Spanish boat MAPFRE became the fourth different team in four legs to emerge victorious in the Volvo Ocean Race on Saturday, but they were forced to battle all the way to secure their triumph.
Led by stand-in skipper, Xabi Fernández, MAPFRE edged out second-placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing by just four minutes 25 seconds after more than 20 days of sailing since setting out for Auckland from Sanya on the southernmost tip of China on February 8.
The result moves the Spanish boat to fourth place in the overall standings after four legs of nine, but the Emirati team had the consolation of taking over from third-placed finishers in Auckland, Dongfeng Race Team (China), at the top.
Fernández was only keeping the skipper’s berth warm for usual skipper, Iker Martínez, who has missed the last two legs to prepare for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
He deeply savoured his success. “We’re super happy to be here in Auckland, and of course, it was a very tough leg,” Fernández told reporters. “We had a very hard last day especially, but we’re very happy to be here.
– Major setbacks –
“We have improved a lot over the last two legs. We have a very good team and I hope we can now show the world what we can do and keep doing it like this.”
The crew had suffered two major setbacks during the course of the leg. In mid-Pacific Ocean, they lost full communications with Race Control after a pair of antennae failed for three days.
This deprived the crew from plotting the optimum course because of a lack of key weather data. It was eventually fixed by the crew on board with assistance from Race HQ technicians and the equipment suppliers.
Additionally, 22-year-old crew member, Guillermo Altadill, has suffered a suspected broken right hand after being thrown across the dock by a large wave.
He will visit a doctor in Auckland on Sunday morning for a full diagnosis.
On Saturday evening, however, the euphoria of victory was dulling the pain. “I’ll see the doctor tomorrow morning,” he told AFP. “After our party.”
The boats – and sailors – will now have a break of two weeks before the fleet sets out for the next leg, through the Southern Ocean from New Zealand to Itajaí, Brazil, on March 15.
In all, the race will visit 11 ports and cover 38,739nm. The event will conclude on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Leg 4 results (Sanya, China to Auckland, New Zealand; lowest points wins): 1. MAPFRE (Spain) 1pt, 2. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 2 pts, 3. Dongfeng Race Team (China) 3 pts, 4. Team Alvimedica (U.S./Turkey) 4 pts, 5. Team Brunel (Netherlands) 5 pts, 6. Team SCA (Sweden) 6 pts, 7. Team Vestas Wind (Denmark) did not start.
Overall standings (after four legs of nine; in-port race series breaks ties): 1. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 8 pts, 2. Dongfeng Race Team (China) 8 pts, 3. Team Brunel (Netherlands) 14 pts, 4. MAPFRE (Spain) 16 pts, 5. Team Alvimedica (U.S./Turkey) 16 pts, 6. Team SCA (Sweden) 24 pts, 7. Team Vestas Wind (Denmark) 28 pts.
– Agence France-Presse