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Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

Clouds slow down Scallywag but Hong Kong boat still enjoys healthy lead in Volvo Ocean Race

Second-placed Vestas gains around seven nautical miles on David Witt’s yacht but he is still 70 nautical miles ahead as they speed towards the Philippines

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 6:54pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 January, 2018, 10:44pm

Hong Kong boat Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag is now involved in a full-on drag race towards the finish line in leg four of the Volvo Ocean Race after losing time on the approach to the Philippines because of clouds.

David Witt and his crew sailed under a cloud line that allowed its closest challenger, Vestas 11th Hour Racing, to gain more than seven nautical miles on the Hong Kong boat. However, Scallywag remains

almost 70 nautical miles ahead of Vestas as of 3pm Hong Kong time on Tuesday and was also the first boat to enter an area of stronger winds that, if they take advantage, will put more water between them and the rest of the fleet.

Vestas, third-placed Dongfeng, AkzoNobel, Mapfre, Turn The Tide on Plastic and Brunel were being pushed by winds of around 10 knots while Scallywag was enjoying up to 20-knot gusts.

“The nervous excitement of being in the lead means our world even more so revolves around the position reports,” wrote Scallywag navigator Libby Greenhalgh in her latest update, noting that crew members are told of positional reports in the same way as fans who follow the race online. “It is confidence building in how we are sailing the boat and that the forecast seems to be in line.”

The Hong Kong boat has made an amazing recovery on the 6,000-nautical mile journey from Melbourne to Hong Kong, having fought back from last place more than 90 nautical miles behind the fleet.

Scallywag had more than 1,300 nautical miles to go before arriving in Hong Kong and it is now a case of sheer speed with most of the obstacles such as atolls, islets and reefs behind the fleet.

The boats behind Scallywag encountered more obstacles because of the route they chose, although the fleet is now bunched up and converging as they prepare to go over the Philippines.

Vestas navigator Simon Fischer said the crew had to make a number of crucial decisions.

“With the fleet forced to pick sides on a number of islands the choice was between gybing and sailing lower and slower versus keeping fast but heading more to the north,” said Fischer.

“For our sake I am pleased to say the former whilst potentially a short-term loss has paid out over the long term and we are once again enjoying being bow forward on both Dongfeng and Akzo as we settle into the drag race towards the Philippines.”