Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

Will Scallywag win again in Volvo Ocean Race? We can with the support of Hong Kong fans, says skipper David Witt

Australian says he is surprised at the amount of support he has had from the local community following their victory in the fourth leg

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 January, 2018, 4:05pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 January, 2018, 10:46pm

Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag skipper David Witt said he and his crew have been overwhelmed by the support they have received from the people of Hong Kong after their epic victory in leg four of the Volvo Ocean Race – and he has vowed to continue their winning form in the next leg to Auckland, New Zealand.

‘We weren’t sure it was going to work’: Q&A with Scallywag skipper David Witt on how his crew won the Volvo Ocean Race Hong Kong leg

Hong Kong-owned Scallywag made an incredible comeback from 90 nautical miles behind the fleet soon after they left Melbourne, Australia on January 2 as they maintained a westerly course while the other six boats went north in search of stronger winds.

Witt and his crew ended up winning the 6,000-nautical mile race and are in fourth place overall after four of 11 legs on 19 points, 14 points behind Mapfre, of Spain, who finished fourth into Hong Kong. China’s Dongfeng are second overall on 29 points followed by Vestas eleventh hour Racing – who retired 30 miles from Hong Kong after being involved in a collision with a fishing boat that killed a mainland fisherman.

Witt said the target was to be in the top three overall when they reach Auckland.

“We were with the boss [owner Lee Seng Huang] last night at dinner and he reminded everybody that our plan ... we were always going to struggle initially, and our plan was to have our best performance in Hong Kong and be close to the podium by the time we reach Auckland, be in the top three,” said Witt in an interview with SCMP. “And being third overall in Auckland is very, very possible. With our rate of progress, we are in line with that, so Hong Kong should look for some more good results from us.

“The support we’ve had since arriving here in Hong Kong has been fantastic. We weren’t actually aware of how much the local community got behind us by actually watching stuff like the [online live] tracker. And that’s certainly going to help us. We are halfway now with another 20,000 miles to go around the world and this will certainly help us to get a better result.”

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The fleet leaves for the 6,100-nautical mile race to Auckland on February 7 and come face-to-face again with the doldrums, an area of fickle weather near the equator that almost becalmed boats on the leg to Hong Kong, with the exception of Scallywag.

As the other boats struggled, Scallywag cut the corner near Solomon Islands, which at the time turned a 30-mile deficit into a lead they would never relinquish with about seven days of racing to go.

Witt said he always knew they would fight back – even when they were 90 miles behind. During the race, he said it would be “catastrophic” if Scallywag had finished last because of the important victory would mean for the future of sailing in Hong Kong.

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“I was concentrating hard on a plan on how we didn’t come last [when we were 90 miles behind],” said Witt. “I knew how ... if we get a good result for the race, I knew what it could do for Hong Kong sailing, what it would do for our team owner Seng Huang, and I knew a poor performance just would not have any sort of effect on what we’re trying to do.

“And I’ve proved to be right. We’re lucky enough to win and I think sailing has already had a big boost here in Hong Kong. I knew the importance of the result.”