Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

Why Hong Kong’s Scallywag is last despite being the fastest boat in the Volvo fleet over the past two days

‘The Doldrums’ are slowing down the leaders as David Witt and his crew make gains of more than 60 nautical miles en route to Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 January, 2018, 4:26pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 January, 2018, 10:53pm

Hong Kong entry Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag was overall the fastest boat in the Volvo Ocean Race fleet over the past two days but they still trail in last place more than 30 nautical miles behind the leader as they turn northwest towards Victoria Harbour.

David Witt and his crew were at one point 90 nautical miles behind the leader and as of 3pm on Tuesday, had narrowed it down to 31.3nm with Turn The Tide on Plastic leading the seven-boat fleet with more than 3,000nm to go before they reach Hong Kong.

According to Race Centre, Scallywag’s surge was mainly because the others had reached the “Doldrums” area of low winds first and that the Hong Kong boat can expect slower progress now that all entries had entered that region.

“The reason why Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag is gaining miles is that the leading boats have sailed into an area of light and variable wind, the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone, better know as ‘The Doldrums’ while Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag are still in more wind to the south and are going faster,” said race analyst Rick Tomlinson.

“As the leaders get through this area, they will extend away again as Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag has also to cross this area.”

Tomlinson is a four-time Whitbread Round the World veteran and is part of the VOR Race Centre panel of experts who share their analysis through the course of the nine-month, 11-stop race.

The fleet left Melbourne, Australia on January 2 on leg 4 to Hong Kong, which will host the prestigious race for the first time in history.

TTTP was under 3nm ahead of Vestas 11th Hour Racing with Team AkzoNobel third and Team Brunel fourth. China’s Dongfeng Race Team are fifth ahead of overall leader and leg 3 winner Mapfre, of Spain.

There was only 10nm separating TTTP and Mapfre with Scallywag more than 20nm adrift of the leading pack.

The boats are now scrambling to be the first to catch the northeasterly trade winds that will give them a major push, possibly all the way to the finish line in Hong Kong.

At 3pm on Tuesday, all boats were in the Doldrums and travelling at no faster than 3 knots.

“If we can stay with the fleet now and get through the light patch with them to the new wind that fills in and be lucky in the cloud activity in any Doldrums, then we are in with a shot in the drag race to the finish where the rich will get richer,” said TTTP skipper Dee Caffari.

The fleet is expected to reach Hong Kong on January 20.