The 7th stage of the Volvo Ocean Race at 2800 nautical miles took 9 days: the teams left American Newport and arrived in Lisbon in the early morning of May 27. At 5am local time Team Brunel showed up on the horizon. Illuminated by video cameras of journalists and the searchlight of the Coast Guard boat, the Dutch team finished first.
After only 22 minutes, already in the rays of the early Portuguese sun, the MAPFRE team arrived in the water area suburb of Algec. The skipper of the team is world famous yachtsman Iker Martinez. The guys started celebrating their excellent result even before they crossed the finish line. In the general standings on the results of 7 stages they now take the fourth position with a difference of 4 points with the Dutch team.
The hardest fight this time was for 4th place. Teams of Alvimedica, Dongfeng Race and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing caught a sour wind as the sun rises. The overall leader of the race (Abu Dhabi) lagged a few hundred miles before entering the water area, and between the other two teams there was a real match race.
«We were very close to the leaders of the stage, almost saw them on the horizon, and were confident that we were finishing on the podium," said the skipper of the Chinese team, Charles Codrellier, at a press conference, "but suddenly got into the zone of calm. Alvimedica came very close, and right before the finish we had a tough fight. We made a small mistake that cost us a lot».
As a result, these two teams finished with a 55-second gap!
Such close finishes are possible due to the fact that the current Volvo Ocean Race series features mono-powered boats of exactly the same design and size, so no one has any advantage in terms of speed performance. More often than not, intelligence and strength compete in the battle for space. The Alvimedica team has managed to show its strength, as well as its cleverness, to all Portuguese spectators, who, despite the early hour, have gathered quite a lot. They jumped right in front of the Chinese team and finished third.
The last one to finish was a boat of «magenta»color, as they call themselves. Despite the fact that this transition was one of the most successful for the SCA team, the girls still failed to rise above at least one line in the final table. Before their finish, the wind quieted to 5 knots and the Portuguese sun rose high enough that the thermometers showed already more than +25.
«We were just melting in the sun," said Di Caffari. "We wanted to finish soon and tried not to miss the slightest breeze».
The numerous fans who accompanied them on the water as well as on shore chanted: «Winds, winds!»and their request was heard. Breeze picked up the boat, and the finish was spectacular and positive.
After a warm welcome on the shore the skippers of the teams went to a press conference where they shared their impressions of the crossing of the Atlantic. Surprisingly, the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team did not come first, despite the fact that skipper Ian Walker is well familiar with the waters of Portugal. It was here, in Cascais, the team organized a training camp to prepare for the ocean race. Despite coming only fifth, the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team continues to lead the table with a 5-point lead over the next Chinese Donfeng Race.
The main event in Lisbon, of course, was the return of Team Vestas Wind, which was wrecked during the second passage from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi and lost some of its stern. In the middle of the night, in the extreme darkness of the Indian Ocean, a 12.5 ton VO65 raided the reef just on day 35 of the regatta. After rescuing the crew and assessing the damage, Vestas Wind management decided to restore the yacht and started a campaign called ««A race to re-join the race»». Under harsh time conditions, for 6 months the onshore team, together with yachtsmen, a skipper and an on-board reporter, worked at the Italian shipyard Persico in time to restore the yacht to the start of the Lisbon phase.
This «transition» was one of the most important for the team because in addition to the effort to rebuild the hull, it was necessary to follow all the rules and comply with class requirements, which is always a time-consuming process. However, the team was able to cope with all the challenges, finish the repair on time and launch the yacht at Algec Marina.
The yacht finally got her mast back! The crew just had to set sails and test the boat on the water, which the crew are very happy about. The other crews are also excited about the return of the «blue boat», as it is called by the participants and the organizers of the regatta. So far, the racing village has been quiet, but events for guests and the press will start soon, after which the teams will start preparing for the port race on June 6 and the start of the 8th stage.