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Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

Another epic fightback? Hong Kong’s Scallywag claw back more than 100nm in Volvo Ocean Race leg six

David Witt and his crew are in second place after cutting the corner again, having briefly held the lead

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 February, 2018, 2:43pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 February, 2018, 10:44pm

Hong Kong’s Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag have done it again in the Volvo Ocean Race, battling back from more than 100 nautical miles behind the fleet to rejoin their rivals and, at one point, taking the lead.

In the sixth leg from Hong Kong to Auckland, New Zealand, David Witt and his crew were in second place as of 12.20pm (Hong Kong time), 3nm behind Team AkzoNobel. The two leaders had earlier been left behind by the other four after what was initially thought to be a wrong move towards the north.

“Cutting the corner again,” declared Scallywag crew member Alex Gough as the team executed a repeat of their Melbourne-Hong Kong strategy in the fourth leg when they gybed west as the rest of the fleet went north on their way to victory.

On the way to Auckland, AkzoNobel went north just after passing Taiwan and Scallywag followed them as Mapfre, Dongfeng Race Team, Team Brunel and Turn the Tide on Plastic stayed east. When the leading four boats decided to seek stronger winds farther north, Scallywag and AkzoNobel made their move, cutting east and effectively overtaking the rest of the fleet in a single manoeuvre.

It’s now a case of riding on fast winds and building a lead until they enter, yet again, the doldrums – a area of fickle weather that has wrecked many teams’ hopes from Melbourne to Hong Kong.

Witt and navigator Libby Greenhalgh had no doubt about the strategy.

“Told ya it’s gonna work,” Witt tweeted while Scallywag were in the lead. The Hong Kong boat and AkzoNobel are closer to the ideal racing line heading towards Auckland in New Zealand while the other boats are farther north.

Mapfre was the closest boat to second-placed Scallywag at 12.20pm, 45 nautical miles behind. Turn the Tide on Plastic skipper Dee Caffari, said AkzoNobel and Scallywag were fortunate to be in the lead because she said their initial move north was a genuine error.

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“They have been dealt a lucky card, annoyingly,” said Caffari. “They made a mistake, really, but they’re going to stay in this cold front longer. They’re going to be happily sailing in 20 knots, while we’re dealing with this transition.

“But they will have a worse angle in the longer term. We think it will pay to be farther east and we’re hoping it does pay off for us eventually.”

The boats are about 3,600 nm from Auckland.

Mapfre, Turn the Tide on Plastic, Dongfeng Race Team and Team Brunel are all within sight of each other, separated by less than four miles, and all are struggling to make progress.

But on the other side of the transition, in the new breeze, conditions will be good for making miles south towards the doldrums.

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Team Brunel’s Peter Burling said: “The wind will slowly build as we get into the trade winds, and we’ll be reaching with the wind at about 65-degrees. We’re pretty happy about that because we seem to be pretty quick in those conditions.”