Team Brunel was in it to win it.
Spoiler alert – they didn’t.
Does that mean that the Dutch campaign failed?
No. Absolutely not.
And that’s where Bouwe and his men excelled. By re-adjusting their objectives in this nine-month offshore marathon.
After taking third place into Cape Town and a leg victory in Abu Dhabi, followed by two disappointing fifth places and a fourth, they finished third into Newport.
As the fleet prepared to cross the Atlantic and sail back to Europe for a last month of competition, Bouwe looked at the maths and made a tough statement.
“Given the present rankings, it’s almost impossible to win the race," he admitted.
"Of course, we would have liked to beat Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. But our objectives are now to secure a place on the podium.”
This was Bouwe’s seventh race – he first entered it in 1985-86. In 41 years, the Dutch have won the race three times – in 1977-78, 1981-82 and 2005-06.
Bouwe himself had already taken second twice before, but he has never won.
Yet, he took the disappointment in his stride.
“During the debriefing, I also said that from now on, all our brakes would be off. We’re going to sail to Europe at full throttle. If we broke something now, it would be very annoying but it would no longer cost us the race.”
And they did. Winning into Lisbon, fifth into Lorient but back in second in Gothenburg, Bouwe’s men pushed hard to the end.
With Dutch, Danish, Belgium and Lithuanian sailors onboard, the yellow boat definitely had a northern Europe flavour. They also sailed with an Aussie, a Spaniard and a Kiwi.
Team Brunel was a tight group, with a very strong team dynamic supported by Schouten Global coach Anje-Marijcke van Boxtel – and the fun, honest stories told by their Onboard Reporter Stefan Coppers.
They may not have had the perfect race, but they shared their adventures like no other, and their fans came in mass to the pit-stop in The Hague.
“Team Brunel is one of the best teams I've ever worked with,” said navigator Andrew Cape.
This was the Australian’s sixth race – so he knows what he is talking about.
“That was mainly because of the team composition and the long training period in Lanzarote. Prior to the months we spent in the Canary Island, Bouwe had put together the perfect team. Later on, the two under-30 sailors joined us.
“We got on very well right from the start and made each other stronger."
It’s been a strong team offshore, and a strong team onshore. In fact, Team Brunel ended up winning the final In-Port Race in Gothenburg.
They already had won an In-Port before, in Itajaí. They ended up just one point behind Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing in the overall In-Port Series, in second place.
“It’s not how you start – it’s how you finish,” smiled Bouwe when docking in Gothenburg.
“The clean sweep goes to Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing but we’re very content with both second places.
“My first Volvo Ocean Race was the best of my seven attempts, but this edition is way up there in second place. It’s been a tremendous journey, fantastic sport-wise and public-wise.
“Thank you! We enjoyed the ride.”
Follow Bouwe and Sailing Holland as they’re looking for sponsors for a new Dutch entry in the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18.