Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

‘We’re going to win the leg or drop the rig’ – Hong Kong’s Scallywag ready for leg seven of Volvo Ocean Race

David Witt and his crew will hope to build on strong finishes in the past two major legs as they prepare to leave Auckland on Saturday

PUBLISHED : Friday, 16 March, 2018, 9:21pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 March, 2018, 9:16pm

David Witt and his crew aboard Hong Kong boat Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag go into leg seven of the Volvo Ocean Race with a more conspicuous profile after strong performances in the past two races.

Scallywag came second in leg six from Hong Kong to Auckland having won the fourth leg from Melbourne to Hong Kong.

Both times, Witt and his team used innovative route strategies to stun the main fleet. While the rest of the boats could have dismissed the leg four win because of the extra incentive to triumph on home waters, a close second place in the leg to Auckland proved that Scallywag can emerge as serious contenders.

They have vaulted to third place in the standings and are ready to tackle the 7,600-nautical mile journey from Auckland to Itajai in Brazil, starting on Sunday, through what is known as the “Furious Fifties” – inhospitable, remote waters south of 50-degrees latitude that circle Antarctica, around Cape Horn and up to Itajaí.

“We’re going to win the leg or drop the rig. That’s the mentality,” Witt said of the race that crosses the Southern Ocean. “This is a big chance for Scallywag to stay up there and do something or drop back towards the back of the pack… We don’t care what goes wrong or what breaks… We’re just going to send it.”

All seven boats will start the race with Vestas 11th Hour Racing returning to the fleet after pulling out of the Hong Kong leg because of a collision that resulted in the death of a Chinese fisherman.

Skipper Charlie Enright says his team are eager to get racing again and resume challenging the leaders.

“The team has come together great, the repair has come together great,” he said. “There are 16 points available to the winner and to put that into context, we have 23 points now, so it’s going to be a big move and shake. We had a successful Southern Ocean leg last time and we’re looking to repeat that performance.”

Leg seven is a double-point scoring leg, with an additional bonus point awarded to the first boat to pass Cape Horn and could have a major impact on the leaderboard.

Overall leader following six legs, Mapfre, will be wary of their position after failing to win over the past two big races.

“Of course I feel like they are coming closer and faster, but we can only do one thing – push the boat, sail well and try to win this leg,” said Mapfre skipper Xabi Fernández, who has six previous roundings of Cape Horn to his credit. “If we can win this leg, it’s a big step forward. There is nothing to change, we just need to sail a little bit better than the others and push a little bit harder.”

Simeon Tienpont, skipper of leg six winner AkzoNobel, said he was determined to continue the charge.

“You always have to look at the race as a whole and there’s more than 50 per cent to go in terms of points. It’s been a big improvement and a big learning curve. We’re working unbelievably hard and we want to keep the momentum going. The leg win into Auckland proved we’re on the right track and gives some confidence.”

Dongfeng skipper Charles Caudrelier can speak first-hand about how challenging this part of the world can be.

“It’s a difficult leg for sure. Sometimes you have to forget the race and take care of the boat and the crew,” he said. “I know this very well. I’ve done this leg twice and never finished with the mast up.”