Dongfeng leads the way to the Southern Ocean from Table Bay
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Dongfeng Race Team skippered by Charles Caudrelier of France led the way around a short inshore course at the start of Leg 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race from Cape Town to Melbourne today.
The red and white Volvo Ocean 65 sponsored by Dongfeng Motor Corporation of China, which is lying in third place overall in the race, quickly found her stride in classic Table Bay conditions – flat water, 20-25 knots of wind from the southeast and a cloudless sky.
In front of a sizeable spectator fleet of yachts and small craft, Caudrelier at the wheel, and with Carolijn Brouwer of the Netherlands and Marie Riou of France trimming, coaxed Dongfeng into the lead on the first inshore leg.
Dongfeng Race Team then held the initiative throughout the short inshore phase before rivals MAPFRE, skippered by Xabi Fernandez, sneaked ahead in the lee of Signal Hill as the boats headed off into the south Atlantic.
Ahead lies one of the toughest stages of this race, 6,500-nautical miles of the southern Indian Ocean on the route to Melbourne. To start with the crews will face some very rough, wet and cold conditions as they hammer their way south around the tip of South Africa into a gusty headwind.
The next phase will be crucial to sorting out the early running order as the fleet tackles a large area of light winds before them crews hook into the first of the big depressions rumbling around the bottom of the world towards Australia.
The forecast for this double-points scoring leg suggests that in around three days time Dongfeng Race Team and their rivals will be sailing downwind in 40-50 knots of breeze and seas of 7-11 metres.
Boatspeeds will be high but Caudrelier has made it clear that he will be conscious at all times of the need to preserve the boat from major damage as the Volvo Ocean Race returns to the Southern Indian Ocean after detouring further north at this stage in previous editions.
A big factor in this leg will be the Antarctic Ice Exclusion zone which sets a hard border on the southern fringes of the racecourse. This reaches well north of where the navigators might otherwise want to place their boats at some points during the leg, an indication of just how far north ice bergs are currently drifting.
The Dongfeng Race Team crew for this leg has three new faces. Kevin Escoffier of France is on board instead of fellow Frenchman Jeremie Beyou and Chinese sailor Xue Liu, also known as Black, is on for his fellow countryman Chen Jinhao/Horace in a planned rotation.
Not planned is the replacement of watch captain Daryl Wislang of New Zealand by French Dongfeng reserve sailor and team Performance Analyst Fabien Delahaye, after Wislang suffered a back injury just hours before the Cape Town re-start.
Dongfeng Race Team finished Leg 1 of the race from Alicante to Lisbon in third place and was second in Leg 2 from Lisbon to Cape Town. It currently lies in third place on the overall scoreboard, three points behind the leader MAPFRE, and two points behind second-placed Vestas 11th Hour Racing, skippered by Charlie Enright.
This is Dongfeng Motor Corporation’s second campaign in the Volvo Ocean Race. On debut in 2014-15 Caudrelier’s team finished third overall.