Team AkzoNobel has finished Leg 8 of the Volvo Ocean Race around the world in fifth place after 16 days at sea enroute from Itajaí, Brazil to Newport, Rhode Island in the United States.
It’s a disappointing result for the crew who are gunning for a top three result overall when the eight-month, 83,000-kilometer ocean racing marathon competition finishes at The Hague in the Netherlands at the end of June.
“It’s been a frustrating leg for us throughout,” commented Justin Ferris (NZL), one of team AkzoNobel’s two watch captains.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Ferris continued. “We never felt fast during the leg – possibly because we were not changing modes fast enough after a transition from one weather system to the next.
“So we did some experimenting over these last couple of days and we think we have learned some ways to improve that.”
The team AkzoNobel sailors started the 10,500-kilometer passage on April 18, hoping to extend an impressive run of all-podium results in the three previous open ocean legs.
For the first few days they were in amongst the leading pack as the closely grouped fleet steadily climbed north along the Brazilian coast.
However, shortly before crossing the equator for the fourth and final time in this edition of the race, they lost ground after conservatively choosing not to stray too far from the main fleet.
The resulting gybe back towards the fleet cost them precious time and distance on their rivals and dropped them to sixth place in the seven-boat fleet.
More ground was lost after a slow transition through the Doldrums – the volatile and often windless ocean zone that straddles the equator – but later the crew managed to claw their way back into contention with fifth placed Mapfre (ESP) as the fleet powered its way towards the United States in strong and steady trade winds.
Ultimately though it was not enough to get them back in contention for the Leg 8 podium.
Nevertheless, the team did make big distance gains on their rivals in the final 48 hours as the leaders slowed in flat calm conditions on the approach to Newport and they managed to overtake Turn the Tide on Plastic (UN) in the last hour to claim fifth place.
The result sees the team remain in fourth place overall, six points behind Leg 8 winner Team Brunel (NED) in third, and eight points ahead of fifth place Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA).
The team AkzoNobel sailors now have twelve days to reset their minds and bodies before the start of Leg 9 of the Volvo Ocean Race – a double points transatlantic sprint to Cardiff in the United Kingdom on May 20.
“We need to debrief now and make sure we look into it in a positive way,” said team AkzoNobel watch captain Chris Nicholson. “The goal is to find ways to identify the problems, improve on them and stop them happening again.
“What we need to get better at is about recognising the opportunity and measuring the risk,” Nicholson said.
“We have talked a lot about it on board, and although we are happy with our decision-making process, there’s no sugar coating it: we need to deal with this properly and then move on.”
Watch dockside sailor interviews in Newport with helmsman and sail trimmer Luke Molloy (AUS) and watch captains Chris Nicholson (AUS) and Justin Ferris (NZL).