MAPFRE move pays off but it’s slow going on Leg Zero


With the exception of Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, the fleet remained close together throughout the night, experiencing light northeasterly winds as they sailed down wind towards Cape Finisterre.

At 0800 UTC, MAPFRE split from the rest of the Volvo Ocean 65s, sailing more west and committing to a path through the front in order to reach the new northerly winds that were beginning to form.

The Spanish team’s navigator Joan Vila took himself away from the computer – and being on deck making observations is key for all the navigators during moments like these.

This investment to the west by MAPFRE was the crucial move in the final stage of Leg Zero which put them screaming into the lead three hours later, sailing 50% faster and in more wind than their rivals.

The remainder of the fleet were facing slower upwind conditions associated with the southern extent of the decaying cold front, producing a light westerly airflow. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag went west very early on in this leg in search of new northerly wind flow, however this strategy placed them much further north and upwind of the fleet.

Update at 1500 UTC:

MAPFRE are holding onto a lead of nearly 3 miles as the boats approach Cape Finisterre in dying wind.

The fleet is now in a critical situation, sandwiched between Spanish rocky cliffs to the south and a zone of no wind dropping down on top of them.

We’re in this sort of north westerly breeze but it’s not going to last long. It’s a race against time for us to get south and down the Spanish/Portuguese coast before a ridge of high-pressure squashes over us

Simon Fisher, Vestas 11th Hour Racing

Nobody has more than 4 knots of wind at the moment and the crews will be struggling to keep the sails filled as the boats wallow in the swell generated by the approaching depression to the north west of the fleet. Frustrating times but still good practice as the Volvo Ocean Race includes four passages through the doldrums and whatever they can learn now about light wind sailing could win the race later. 

For now, the Spanish team have a strong Leg Zero advantage thanks to two wins, one second place and a clear lead today. 

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