Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

We’ll show them what Hong Kong is all about – David Witt and Scallywag prepare to set sail for home in Volvo Ocean Race

Skipper says his crew members are ready for the 6,000nm race across ‘home waters’ in leg four of the round-the-world competition

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 January, 2018, 3:47pm
UPDATED : Monday, 01 January, 2018, 10:51pm

David Witt and his crew aboard Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag are looking forward to showing their rivals the magic of Hong Kong as the seven-strong fleet prepares to leave Melbourne in Australia on Tuesday for the fourth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race.

Australian Witt has made Hong Kong his home and is hoping his fifth-placed boat can make up some ground during the 6,000-nautical-mile journey from Melbourne to Hong Kong in what he describes as home waters for the Scallywag crew.

“Our team has sailed in this part of the world more than any other team in the race and we believe that local knowledge for a podium finish [is possible] but we are very cautious knowing how unpredictable crossing the equator will be.

“We are looking forward to showing all the teams what Hong Kong has to offer during the stopover.”

Hong Kong is part of sailing’s famous round-the-world race for the first time and the city is buzzing as it prepares to welcome some of the best sailors in the world.

Scallywag was a late entry to the race and Witt said he was satisfied with the performance of his crew so far. The Hong Kong boat is fifth in the overall standings with Spain’s Mapfre (29 points) leading the way after winning the third leg from Cape Town, in South Africa, to Melbourne.

China’s Dongfeng Race Team (23 points) is second ahead of Vestas 11th Hour Racing (23) and Team Brunel (14). Scallywag (11) is in front of Team AkzoNobel (9) and Turn the Tide on Plastic (6).

“I am proud and privileged to be skipper of a Hong Kong boat [as we go home],” said Witt. “We were a late entrant in the race, which gave us limited preparation in comparison to the other teams.

“However the team have been working very hard and consistently improving as our results show. We are now fifth overall and the four teams ahead have all done the race before in the same boats.

“However, we are closing the gap and looking forward with moving up the ladder with a good result coming into Hong Kong.”

Scallywag will have some new crew members on the trip to Hong Kong, including its second female member with Libby Greenhalgh replacing the injured Antonio Fontes as navigator. Also coming on board are Australian sailing great Grant Wharington and rookie Trystan Seal.

It is the first time during the race that the Hong Kong boat will have nine sailors on board.

Dongfeng is replacing injured navigator Pascal Bidégorry with previous Volvo Ocean Race-winning skipper and America’s Cup skipper Franck Cammas.

“Franck is joining the crew because of Pascal’s injury, which is not good news for us because Pascal has been a key element of the team since the beginning,” said skipper Charles Caudrelier. “Franck was available and he was ready as a back-up – we had already spoken about his wish to participate if he could help.”

Daryl Wislang also returns to the team while Justine Mettraux sails her first leg on board and Horace Chen Jinhau rotates into the crew.

The leg to Hong Kong is one of the most difficult journeys of the race, with skippers describing it as “technical”, “tricky” and “full of opportunity”.

The boats will travel up the east coast of Australia and need to avoid a number of islands that block the way before crossing the doldrums (periods of calm water especially near the equator) once again.