Leg start: June 16, 2015, 15:00 UTC / 17:00 local
Race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante:
It could be the hardest leg of the whole race! The 24-hour pit-stop in The Hague can upset the odds. It's so short it will be high intensity. There will be a lot of coastal sailing, traffic lanes, strong currents and light and rough weather. Don't forget the sailors will be tired after eight months of sailing too. Definitely a fascinating one.
First you have to sail along the Brittany coast and try to be in phase with the tide. Next you have to manage the traffic in the English Channel. After the 24-hour pit-stop in The Hague comes the North Sea with its oil rigs and wind farms. The very variable weather can lead to aggressive strategies.
Then comes the Skagerrak and the approach to Gothenburg, on the western coast of Sweden, for the grand finale of the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15.
What happens at The Hague?
For this pit-stop, the boat that crosses the line first into the port will resume racing at 12:00 local time on June 20. The finishing delta (time) between the boats will be the same amount of time that the boats will resume racing behind the leader.
The Hague is the only pit-stop in this edition of the race and there are some specific rules covering what can and can't be done while the boats are in port.
This is a non-haulout stop, so the fleet must remain in the water; however, the crew can go ashore. Any repairs to the boat must be done onboard by the crew who are racing on the current leg, and they may only use spares and equipment carried onboard for that leg.
Full details can be found in the Notice of Race on the Noticeboard, under "Item 19: Non-haul-out and Pitstops".
Leg 9, part 1: Lorient to The Hague
As the fleet prepared to set off on their ninth, and final, leg of this edition, there was much to gain – and much to lose.
Despite the overall trophy having been claimed by Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing upon their arrival into France, the podium positions were still up for grabs.
And a total of four teams – Dongfeng Race Team, Team Brunel, MAPFRE and Team Alvimedica – all split by just six points, were within touching distance of glory.
But it wasn’t going to be easy. Some 17 exclusion zones littered the route from Lorient to Gothenburg – there were big options and decisions to make, and the leg was to be split in two, with a 24-hour pit-stop in The Hague.
“Everything is an obstacle,” sighed Brunel navigator, Andrew Cape, the night before departures.
“Rocks everywhere, mud banks, wind farms, ships and shipping lanes. I know I say I don’t like Malacca a lot, but of all places, I hate this a bit more.”
That, and tidal flow, local sea and land breezes – a trio which sent the navigators searching for the tide tables.
So how does one prepare for a voyage like this? Capey shrugs. “At the moment, I only care about the first part to The Hague, because we’ll have a day there to think about the second section to Sweden.”
And with that, at 17.00 local time, on June 16, the seven boats departed France – in perfect sailing conditions.
If Capey seemed a little unsure in his interview, he certainly had a smile on his face as the Brittany port faded into the horizon – as his Dutch boat led the fleet out.
After a frenzied gybing duel down to the Goué Vas Sud waypoint, the fleet entered the Bay of Quiberon with Brunel still leading the way, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing close behind in second place.
This intense coastal racing was a sprint in comparison to the marathon eight and a half months before it.
“The Volvo Ocean Race has gone coastal,” wrote Amory Ross, Onboard Reporter for Team Alvimedica.
“100% of this leg will be in sight of at least one shoreline (if not two), and it’s changed the game completely.
“Leg 9 will be won in how effectively we transit the many currents, streams and shoals along the way, and it will be lost by how inefficiently we avoid traffic separation zones, wind farms and oil rigs that litter the road to Gothenburg.”
It was on Day 2 of the leg that the fleet met their first tidal gate – at the Pointe du Raz on the western tip of France.
They also met their first split, with Team SCA opting to stay further inshore, allowing the other six boats to go further offshore around the Ile de Sein.
“For me, and all the sailing I’ve done, no matter how much tide there is and how many attempts you have to make, you still get around quicker compared to sailing all the way around the outside,” explained Sam Davies, on the magenta boat.
“There, you have lots of rocks and islands, and quite a strong tide as well. We’ll see whether our decision comes out right or not.”
As Day 3 dawned, the boats battled bays, beaches and headlands on the northern French coast, arrowing into the Channel.
It wasn’t a good day for Team Brunel though, who, having led since leaving Lorient, finally succumbed to the shifty conditions and fell from first to fourth.
“Suddenly, our boat was going nowhere,” writes Stefan Coppers, onboard Brunel.
“We shifted weight forward and then back again. We tried changing the mast setting. We trimmed everything that could be trimmed, but, one by one, the boats behind us caught up and passed. 24 hours of work down the drain.”
