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Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

Hong Kong here we come – Mapfre set up nicely for city journey after beating China’s Dongfeng in Volvo Ocean Race third leg

The Spanish team once again come from behind against the mainland boat to win the journey from Cape Town to Melbourne

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 December, 2017, 12:55pm
UPDATED : Friday, 29 December, 2017, 3:51pm

The crew of Spanish entry Mapfre have set themselves up nicely for their next major trip to Hong Kong after storming to an impressive victory in the third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Skipper Xabi Fernandez and his crew outfoxed China-based Dongfeng Race Team over final days of their epic 6,500-nautical-mile charge from Cape Town, in South Africa, to Melbourne in Australia in which boats took on the challenging Southern Ocean.

As of noon (Hong Kong time) on Monday, three boats had yet to reach Melbourne – Hong Kong’s Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, Turn the Tide on Plastic (TTP) and Team AkzoNobel.

Scallywag and TTP were battling for fifth place with the Hong Kong boat slightly ahead but they were caught in an area of light winds on the final stretch to Melbourne. AkzoNobel was much farther south and is unlikely to catch either Scallywag or TTP.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH ANIMATION OF VOLVO OCEAN RACE THIRD LEG

Mapfre, meanwhile, took advantage of technical problems for Dongfeng, as well as their world-class sailing skills, to surge ahead of the Chinese team with a number of manoeuvres that saw them finish at least 100 miles in front.

“We had to fight very hard for this victory,” said Xabi Fernandez said. ”There’s so much of the race to go. But for now it’s looking good and we’re very happy of course.

“The strongest point for this team is the group of people we have. They are so good and give us so much and have been working so hard on this leg.”

Mapfre will be at least six points clear in the overall lead, with the Southern Ocean stage worth double, with the exact margin depending on the finishing order of the chasing boats.

Mapfre led the standings in the seven-boat fleet before the third leg, with Dongfeng up to second place following its runner-up finish in Melbourne.

The key for Mapfre after the third leg is that they have more time than the other crews to rest before the fleet leaves Melbourne on the 6,000-nautical-mile journey to Hong Kong on January 2.

“It was so tough, but it’s all gone perfect. Now we have a few days for recovery and we can get ready for the next one,” said Fernandez.

The Mapfre boat also remains in pristine condition while Dongfeng will need repairs after suffering its first major technical problem.

Dongfeng was the pre-leg favourite and led for most of the race until it suffered a problem with its port keel ram, which mean the boat was unable to efficiently push its keel on to an angle thus affecting speed and power.

Positions in leg 3 at noon (Hong Kong time) on December 25, 2017

“We managed to make an alternative system with only one ram but it has been a tough job,” said skipper Charles Caudrelier, of France. “We lost 10-15 miles.”

“This was the toughest leg I’ve ever done. We had this big fight with Mapfre for most of the race and then a big problem on board just before the finish. A crazy section of gybing around the ice limits, it was a very, very difficult leg.

“We’re a bit disappointed after leading 80 per cent of the time to give first place to Mapfre, but there are more legs to come and we will do better.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press