“It’s the first day of the action. Points count,” Mark Towill, Team Director, told the Vestas 11th Hour Racing team at the morning meeting in Alicante. And count they did as the sailors finished third in the first In-Port Race of the 2017-2018 Volvo Ocean Race earning 5 points in the cumulative series.
“How you do in the In-Port races can mean the difference between winning the whole thing or finishing on the podium, so every point counts,” said skipper, Charlie Enright. No one knows that more than Enright because in the last edition, it all came down to the final leg of the final In-Port race to break the tie between MAPFRE and Charlies’s former team, Alvimedia.
The seven Volvo Ocean 65s started their three-lap windward-leeward course in a 7-9 knot steady easterly breeze. At the start, Vestas 11th Hour Racing was in a controlling position crossing the line first. The team rounded the first gate in 4th place very close to the other teams. Over the first few legs, the crew was able to use their boat speed and tactics to battle back one place at a time, rounding Gate 3 in 2nd place.
“There was no massive favor in the course, it was more about doing fewer maneuvers and boat speed,” said Phil Harmer. The Aussie sailor figured this was his “40-something” In-Port Race competing in his sixth Volvo Ocean Race. “We tried a maneuver that really isn’t a maneuver at the second top gate essentially tacking and setting right away. In these big boats, you just can’t do that.”
However, they were able to recover and hold off the competition finishing behind MAPFRE and Dongfeng Race Team respectively. The podium finish all came down to the last leg. In a nailbiting downwind, after Brunel and Vestas 11th Hour Racing rounded Gate 5 within 6 seconds and split sides, it was in the last few boat lengths to the finish line that the team was able to cross clear ahead of their opponent to finish third.
“Third place is not a bad way to start the campaign,” said Enright. “We’ll take it and continue to improve.” Charlie had one final message for the crowds of Alicante upon docking in: “We appreciate all the support of people coming down to the village to watch. Now let’s just keep it clean, folks.”
Vestas 11th Hour Racing will be in Alicante until the Leg Start to Lisbon on October 22nd, between now and then they will be racing in Pro-Ams, participating in the Ocean Summit, and joining local school children onboard an educational ocean research vessel. Stay tuned to vestas11thhourracing.com and our social media channels for the latest.
Image Credit: Atila Madrona / Vestas 11th Hour Racing