A second inshore race win for the all-woman crew on Sweden’s SCA boosted confidence for skipper Sam Davies, plus Libby Greenhalgh and Dee Caffari of Britain, ahead of the delayed fifth leg of the Volvo round the world race from Auckland to Itajai, Brazil.
Conditions were benign inside a sunny and crowded Auckland harbour, in stark contrast to the category five storm Pam ripping its way through the Pacific Islands to the north, the 125 mph winds and consequent wild sea state behind the decision to delay the start from Sunday to Tuesday afternoon at the earliest. Some worry that the delay could be until Wednesday.
The SCA boat had also won the inshore race in Abu Dhabi, leading from start to finish, and, with three-time Olympian Carolijn Brouwer at the helm, it edged everyone at the start again but then had to wriggle though some patchy conditions to regain the lead from the Spanish winner of the leg from Sanya, China, Mapfre, skippered by the returning Iker Martinez. The Spanish, in turn, were then overtaken by the Dutch entry, Brunel, skippered by Bouwe Bekking.
A couple of the teams have called in experienced names like Damian Foxall (Dongfeng) and Stu Bannatyne (Alvimedica) for the leg round Cape Horn, the most traditional from the original Whitbread Round the World Race. Even with a crew of 11 on SCA, compared with the other, all-male boats, Sam Davies has already warned that the fatigue of helming the 65-footers will be a significant problem, and navigation expert Marcel van Triest expects that conditions will be so fast as to negate the effects of a two, even three-day delay.
The announcement that former McLaren F1 boss Martin Whitmarsh as chief executive officer of the Ben Ainslie Racing America’s Cup challenge syndicate has added to the growing heavyweight feel of the initiative headed by the quadruple Olympic gold medallist (he also has a silver) and led to renewed speculation that Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group may weigh in with financial support. Of more immediate concern is the status of a proposed seeding regatta at the start of 2017 in Auckland. A meeting to be attended by Sir Russell Coutts of the defender’s America’s Cup Event Authority is due to be held in London on Monday.
The challenging teams – said now by Aucklanders to have increased to six to include Japan – in general are opposed to shipping everything to the other side of the world when they are at full stretch to move to Bermuda. There is also confusion over whether, as originally proposed, only the top four would go to Bermuda or, whatever the results, all would still compete again in the knockout phase in Bermuda. Ben Ainslie has said that if the prospect of not being able to compete in Bermuda remains in place that would require a rethink by the team.
The winner, and the line-up would include the defender, Oracle, would also carry a one-win bonus in the eventual America’s Cup match if the winner was also the eventual single challenger. It is not transferable. If Oracle won it would start the America’s Cup with a 1-0 advantage.
The Wave, skippered by British Olympian Leigh McMillan, with double gold medallist Sarah Ayton calling tactics, won, for the third year in succession the second 2015 Extreme Sailing Series regatta in Muscat, Oman. But it went to the last, double points scoring race to pip Denmark’s second-placed SAP, with Red Bull third and the second Omani boat, Oman Air, skippered by Stevie Morrison, in his first season, pushing up to fourth.
The Anglo-Australian combination of match racing world champion Ian Williams and Seve Jarvin,sailing GAC Pindar, after a good opening day, slipped to sixth out of the eight boats. The next regatta is in Qingdao, China.
Volvo inshore race
1 SCA (SWE)
2 Brunel (NED)
3 Mapfre (ESP)
4 Dongfeng (CHN)
5 Alvimedica (USA)
6 Abu Dhabi
Overall standings after four legs
1= Abu Dhabi/Dongfeng 8 pts
3 Brunel 14
4= Alvimedica/Mapfre 16
6 SCA 24