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China receives MAPFRE - Xabi Fernández’s team finished in fourth place after a last intense 30 hours in which there was no time to rest.
What an arrivals’ day that Sanya lived today! Today the third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race finished and it could have hardly been any tighter. After more than 5,000 miles of sailing, five boats arrived with a difference of just five hours. 23 days 18 hours 23 minutes and 20 seconds has been the time invested by the Spanish team "MAPFRE". At 5h23 Spanish time they crossed the finish line in fourth place, half an hour after "Alvimedica" and one minute and 50 seconds before "Brunel".

"It has been one of the toughest legs I remember having sailed. Not because of the conditions but for the stress of being so close to other boats, sail changes and changes in the wind conditions", said the Spaniard bowman Ñeti Cuervas-Mons once on shore. Definitely a leg that could leave anyone exhausted.

Xabi Fernandez, who made his debut as skipper in the Volvo Ocean Race with a commendable fourth place, was happy though visibly tired. In his opinion the leg "was very long, very slow and very stressful too."

"We had some very good moments", continued the Basque explaining. "Towards the end of the Strait of Malacca we had some 'issues' that made us lose places, a lot of confusion with fishing nets, and then, with these boats, it is very difficult to recover. In the end we managed to get passed 'Brunel'; a shame we didn’t catch 'Alvimedica'. But I'm happy because after Singapore we could have easily finished fifth".

Tight end
A few miles from the finish an area with no wind stopped "MAPFRE" and then "Brunel". Brunel seemed to still have to do one tack more before crossing the finish line. But for "MAPFRE" it was not so clear.

Xabi Fernández’s crew managed to get out of the area without wind first and prepared the last sail change of the leg, peeling from the code zero to the J1. They managed to hold up well without tacking, to finally head towards the finish line.

"It is true that since we got to the Strait of Malacca we barely slept, very few hours a day and not in a row, but we did sleep a bit. Xabi, slept the least, last night, absolutely nothing because we were for over 15 hours only one mile ahead of 'Brunel'," noted Ñeti Cuervas-Mons.

Five boats, in five hours
The winner of the leg, the home team Dongfeng Race Team, crossed the finish line shortly after sunrise, at 7h31 local time (00h31 Spanish time).

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing was second, finishing at 10h50 local time (3h50 Spanish time), followed by Team Alvimedica, an hour later. Team Brunel, was fifth.

As a team we are always looking to improve and we couldn’t finish on the podium, we would have obviously preferred to finish third. The fleet is very competitive; we could have finished second or fifth. We’ve sailed ahead and is a good result.

"Brunel" approached from seven to one mile, but we all knew what we had to do. We were up all night, pushing and sailed well as a team. All the sail changes were smooth, showing that we can compete with the best. It’s clear that for us it was also nail biting.

Photo : © María Muiña/MAPFRE
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