Team Brunel takes third

Small tactical error cost Bouwe Bekking's team the race

Wednesday November 5th 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: South Africa

Team Brunel has completed the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race arriving in Cape Town in third place. Skipper Bouwe Bekking and his crew took exactly 25 days and 7 hours to cover the 6,487 nautical miles leg down the Atlantic.

The Dutch Volvo Ocean Race boat sailed a controlled race and did not let itself be put off by the many tactical manoeuvres of the other boats.

“The first stretch of sailing across the Mediterranean Sea was an intense experience,” recounted Gerd-Jan Poortman. “The introduction of a one-design class turned out to be a great move. Up to Gibraltar, a lot of duels were fought out and the many changes of wind resulted in an unprecedented amount of manoeuvring. Even after we passed Gibraltar, almost all of the teams were sailing within sight of each other. It’s an extremely intensive way of sailing in which you have to continue to push yourself all the time! It gives you a healthy dose of stress.”

The sole aim of navigator Andrew Cape was to remain with the fleet, keep to the tactical plan and wait for the chance to strike.

“The first seven days were relatively slow,” said skipper Bouwe Bekking. “Almost all of the boats were sailing at about the same speed. We kept strictly to our plan and that gave us a big advantage.”

This chance came at the Cape Verde islands. Andrew Cape decided to head west. It turned out to be the right choice because the Dutch VO65 became the second boat to reach the Brazilian Fernando de Noronha archipelago, with a satisfying lead over the boats behind.

Circumnavigation the St Helena high, the leading four boats started to bunch together once more until the distance between them was no more than ten nautical miles. Never in the 41-year history of the Volvo Ocean Race had the boats been so close together 19 days into the first leg to Cape Town.

During the last week of leg 1 Team Brunel was fighting for the lead with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. The turning point was when the Dutch team decided to change course from the south to the east towards Cape Town.

Bekking commented: “We went a little bit more south than Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing because our systems indicated there would be more wind. That was the moment where we lost some miles. From there on it was difficult to catch up because we were 25 miles behind the front runners and we sailed more less the same speed.”

Bekking adds: “I think it’s an excellent call to introduce the one design class. Not only because it’s way more exciting for the sailors, but also for the fans and the sponsors. The budgets have been reduced by 50% compared to the previous editions. For the sponsors that was good news. Off course it’s still a big investment for them, but I think if we kept the old boats there would have been no race.”

Next week, the sailors of Team Brunel – which is sponsored by the international temporary employment agency Brunel – will recover from this tough first leg. Meanwhile the technical crew of the Dutch Volvo Ocean Race team, which is also sponsored by the companies Moduleo, Robeco and Schouten Global, will start to carry out minor repairs and maintenance. The sailors will get a few days off, after which they will have to prepare for the In-Port race and the next leg to Abu Dhabi, which will start on Wednesday 19 November.



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