The all-women’s crew of Team SCA grabbed the early lead on leg eight of the Volvo Ocean Race on Monday, having spent much of the nine-month event trailing the rest of the fleet.
The Swedish boat is the first entry in offshore sailing’s toughest and most prestigious race for 12 years and that gap in experience has shown with the women finishing last in all but the first leg since the 12th edition began in Spain last October.
However, British skipper Sam Davies and her team have always eyed the shorter, final two legs in Europe as their best chance to shine against their male counterparts and so far on the 647-nautical mile (nm) stage from Lisbon to Lorient, France, they have sailed impeccably.
There is still a relatively long way to go on a leg that is expected to conclude in Brittany in the early hours of Thursday, but the women were certainly enjoying the unaccustomed feeling of being at the head of the competition on Monday.
With 610nm to sail (0644 GMT), Team SCA led by some 5.5nm from overall race leaders Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, having taken the route nearest to the Portuguese shore where the wind was at its strongest.
Team Vestas Wind, who were leading overnight, were caught in a large thunderstorm around 0500 GMT and dropped from first to fifth.
They will be delighted with their progress so far, however, showing good boat speed despite some six months out of the race while their boat was re-built following a collision with a reef in November on Leg 2.
Team Brunel, who need to beat Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing to close their six-point deficit on them at the head of the standings, were tucked in fourth place while Dongfeng Race Team were last placed, 8nm further astern.
The Chinese boat also needs to finish ahead of Azzam to boost their chances of overall victory in the final port of Gothenburg.
The boats will have a short maintenance period in Lorient before setting off for the final leg to Sweden 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.
Current latest standings (low points wins, In-Port Race Series splits ties): 1) Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 16 pts, 2) Team Brunel (Netherlands) 22, 3) Dongfeng Race Team (China) 22, 4) Team Alvimedica (Turkey/U.S.) 27, 5) MAPFRE (Spain) 27, 6) Team SCA (Sweden) 43, 7) Team Vestas Wind (Denmark) 52.
– Agence France-Presse