SANYA (AFP) – Volvo Ocean Race leaders Dongfeng Race Team on Saturday became the first Chinese-backed crew to win an in-port race in the history of the 41-year-old event.
Last month, the crew had become the first from the world’s most populous nation to win an offshore leg, clinching the third stage from Abu Dhabi to Sanya, China.
“Dongfeng means the wind from the east (in Chinese) and today the wind blew from the east — we’re lucky in China,” French skipper Charles Caudrelier said according to a statement issued by race organisers.
Caudrelier’s crew are protecting a one-point lead going into Sunday’s fourth offshore leg start for the 5,264-nautical mile trip to Auckland, New Zealand and this win leaves them third in the in-port series.
The in-shore races do not count directly to the main offshore prize, which will be concluded in Gothenburg on June 27, but the positions will break ties. With the teams so evenly matched that could well happen so the one-hour in-port races are important.
Before the race started at 2 pm local time (0600 GMT), there were fears that the breeze on the island of Hainan, off the southern coast of China, would not be strong enough to race but it picked up to just over 10 knots a matter of minutes before the fleet embarked on the 7.2nm course.
The lead changed several times between early leaders Team Alvimedica (Turkey/US) and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, before Dongfeng edged clear in the fourth leg, sustaining their lead and winning with 38 seconds to spare.
British skipper Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi crew claimed second ahead of Alvimedica and consolidated their overall in-port series advantage, now leading by four points.
The fleet will now have a brief respite of just under 24 hours before setting out on one of the nine-month, 38,739nm race’s most testing stages through the South China Sea into the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand. The fourth leg departure will be at 2 pm local time.