Team AkzoNobel has finished second in the Volvo Ocean Race in port race in Auckland, New Zealand after a tense needle match with China's Dongfeng Race Team in light and fickle winds.
The team AkzoNobel crew had to fight back from a slow start after being trapped outside the left-hand end of the start line when the start gun fired.
Despite setting off in fifth place in the seven-boat fleet the crew soon rallied and was able to capitalise when the wind died to a zephyr close on the way to the first windward turning gate allowing them to sail around the leaders and into the lead.
After rounding the left-hand gate buoy narrowly ahead of the pack the teamAkzoNobel sailors had to fend off a sustained attack from second placed Dongfeng Race Team on the next two legs of the three and a half-nautical mile (6.5-kilometer) inshore course, before finally succumbing to the pressure and dropping to second behind Dongfeng just before the final turning marker.
Team AkzoNobel in port race helmsman Nicolai Sehested (DEN) put the result down to good crew work and communication on the boat throughout the 50-minute race along the Auckland waterfront.
"It was one of those races where the conditions are so tricky and shifty that you just had to focus on getting the most out of the breeze you have at the time," Sehested said.
"We risked a lot to try to get a good start and it didn't come off for us but in the end it turned out we were better off letting the others go and then being able to sail around them when the wind died."
Australian watch leader Chris Nicholson said the light winds meant the crew had known they needed to be prepared for anything.
"It was always going to be a tricky race," Nicholson said. "We got a little tangled up at the start and that meant we had to fight our way back. There weren't many options but [the opportunities] were always going to be when it was lightest and trickiest.
"We got on the right side on the way to the turning marks and went to the small jib [headsail] so we could maneuver better. We popped through in first having gone from second to last.
"To take a second out of that from where we were at the start is a really good result, so we are stoked to be on the podium again."
Today's result followed the team AkzoNobel crew's victory in the sixth Volvo Ocean Race open-ocean leg from Hong Kong to Auckland 10 days previously and sees the team in third position in the overall in port race series which doesn't count towards the main race but will be used in the event of a tie between any of the teams at the end of the race at The Hague in the Netherlands in June 2018.
The team must now refocus its attention as the sailors prepare for Leg 7 - arguably the most significant phase of the race as it is a double points ocean passage from Auckland, through the depths of the Southern Ocean and around Cape Horn to Itajaí in Brazil, starting on Sunday March 18.
Team AkzoNobel is currently fourth in the overall Volvo Ocean Race standings, behind Mapfre (ESP), Dongfeng Race Team (CHN) and Sun Hung Kai Scallywag (HKG).