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A solid start from "MAPFRE" in the last leg of the Volvo Ocean Race
The Spanish boat, skippered by Iker Martínez, started the last leg of the Volvo Ocean Race today, from Brittany (France) to Sweden, which includes a 24-hour pitstop in the Hague (Holland)

Lorient (France), 17th June 2015

Eight months since the start of the adventure in Alicante, the ninth and last leg of the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-2015 began today in Lorient (France), with a good start for the Spanish team MAPFRE. After the windward leeward circuit the fleet set off for Leg 9 with the Spanish in second place, 28 seconds behind Dutch team Brunel, who also led during the circuit.

The fleet nudged for their places on the start line with a Westerly wind of 11 knots, and at 15:00 UTC the fleet set off for the last leg of the race. SCA and Alvimedica were early at the start and penalised with an extra turn.

Whilst the fleet gathered on the Committee side, MAPFRE went solo to the pin and found their place. With Iker Martinez once again at the helm, the Spanish team started the first stage of the 960-mile leg (which includes a 24 hour pitstop in the Hague) in sound fashion.

Brunel also started off well, opening the gap ahead of MAPFRE in second place. On the third windward leeward lap the distance began to dwindle to just 25 metres, after the team masterminded a spectacular cross, reminiscent of a Match Race, in which Iker Martinez and his crew passed in front of the Dutch team’s bow.

After the five ‘laps’ of the circuit, the fleet rounded the Lorient mark and headed off with Brunel in the lead followed by MAPFRE, Vestas, Dongfeng, Abu Dhabi, SCA and Alvimedica.

The fleet are heading south towards the Bay of Quiberon, where they will be sailing this evening, and will need to be incredibly attentive to the currents.

In the opinion of the team bowman, “Ñeti” Cuervas-Mons, this is the first of three tricky parts of the leg, as he explained before the start.

“Passing below the Belle Ile, there is a windless passage. Then we have to round the north-west of Brittany until Brest. We then make our way into the English Channel which looks like it is going to be a busy crossroads. I suppose that it will be in these three first stages before the Channel that decides which team reaches the Hague first. After the pit stop anything might happen.”

It is clearly this first stage of the leg from Lorient to the Hague in particular, where many factors will need to be taken into account (currents, wind “holes”, infinite exclusion zones), meaning that both Iker Martinez and his navigator Jean Luc Nélias, will have to spend a great deal of time at the chart table.

“This will be a sprint and we are not likely to get a lot of sleep, so we will need to know how to pace ourselves, so we can push hard when we need to do so,” explained Cuervas-Mons.

The fleet are predicted to take about two and a half days to cross the so-called time gate at the Hague, where each boat’s arrival times will be registered, so the fleet leaves in exactly the same order of arrival at midday on Saturday 20th June, en route to Gothenburg (Sweden).

Photo : © María Muiña/ MAPFRE
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