Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

‘We’re idiots,’ says skipper David Witt as HK’s Scallywag again fights back in Volvo Ocean Race

The Australian says it would be ‘catastrophic’ if they finish last in the race to Hong Kong as they lead once again

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 January, 2018, 4:56pm
UPDATED : Friday, 12 January, 2018, 10:33pm

Scallywag went from 90 nautical miles behind the leader to first place within 48 hours in leg four of the Volvo Ocean Race. Just six hours later, the Hong Kong entrant dropped down to last again.

And after a chaotic past 40 hours in which at least five boats took the lead, Scallywag is back in front as the fleet closes in on Hong Kong.

After a tremendous effort to lead the fleet on Wednesday after being so far behind, skipper David Witt and his crew were despondent as they fell 30 nautical miles back to last again, saying they were “idiots”.

But Scallywag’s tactic of staying south of the fleet as they headed north over the doldrums area of light winds appeared to pay off as the Hong Kong boat nosed ahead as of 3pm on Friday (Hong Kong time) with a little more than 3,000nm to go before reaching their destination.

“We came back from 100 miles back to lead and now we’re 30 miles back and last again,” Witt said in a social media post on Thursday. “We’re the ones letting ourselves down. It’s not bad luck. We’re idiots. We fought back once, now we have to find a way of doing it again against a quality fleet.”

Leg four is a 6,000-nautical mile journey from Melbourne to Hong Kong, with the fleet expected to start arriving at the Kai Tak Terminal on January 20.

For Witt, it is the most important leg of the 11-stage race around the world race as the Volvo event comes to Hong Kong for the first time in its history.

“We don’t ever give up. Everyone keeps trying,” said Witt. “It’s a really important leg for us and it’s catastrophic if we finish last.

“It’s not about finishing in the first couple.We are trying to concentrate on trying to win it right until we finish.”

Witt’s decision to hold a westerly position, south of the rest of the fleet as they went north in search of stronger winds, is proving to offer faster sailing, but the boat will have to perform some manoeuvres to go over the top of the Philippines, and that may cost a bit of time.

Scallywag was 7.7nm ahead of overall leader Mapfre at 3pm with Turn The Tide on Plastic in third. They were followed by Vestas 11th Hour Racing, Team Brunel, Team AkzoNobel and China’s Dongfeng Race Team. The seven-yacht fleet left Melbourne in Australia on January 2.

According to Volvo Ocean Race race control’s Sam Matson, Scallywag’s strategy to stay south as the fleet heads north has its advantages.

“The strategy for the fleet is still to get north before heading towards Hong Kong,” said Matson. “Once they pass through the clouds the fleet are in at the moment, they will then head towards Hong Kong.

“Scallywag could have the opportunity to sail less distance here by positioning themselves south of the fleet.”

In its overall report, race control said that Scallywag may have taken a gamble.

“It’s a bold strategy that may pay dividends, although most weather routing says the favoured position is to the north,” it said.

“It shouldn’t take too long to find out which strategy pays off. The trade winds are not far away. And with them, the purgatory of the doldrums will quickly be a nasty memory.”