The final two days of Leg 1 were very much a drag race and those teams that pre-race reviewers (including myself) believed to have speed started to show through.
Vestas 11th Hour showed solid speed and good decision making throughout the Leg, ensuring they led the gybes early on and believed in their decisions, and it paid off to give them a tidy lead – though I am sure that the period of no wind and drifting in the tide in the River made their hearts race a little bit faster as they tried to finish.
The rest of the podium – MAPFRE and Dongfeng – were no surprise, but they did not make it look easy. Their boat speed edge helped them claw through the fleet at the critical moments; in particular Dongfeng who managed to overhaul Scallywag and Akzonobel in this period. However, this speed edge won’t hold around the world as all the teams will gradually catch up – It’s going to be a hard fought race and going to be harder and harder to call.
Akzonobel probably become my new dark horse, despite the team controversy at the start: they had solid boat speed, combined with good decision-making and no doubt an incredible desire to go out there and prove themselves, and came in a very close 4th. I may have been willing them on to the podium.
Scallywag, Brunel and Turn the Tide all took great opportunities but still lack a bit of the consistency and are clearly at times getting ‘the go slows’, where a team struggles to find their speed, not for want of trying, and can get very frustrated trying to work it out. All the teams are still saying ‘we learnt lots and are continuing to learn’, but with the first big distance leg coming up, crews will be wanting to shake ‘the go slows’ and it will soon be time to convert that knowledge into boat speed!