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Team AkzoNobel ‘proud’ of fourth place

Playing her part: Bermuda sailor Emily Nagel

Team AkzoNobel have finished second on the final leg of the Volvo Ocean Race around the world to claim fourth place in the overall standings, after Leg 11 from Gothenburg, Sweden, came to a thrilling conclusion in front of huge crowds on the beachfront of The Hague in the Netherlands.

This final result in the 45,000-nautical mile ocean racing marathon means the team, which features Bermuda’s Emily Nagel, has finished on the podium in six out of 11 legs during the eight-month race.

The crew also set a new outright 24-hour distance time for the Volvo Ocean Race on Leg 9 from the United States to England when they clocked up 602.51 nautical miles, making them the fastest Volvo Ocean Race crew ever in the 45-year history of the race.

“It’s been an unbelievably hard journey and we have been through some ups and downs around the world, so we are very proud to finish on the podium as the first Dutch boat in our home port at The Hague,” Simeon Tienpont, the team AkzoNobel skipper, said. “This is our sixth podium result of the campaign and I think that says something about the quality of this team.”

Dongfeng Race Team, of China, snatched the lead in the final minutes of Leg 11 to claim the overall Volvo Ocean Race title ahead of second-placed Spanish crew Mapfre, and Dutch entry Team Brunel, who had both started the final leg in an effective points tie with the Chinese team.

AkzoNobel led the seven-boat Volvo Ocean Race fleet out of Gothenburg on Thursday afternoon but dropped to fifth in the standings by the time the boats rounded a turning marker close to the Norwegian coast shortly after midnight on the first night at sea.

The crew was still in fifth when the fleet rounded a turning mark in the inner harbour of the Danish city of Aarhus on Friday but began to make significant gains as the course led the fleet back north.

On Saturday morning, within hours of rounding the penultimate turning mark of the circa 1,000 nautical-mile course — a virtual waypoint east of the northern tip of Denmark — AkzoNobel overhauled Team Brunel into fourth place. Then as the wind ramped up to over 30 knots on the final night at sea, the AkzoNobel crew went on a charge, replicating the potent “triple-head” sail set-up that had earned them the 24-hour distance record on transatlantic Leg 9, to power into the Leg 11 lead by sunrise on the morning of the final day.

The fight for the overall Volvo Ocean Race trophy had become more intense when Mapfre joined AkzoNobel and Team Brunel on an offshore approach to the finish, leaving the third title contender — Dongfeng Race Team — to take an inshore route past the mass of exclusion zones blocking the direct route to The Hague.

Despite the resulting huge separation between the top boats the advantage between them ebbed and flowed throughout the final day. While the three western crews duelled their way downwind in a flurry of gybes towards The Hague, Dongfeng Race Team made steady gains as they sailed a longer but faster and more direct route to the finish line. In the end it was Dongfeng Race Team sailors who emerged ahead to take their first leg win of the race and the overall Volvo Ocean Race title. Behind them AkzoNobel got the upper hand in a final gybing match with Mapfre to slip around the last marker buoy ahead and cross the finish line in second place.

“It was an incredibly hard leg and none of us have really slept for days,” Nicolai Sehested, the boat captain, said. “That’s what you have to do in these kind of sprint legs when you are competing against teams that are sailing to win the overall race.

“We have been trying so hard to win this final leg and almost all the way to the end we thought we had it.

“Congratulations though to Dongfeng Race Team for a fantastic move and well done to them for taking the overall trophy.”

Helmsman and sail trimmer Justin Ferris said the crew was happy that they had sailed the boat well and had at times experimented with some new set-ups to improve their performance in certain conditions.

“We tried things on this leg that we have been nervous about previously,” Ferris said. “There was nothing to lose so we pushed the boat a bit harder and went well in some conditions we have previously struggled with.

“Coming in second is a nice way to finish and if Dongfeng hadn’t snuck through down the coastline then we would have been here first.

“But congratulations to them, they have done a fantastic job and been consistent throughout the whole race.”

Although all of the ocean legs of the Volvo Ocean Race are now completed the team AkzoNobel sailors have two further competitive engagements while they are in The Hague.

On Wednesday AkzoNobel will take on Dutch rivals Team Brunel in pro-am exhibition match race series. On Saturday the crew will race together for the last time in the final heat of the Volvo Ocean Race in-port race series.