A powerful 24-hour surge by Team SCA piled the pressure on overall race leaders Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing in Leg 7 on Monday, as the battle to finish first in Lisbon gathered pace.
Team SCA navigator Libby Greenhalgh (GBR) had decided on a northern course to skirt the Azores High in the mid-Atlantic where there was more wind, and by early on Monday, they had all but wiped out an earlier 100-nautical mile (nm) deficit on the leaders to bring them right into play.
By 0942 UTC on Monday, they had overtaken Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and were challenging other boats in the pack, which was being led by Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED), just over 17nm ahead in the 2,800nm stage from Newport, Rhode Island, USA, to Lisbon, with MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP) hard on their heels.
The push by Team SCA left Azzam in an unaccustomed position at the back of the fleet, with their six-point advantage at the top of the overall standings under real threat.
Before the race started last October, their British skipper Ian Walker had targeted a top-three podium finish on each leg to secure overall victory.
Until this point, that plan has been carried out to perfection and has included two leg wins, leaving Walker’s crew with what looked like a firm grip at the top of the standings with two stages to go after this leg.
The Chinese entry, Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA), are currently third, just 1nm astern of Team Brunel.
In the overall standings, they trail Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing by six points in second place and have the opportunity to make big inroads into that lead with a strong finish in this transatlantic leg.
Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA), chasing a first leg victory, are right in the mix of the action too, just 10.7nm adrift and holding fourth place.
The six boats are now heading for a ‘drag race’ – straight-line racing in good winds and sea state – for Lisbon. They are expected to arrive on Wednesday (May 27) morning between 5am and 12 Noon UTC.
After an 11-day stopover in Lisbon for boat maintenance, the fleet will restart on June 7 for the final two legs to France (Lorient) and Sweden (Gothenburg), the latter via a pit-stop in The Hague.
The race concludes in Gothenburg on June 27 after covering 38,739nm in nine months and visiting 11 ports and every continent.
Current latest standings (low points wins, In-Port Race Series splits ties): 1) Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 11 pts, 2) Dongfeng Race Team 17, 3) Team Brunel 21, 4) Team Alvimedica 24, 5) MAPFRE 24, 6) Team SCA 35, 7) Team Vestas Wind (Denmark) 44.
*Image credits: Volvo Ocean Race/Matt Knighton/Anna Lena