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Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

‘Best sailing, worst result’: Scallywag’s David Witt proud to complete leg eight after ‘mentally and emotionally tough time’

Hong Kong boat finishes last in the Volvo Ocean Race journey to Newport, Rhode Island but the crew members are simply happy to finish

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2018, 7:32am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2018, 10:58pm

Hong Kong’s Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag was the last boat of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet to sail into Newport, Rhode Island on Tuesday night (HK time) but merely completing leg eight was a triumph for David Witt and his crew with the tragedy of losing a crew member still fresh in their hearts and minds.

Miserably weak winds on the approach to Newport caused a major compression in positions, allowing Scallywag to reduce their deficit to the leader from 130 nautical miles to just 20 within 24 hours.

But it wasn’t enough to stop Spanish boat Mapfre from claiming a thrilling victory over Team Brunel and Vestas 11th Hour Racing – more importantly beating China’s Dongfeng Race Team to take over the overall lead.

“We’re really happy to be here,” Witt said on arrival in Newport after the 5,700-mile journey from Itajai, Brazil. “The last thing that was important for us was the result. The important thing was to be back in the race after the tragedy [with John Fisher] and all stay together.

“We couldn’t be more proud of the team. It was a mentally and emotionally tough time to get back on board but we probably sailed the best we’ve sailed in the race and got the worst result, but we’re glad to be back.”

Missing sailor ‘finest human being and a true Scallywag’ – Hong Kong owner Lee Seng Huang pays tribute to John Fisher

The 47-year-old Fisher went overboard on March 26 during leg seven from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai about 1,400 miles from Cape Horn at the bottom tip of South America. Scallywag abandoned the race but was able to make it in time for the start of leg eight on April 22.

Scallywag had won leg four from Melbourne to their home port of Hong Kong before finishing second to Team Akzonobel in leg six.

Mapfre, meanwhile, stunned the field by stealing victory with a shocking come-from-behind victory into a foggy Newport having been in fifth place with 300 miles left.

Dongfeng, which at one point had the lead, was the biggest loser, and was desperately seeking wind over the final 10 miles. In the end, they finished fourth.

‘Scallywags never give up!’ – Hong Kong boat to continue in Volvo Ocean Race in honour of lost sailor John Fisher

Mapfre’s victory gave them seven points for an overall total of 53 points from eight races with three legs remaining. Dongfeng is second with 50 points ahead of Brunel on 42. They are followed by AkzoNobel (36), Vestas (28), Scallywag (27) and Turn the Tide on Plastic (22).

“This is unbelievable,” Mapfre skipper Xabi Fernández said after crossing the finish line. “I can’t be happier. We were always hoping to come back a little bit but to be honest we were not expecting to win this leg, so we’re super happy.

“Our hopes were always that there would be a compression so we could catch someone. Last night has been crazy how much everything has closed up and everyone on board did an amazing job.”

For Dongfeng, every break seemed to go against Charles Caudrelier’s team.

“We’re very disappointed,” he said. “We were dreaming about a victory here. But it makes me angry and I will be better on the next one. I am already focused on the future and I promise Dongfeng will do a fantastic job on the next one.”

AkzoNobel was fifth into Newport with Plastic sixth.

The crews will have 11 days in America’s bastion of sailing, Newport, before the start of leg nine on May 20 to Cardiff in Wales. From there, they race to Gothenburg in Sweden before completing their nine-month journey with the final leg to The Hague in the Netherlands.