boats approached Cape Town after a 7,000-mile sail, they did so on the back of the South Atlantic trades with wind speeds up to 30 knots in icy temperatures, huge seas and freezing water. After a tight battle with Vestas 11th Hour Racing, Dongfeng Race Team and Team Brunel, MAPFRE arrived in Cape Town in first place after 19 days at sea.