Nagel’s AkzoNobel hold on for narrow victory
AUCKLAND (AP) — Emily Nagel’s Team AkzoNobel narrowly won the sixth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race yesterday after a difficult passage from Hong Kong to Auckland.
The Dutch syndicate crossed the finish line on Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour in the early hours of the morning, 20 days, nine hours, 17 minutes, 26 seconds after leaving Hong Kong and only 2:14 ahead of Hong Kong’s Scallywag.
Among Team AkzoNobel’s sailors is Bermudian Nagel, who is making her debut in the Volvo Ocean Race and is the first local to compete in the event.
The sail trimmer and naval architect has not competed with her team-mates aboard their 65-foot one-design racing yacht since bruising her back during a mishap on the third leg of the race from Cape Town, South Africa, to Melbourne, Australia, last month.
In a remarkable finish yesterday, the first five yachts finished in a period of only 28 minutes after a ridge of high pressure off the East Coast of New Zealand’s North Island stalled the two leaders.
That allowed the remainder of the five-boat fleet to close in and threw the outcome of the leg into doubt as yachts headed towards the finish line.
AkzoNobel and Scallywag saw the big lead they had built over the past week quickly erode. But the leaders were just able to hold on as they match-raced towards the finish, often so close that crews could call to one another.
“It’s been a 6,500-mile match race, it’s unreal,” AkzoNobel skipper Simeon Tienpont said. “I’ve never sailed a race like this in my life.
“We’ve always been in each other’s sights. They [Scallywag] were always there. It’s been neck and neck. Huge respect to Scallywag, they never stopped fighting and we never stopped defending.”
AkzoNobel’s first leg win of the race was a personal triumph for Tienpont who was fired before the leg began but reinstated after negotiation.
Spain’s Mapfre finished in third place to retain the overall race lead ahead of China’s DongFeng Race Team. Scallywag’s second place lifted them into third place overall.
The sixth leg was notable for the windless conditions crews encountered in the mid-Pacific, caused by a low pressure area left by a passing cyclone. Yachts were almost becalmed at times and briefly faced the prospect of food rationing on a longer than expected passage to Auckland.
Leg seven from Auckland to Itajai in Brazil begins on March 18.
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