Image © James Blake/Volvo Ocean Race
On the final morning of offshore racing in the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18 team AkzoNobel is in the thick of the action at the front of the fleet as Leg 11 builds to a thrilling conclusion amid the myriad of exclusion zones in the waters off The Hague.
The team AkzoNobel crew leads the fleet this morning after overtaking long-time leaders Mapfre (ESP) and Dongfeng Race Team (CHN) when better positioning in the west saw them and Team Brunel (NED) to slip into the top two spots.
Mapfre and Vestas 11th Hour Racing (DEN/USA) have now joined the western pack leaving Dongfeng Race Team, Turn the Tide on Plastic (UN) and Sun Hung Kai Scallywag (HKG) to pursue a coastal route towards the finish line off the beaches of The Hague.
Brunel, Mapfre and Dongfeng are the only ones in the running to take the overall Volvo Ocean Race trophy but the team AkzoNobel crew are sailing all out for a victory on this their final offshore race together at the end of an eight-month adventure around the world.
The sailors have been operating on next to no sleep and are close to exhaustion, but Danish boat captain Nicolai Sehested says the other boats will be feeling the pressure more.
"There must be plenty of stress on the other boats right now, but we are just enjoying ourselves and trying to win the leg,” Sehested said.
Team AkzoNobel navigator Jules Salter believes the final finishing order of Leg 11 will not be decided until the last few hours of the race as the teams choose the best route through the archipelago of exclusion zones blocking the direct route to the finish line.
“The final few hours of this race are going to give us a bit of everything, just as this whole lap of the planet has.
“Now we are tearing along at 20 knots in confused sea and Force 7-8 winds. This will die quickly as we go into Sunday and we will be left in very light conditions and at the mercy of the tide.
“Our route to the Hague is covered with exclusion areas for traffic separation schemes (TSS) and wind farms.”
At 0700 UTC (0900 CEST) team AkzoNobel held a lead of less than 0.5 nautical miles (one kilometer) over Team Brunel in second, with Mapfre a further 1.5 nm (2.7 km) behind in third and Vestas 11th Hour Racing in fourth 4.5 nm (8.3 km) back.
Meanwhile, on the other side of a large exclusion zone, Dongfeng Race Team in fifth, 50 nm (93 km) off the lead.