SOURCE: Volvo Ocean Race
Dongfeng Race Team leading, trash picking and the Big Gybe
The experienced French skipper's race squad includes no less than six rookie Chinese sailors and very few observers had considered them among the pre-race favourites at the beginning of the 12th edition.A pair of narrow runners-up places in the opening two legs has left them tied at the top of the standings with Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Charles Caudrelier/FRA), however, on four points apiece.
In the third leg between Abu Dhabi and their home port of Sanya, the Chinese-backed boat is currently showing the rest of the fleet that its flying start is no fluke. After five days of sailing and 948 nautical miles (nm) of the 4,670nm leg behind them, they protected a narrow lead of 9nm over Team Brunel on Thursday (1240 UTC).
There is still a long, long way to go, including the very hazardous Malacca Strait, but victory in Sanya would put Caudrelier's crew in the 41-year-old race's record books as the first Chinese boat to win a leg.Additionally, of course, they would take the outright lead going into the fourth leg to Auckland.
Diving for trash
It has been relatively slow going since the fleet set sail for Sanya on Saturday from Abu Dhabi. Their progress has not been assisted by repeated hold-ups caused by ocean garbage, such as plastic bags and other debris, which has needed to be cleared from the keels by the sailors. Team Brunel even had to remove a snake, which had wrapped itself around the sail drive.
The Big Gybe
For the Volvo Ocean Race Leg 3 fleet overnight, the big question was when - or if - to gybe. In the end, the back markers MAPFRE and Team SCA made the first move after a night full of twists and turns between them and headed firmly east towards the coast of India. Before too long, all the six-strong fleet had followed suit.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) lie third, some 11nm behind Team Brunel, with Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA) sandwiched behind them but ahead of MAPFRE and back markers, Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR).