Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

‘Pray for us,’ Scallywag skipper David Witt tells Hong Kong fans – ‘it’s so close people would have heart attacks’

The Australian is confident his boat remains in the lead on the way home, despite Vestas and AkzoNobel still in stealth mode

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 January, 2018, 9:14am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 January, 2018, 10:03am

Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag skipper David Witt has asked Hong Kong fans to say a prayer for the crew, saying the Volvo Ocean Race leg four dash to the finish line at Victoria Harbour is so close “people would be having heart attacks”.

Scallywag emerged from stealth mode – in which they were hidden from view for almost 24 hours – in first place, but to add to the tension their closest rivals, Vestas 11th Hour Racing and Team AkzoNobel, also went under the radar as soon as the Hong Kong boat reappeared.

Hong Kong boat Scallywag’s lead cut in half in Volvo Ocean Race as they switch off radar in the dash for home

However, Witt revealed just before Scallywag came out of stealth mode that he was confident they were still in the lead, but not by much. The leaders are expected to arrive in Hong Kong either on Friday night or early Saturday morning.

“I think it’s a good for some of our fans that we’ve been in stealth mode because there’s a few people who’d be having heart attacks if they knew how close it was,” Witt said.

“We are in front, we are leading, but it’s really close. The others don’t realise how close it is.

“We haven’t trusted our weather routing software at all on this leg, but now we want to because it says we’re going to beat Vestas in by an hour and a half.

“To all the Scallywag supporters in Hong Kong: say a prayer for us tonight.”

As of 9am on Friday, only three boats were on the radar – Scallywag, Dongfeng Race Team and overall leader Mapfre.

Scallywag had a 65-nautical mile lead over China’s Dongfeng with about 330 miles to go, while Mapfre was 157nm behind the Hong Kong boat. However, the whereabouts of Vestas, who were second before stealth mode, and AkzoNobel were still unknown.

Witt and his crew have been breaking ‘rules’ since the seven-boat fleet left Melbourne on January 2 on the fourth leg of the round the world race.

After trailing the fleet by more than 90nm after about a week, they staged a remarkable comeback to lead by 90nm, but had to take a series of risks that even the VOR race control experts were wary about.

Mapfre skipper Xabi Fernandez praises Scallywag

Their latest move was to make a sharp southwesterly gybe between the islands of Fuga and Dalupiri north of the Philippines, which no other boat that is on the radar has attempted.

It helped Scallywag catch a patch of stronger winds that enabled them to catapult back on to a northwesterly direction towards Hong Kong.

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Mapfre skipper Xabi Fernandez, who led his boat to victory in legs two and three, praised the Scallywag crew for their performance on the 6,000nm journey from Melbourne to Hong Kong, especially in the doldrums area of light winds where the Hong Kong boat seemed to find power while the others were left frustrated.

“Scallywag is doing an amazing leg. They did very, very well in the doldrums and went out in a super strong position,” said Fernandez.

“They played their chances and right now have a good distance. If nothing wrong happens they should take the leg.

“I’ll be very happy for them to have one more boat winning the leg and more so in their hometown.”