The new leaders? Team Alvimedica. Meanwhile, the fleet prepared to make the biggest decision of the leg – whether to sail north or south of the 130-mile exclusion zone in the middle of the English channel.
“Is it finally time to put it all together?” asked Amory, on the front boat. “We’ve talked for so long about improving and learning and practicing and staying positive, but the results haven’t necessarily indicated our progression.
“There’s nothing quite like saving the best for last…”
Day 4 saw the fleet faced with a key option – England or France. The decision of which coastline to hug would play a massive part in the outcome of this final leg.
Who sailed on Leg 9? Download crew lists
Three boats – Dongfeng, MAPFRE and Team Brunel - went north to see the white cliffs of Dover, whilst the other four, Alvimedica, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Team Vestas Wind and Team SCA decided to stick around the beaches of Calais.
But it quickly dawned that the southern route would be slower than its northern equivalent.
“Ian and SiFi are crunching numbers in the nav station,” blogged Matt Knighton, on Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
“A light blue dot on the screen indicating where the routing predicted we’d be at this time is now three hours ahead of our position. What’s worse is the latest position report showed that the teams to the west are flying along the Cliffs of Dover right now.”
It was bad news for the southern pack. Well, all except Alvimedica, who, still in the lead and sailing several hours ahead of their fellow French coastline huggers, managed to make the most of a tidal gate to propel them towards the Netherlands.
“We’re still leading in the south but to the north, MAPFRE and Dongfeng (conveniently, the two teams ahead of us in the overall standings), we will not see again until the final 50 or so miles into the Hague,” said Amory.
But life was no cakewalk for the boats in the north, either. “One of the most uncomfortable feelings in life is when you know someone is staring at you,” explained MAPFRE Onboard Reporter Francisco Vignale.
“That’s the case of us, with Dongfeng. Even when they lead, they’re stuck to us. Like Messi always dribbling defenders during a football match, Dongfeng and Brunel are on us.
“We’re sailing along the English coast, and this leg has become very strategic. You can tell by the look in our navigator Jean-Luc’s eyes that he’s busy, tired and knocked out by the thousands of options in this really fast and short leg.
“The three of us are fighting for a podium place and anything can happen.”
And as the fleet arrived into The Hague at halftime in Leg 9, to thousands of adoring fans – and a ton of Dutch love – the seven boats lined up in the following order.
Image gallery: Leg 9 Lorient to The Hague
|In order of finish into The Hague:||Finish date||Finish time|
|Team Alvimedica||18/06/15||23:34:01 UTC|
|Dongfeng Race Team||19/06/15||01:20:30|
|Team Brunel||19/06/15||02:11:47 UTC|
|Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing||19/06/15||03:27:44 UTC|
|Team Vestas Wind||19/06/15||03:38:18 UTC|
|Team SCA||19/06/15||04:06:37 UTC|
Leg 9, part 2: The Hague to Gothenburg
Some 34 hours after arriving into the Netherlands, it was time to restart Leg 9 for leaders Team Alvimedica.
Their race got back underway at 12.00 local time on June 20, an hour and 46 minutes before second placed Dongfeng Race Team. But it wasn’t just about racing – it was also about reflection.
“There’s no hiding from it now,” said Amory Ross, back on the orange boat.
“Gothenburg is 300 miles away and we’re all aware that spells the end of the race – and more importantly, the end of a journey.
“Everybody is taking some time to appreciate being together as a team for one final stretch."
It was a slowish start for the Turkish-American team, who opted for an offshore route outside of the furthest TSS zone in order to find new breeze – a decision to sail more miles in exchange for a less risky journey.
Dongfeng Race Team, second to leave Holland, decided to head inshore, and Charles Caudrelier’s crew were the only ones to do so. It made for an interesting trip up into the North Sea.
“The boys are tired, exhausted even,” admitted Yann Riou, OBR on the French-Chinese boat.
“Sick of binge-grinding and other physical obligations. The long legs that caused burn outs are over and the hipsters we saw onboard this boat for the first few legs have disappeared Hair and beards are short, just like the legs we’re doing.
“However the rhythm that comes with these short legs is leaving us another sort of tired. A sort of nervousness from these last few weeks, highlighted by lack of sleep.”
Well, if they were banking on getting any rest during this last, fast and furious sprint into Sweden, they soon realized that it simply was not an option.
“There’s always a gybe to do, a lunch or a sail change to make, a watch shift, bailing to do, pictures to take, filming, coffee making, writing or just chatting with the guys during their watch,” said MAPFRE OBR Francisco Vignale.
“That is, sailing around the world in one of the most extreme sailing races ever.”
