Since faltering late on Leg 8 of the Volvo Ocean Race from Itajai, Brazil, to Newport, Team Brunel has been the dominant team in the around-the-world sailing competition.
The Dutch boat won its second consecutive leg — after finishing as runner-up to MAPFRE in Newport — on Thursday, exacting a bit of revenge on the Spanish boat. On the 10th leg of the 11-leg race, a 1,300-nautical-mile trek from Cardiff, Wales, to Gothenburg, Sweden, Team Brunel and skipper Bouwe Bekking edged MAPFRE by 1 minute, 55 seconds.
“We did a fantastic job as a team and of course the result was better than we could have dreamed,” Brunel skipper Bouwe Bekking said. “We wanted to beat the two red boats but a win to get the bonus point is really nice.
“The pressure was on, but we knew we just needed to sail the boat the best we could and not do any crazy things. Very happy how it all ended up.”
MAPFRE’s margin of victory over Team Brunel in Newport was 61 seconds.
In addition to its two consecutive leg wins, Team Brunel has taken three of the past four after finishing first on the seventh leg from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajai. Thursday’s victory vaulted the Bekking and his crew into first-place tie in the overall standings with just one leg remaining — from Gothenburg to The Hague, Netherlands.
“For the fans it’s going to be an exciting last leg, and for us as well,” Dongfeng skipper Charles Caudrelier said. “We will give all we have and try for our first leg victory. But really we just have to be ahead of the other two."
Brunel and MAPFE each have 55 points, just one clear of third-place Dongfeng Race Team, which took fourth on the 10th leg. Team AkzoNobel placed third on the leg and remains in fourth overall with 53 points.
“It was a very good leg for us and a good result as well, but a little bit painful the way it happened,” MAPFRE skipper Xabi Fernandez said. “We felt we did the hardest part of the leg, up the coast of Scotland, and managed to be in the lead there, but we just couldn’t hold Brunel on the tight reaching.
"They’ve been improving a lot on the last legs, but it was a surprise to see such a speed difference.”