SOURCE: Volvo Ocean Race
Fast sailing on the way to the Malacca Strait and Dongfeng Race Team still in the lead
For Caudrelier and his crew, the stage could not be more important: victory in Sanya would be the first time a Chinese boat has triumphed in a Volvo Ocean Race leg and the win would also take the team top of the overall standings.
At 01240 UTC on Tuesday, Dongfeng Race Team led by 29.6 nautical miles (nm) from Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) hot on their heels 2.4nm further adrift.The trio started Leg 3 from Abu Dhabi locked together on four points, but the 4,670nm stage to the southernmost point of China is still anyone's to win with around 2,500nm left for the fleet to sail.
MAPFRE (Xabi Fernández/ESP) and Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA) are both very much in touch 3 nautical miles behind with Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) still in the hunt, a further 26nm adrift.
The six-strong fleet – depleted of Team Vestas Wind (Chris Nicholson/AUS) – is expected to reach its destination around January 25-26 depending on weather conditions but first has to navigate through the Malacca Strait.
The 500nm stretch, dividing the Indonesian island of Sumatra and Malaysia, is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world and narrows to 1.5nm at one point. That bottleneck could well allow the chasing boats to catch Dongfeng Race Team – if they are still ahead at this point. The boats will have to dodge all kinds of cargo vessels and all kinds of man-made rubbish.That, however, lies in the future – the fleet is expected to arrive in the Strait by the weekend – and for now it is making good progress through the Bay of Bengal after passing Sri Lanka.
Meanwhile, Team Vestas Wind continued its long journey from Malaysia to Italy on a Maersk Line ship for an eventual rebuild at the Persico yard in Bergamo.It is expected to arrive on January 25 and will be transported with the help of Race sponsors GAC Pindar from Genoa to Persico. The target is a return to the race for the final two legs from Lisbon in June.