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, who suffered a rough restart to Leg 9, falling into sixth place, managed to pull back and overtake Team Vestas Wind. Team SCA, the last team to depart The Hague, remained in seventh.
“Before the second half of this leg started, sitting in a meeting room in The Hague for our standard weather briefing, Ian wanted to make one point very clear,” wrote Matt Knighton.
“Let’s have fun and enjoy the friendships that started over a year and a half ago when we first started training for this race.”
As the teams approached the northern tip of Denmark, the winds backed and diminished. It saw Team Alvimedica’s 15 mile lead shrink to just six miles, and Charlie Enright’s biggest task was to make sure that none of the boats behind managed to squeeze in between him and the coastline.
Meanwhile, the battle for second was relentless. Dongfeng Race Team, Team Brunel and MAPFRE all within 1.3 miles of each other – match racing at its very best.
With just over 100 miles to go until Gothenburg, the crews settled in for their final night of sailing this edition. Not that they’d be getting much sleep.
“Every team and every sailor has won this Volvo Ocean Race – that’s the beauty of the event,” wrote winning skipper Ian Walker.
“To sail around the world in such high performance boats remains an amazing achievement that few will ever experience. To share the highs and lows with teammates creates experiences that will never leave you.
“Despite the dramas that have unfolded, ever sailors will return home to their loved ones and every boat will return to harbour. That remains the most important thing and for that reason alone everyone can celebrate in Gothenburg.”
For some, though there were extra reasons to celebrate. Namely Team Alvimedica, who sailed into the Skaggerak in first place – securing their debut leg win of the edition.
“To end the race like this is really amazing, a huge accomplishment,” beamed Charlie Enright on the dock. “Now we're going to enjoy Gothenburg.”
In second place, Team Brunel, who, in doing so, also secured second place in the overall rankings – behind leaders Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
“When we left The Hague, I said there’s only one thing we can do – finish second in the overalls,” explained Dutch skipper Bouwe Bekking onshore.
“I’ve loved this race as much as my first. It’s been so close and intensive, a different style and a great experience.”
MAPFRE grabbed third place, whilst Dongfeng, who sailed into Sweden in fourth, took the final podium place overall.
“I'm proud for keeping the team together, with a good spirit,” said a delighted Charles Caudrlier. “The guys are all fantastic.”
Team Vestas Wind and Team SCA arrived into Gothenburg right on the heels of the first five boats.
For the Danish boat, the comeback story which will forever go down in the folklore of this race, the completion of this edition marked a real landmark in their journey.
And for the all-female Team SCA, which has so often pushed its competitors to the limit and beyond, it was also the culmination of two and a half years’ hard work.
“We aimed to inspire and motivate people to do things they didn't think they were capable of doing. I think we've done that,” said skipper Sam Davies.
For Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper Ian Walker, who was able to lift the trophy in the Swedish city, this win is a dream come true.
"It’s an amazing feeling to win,” he smiled. “My relationship with the Whitbread started as a kid – I had posters on the wall. It's been a long time coming.”
So what’s next for the sailor, who has become the first Briton to ever secure the overall trophy?
He laughs. “Well, I’m going home for the summer. My kids need their daddy back!”
So there you have it folks. Nine months. Four oceans. Five continents. Over 40,000 miles. One hell of an adventure.
Best images of Leg 9 - Lorient to Gothenburg
The Inside Track Leg 9
Best videos of Leg 9
|In order of finish:||Finish date||Finish time||Elapsed time||Points|
|Team Alvimedica||22/06/15||10:26:52 UTC||4d 09h 00min 53s||1|
|Team Brunel||22/06/15||10:50:17 UTC||4d 09h 24min 18s||2|
|MAPFRE||22/06/15||10:55:06 UTC||4d 09h 29min 07s||3|
|Dongfeng Race Team||22/06/15||10:57:55 UTC||4d 09h 31min 56s||4|
|Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing||22/06/15||11:43:40 UTC||4d 10h 17min 41s||5|
|Team Vestas Wind||22/06/15||12:56:20 UTC||4d 11h 30min 21s||6|
|Team SCA||22/06/15||13:05:04 UTC||4d 11h 39min 05s||7|
|In order of finish:||Sailed
|Max 1hr avg
|Team Alvimedica||1 254.05||305,1||21,9|
|Team Brunel||1 222.53||310,9||19,9|
|Dongfeng Race Team||1 220.61||306,9||20,3|
|Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing||1 250.27||320,8||19,6|
|Team Vestas Wind||1 244.92||295,6||19,9|
|Team SCA||1 225.09||304||19,1|