SOURCE: Volvo Ocean Race
The final Equator crossing
-Four teams neck and neck, fighting for the lead.
ALICANTE, Spain, April 29 – The Volvo Ocean Race finally headed for the 'homeward' stretch after crossing the Equator for the fourth and final time on Tuesday. Overall leaders Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) positioned themselves ominously at the head of the fleet midway through Leg 6 on Wednesday, as the six boats continued to constantly jostle for position.
The fleet still has a long way to go before the race reaches its climax in the final week of June in Gothenburg, Sweden, having set out on the 38,739-nautical mile (nm), nine-month marathon back in Alicante, Spain, on October 11.
But it has bid its farewells to the Southern Hemisphere for the final time in this edition, with all six boats tightly bunched as they entered the north Atlantic, with just under 3,000nm still to race in Leg 6 before arriving in Newport, Rhode Island, USA, around May 7.
Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) held a narrow lead of 4.1nm from Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA) and MAPFRE (Xabi Fernández/ESP) with overall race leaders Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR), Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) and Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA) still very much in contention.
Several sailors were taking stock after crossing the Equator and, effectively, completing a navigation of the globe - although this around-the-world race still has to take in its only North American stop in Newport before re-crossing the Atlantic and embarking on its European 'tour' of Portugal (Lisbon), France (Lorient), The Netherlands (The Hague) and, finally, Sweden (Gothenburg).
At the beginning of the week, the Emirati crew, which has a seven-point lead at the top of the race standings after five of the nine stages, were concerned they were losing touch with the leg pace-setters as they fell some 20 nautical miles (nm) off the lead to the west of the main pack.
Slowly but surely, however, they have edged their way back up the leaderboard and finally overhauled Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) at the top, early on Wednesday (0940 UTC), albeit by the thinnest of margins (0.5nm) from the Dutch boat. By 1240 UTC, the Chinese boat was once again ahead by a very small margin.
There are still just under half the overall race points to compete for and more than 2,500nm left in a 5,010nm leg from Itajaí, Brazil, to Newport, Rhode Island, USA, where the boats are expected to arrive around May 7.