SOURCE: Volvo Ocean Race
Leg 8 Start - Now for something completely different
- Team Vestas Wind back in the race
- Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing brush aside talk of victory
LISBON, Portugal, June 7 – Ian Walker (GBR) and his seven Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crewmates left Lisbon (1400 local time/1300 UTC) for the 647-nautical mile (nm) Leg 8 to Lorient on Sunday with their eyes glued on the weather forecast - and the progress of their two closest rivals.
The penultimate stage is the shortest of the nine-month race by some way, but no less challenging for that. Walker summed up: "There are light winds chasing up the Portuguese coast, but by the time we get to Cape Finisterre, it should be a dead beat to Lorient, and probably quite windy, over 30 knots."
The fleet, restored to seven boats again after the return of Team Vestas Wind (Chris Nicholson/AUS) in Lisbon following the rebuild from the collision with a reef in Leg 2, should take three to four days to reach Lorient on the Brittany coast.
The race is intriguingly poised with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, on paper, able to clinch overall victory if results go their way when the boats arrive after around four days of sailing. Should they win, and their closest rivals, Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) and Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA) finish fourth or worse, then Walker can loft the trophy in France.
However, he brushed aside all premature talk of that prospect at the pre-leg press conference on Friday. It is not just Team Brunel and Dongfeng Race Team who will want to upset Walker's bid to claim the trophy prematurely in Lorient.
MAPFRE (Xabi Fernández/ESP) were narrowly pipped by Team Brunel into Lisbon at the end of Leg 7, but bounced back with a in-port race victory here on Saturday at the expense of Walker's Emirati boat.
Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA) are improving leg on leg, and have garnered two podium places in the last 10 days: third in Leg 7 and the same position in the in-port race.
Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) know that the last two, sprint, coastal legs – the 'European Tour' – offer them their best chance of upsetting the established order of dominance. Davies, whose home is near Lorient, would love nothing better than to claim their best results at the climax of the 12th edition.
The fleet is expected to reach Lorient early on Thursday (June 11). They will have a short maintenance period there before setting off for the final leg to Gothenburg, via a pit-stop in The Hague, on Tuesday, June 16. The event finishes with an in-port race in Gothenburg on June 27. In all, the boats will have covered 38,739nm and visited 11 cities and every continent.