Team SCA, for so longleft to play catch-up at the back of the fleet, pulled off a stunning coup on Friday to snatch sixth place from MAPFRE in Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race.
The achievement of beating a MAPFRE team that boasts some of the biggest names in international offshore sailing, including skipper Iker Martínez (ESP) and twice Vendée Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux (FRA), will be a big morale-booster for the fleet’s only women’s crew.
For so long in the 6,487 nautical mile (nm) leg, they looked destined to finish a long way behind all their six rivals and even sailing into the final day on Friday, they trailed the Spanish boat by eight nm at one point.
Yet slowly, but very surely, they nibbled away at MAPFRE’s advantage as the South African coast loomed into view on a day of bright blue skies and negligible winds.
As the crews edged, rather than sped, into Cape Town it increasingly became clear that victory in this two-boat duel would be Team SCA’s (Sam Davies/GBR), with MAPFRE miserably parked up under Table Mountain in just a couple of knots of breeze.
Davies said minutes after crossing the line: "We never, ever stopped fighting. That's something that our coach Magnus Olsson taught us and we keep that spirit with us all the time."
Swede Olsson died of a stroke in 2013 while on a training camp with Team SCA in Lanzarote.
Navigator Libby Greenhalgh (GBR) added: “It feels pretty bloody good. We’ve been willing ourselves along these last few days but we knew we had this opportunity in the last one and a half hours of the race to pass. We did it pretty well.”
Annie Lush (GBR) added: “We went from our survival suits in 33 knots last night and now we’ve finished in no wind but it’s so good to finish on a high.”
For Martínez the result is a desperately disappointing reverse on his Leg 1 performance in 2011-12 when he led the fleet to the finish first on board Telefónica.
There is speculation he will now have to change his crew although there’s still a long, long way to go in the nine month, 38,739-mile marathon which will finish in Gothenburg, Sweden on June 27 and will visit another nine ports on the way.
Friday’s finish completes the opening leg from Alicante to Cape Town with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) having taken the honours on Wednesday by a 12-minute margin from Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA).
They were followed home by Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED), Team Vestas Wind (Chris Nicholson/AUS) and Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA) before Team SCA and MAPFRE completed a full set of finishers. In 2011, only three of the six boats to start managed to complete the crossing to Cape Town.
The boats will now be given a maintenance check and the crews a breather before the fleet sets forth for the second leg to Abu Dhabi on November 19.
For more information on the Volvo Ocean Race please visit: www.volvooceanrace.com