The 4,670 nautical mile journey of Leg 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race was never going to be easy. Sure enough, during the first night of racing it was Dongfeng Race Team who were caught out by two fishing nets within hours of each other. The whole incident was caught on camera by the Onboard Reporter, Sam Greenfield (video coming soon).
The determination of the Dongfeng crew has been tested on the first two legs and this no leg will be no different. But their determination is in overdrive as Dongfeng set out on their ‘home’ leg to China. Currently heading towards Sanya, Dongfeng are making good ground, holding a tenuous lead over Abu Dhabi Racing but at this point it’s too early to get excited, 4,440 nautical miles to go and plenty can still happen. This leg has been labelled the ‘Obstacle Course’, not least for the passage of the Malacca Strait known as the ‘Obstacle Course’. The 20+ day leg to Sanya, China has already proven to be one of the trickiest legs so far. “Luck,” said Skipper, Charles Caudrelier just before leaving Abu Dhabi. “I honestly believe a big part of this leg will depend on luck, are you lucky to only have minor problems, or will you be the unlucky team that hits something big like a floating container.” With what recently happened to the Danish entry Team Vestas Wind, the fleet are naturally treading extra cautiously during this next leg. “I know what happened to Vestas is lingering over us, especially Pascal,” he continues, “we just hope we can make it to Sanya in one piece.”
Fishing nets are just one of the many hazards fleets can encounter racing across busy seas. In this case, depending on which side of the fence you’re on fishing nets are either how you make a living or they are nothing but an obstacle. Interestingly enough, Dongfeng’s very own Kevin Escoffier is torn between the two as he explained to Onboard Reporter Sam Greenfield that it is always tough for him when race boats hit fishing nets as he comes from a long line of fisherman. “It’s a tough one,” says Kevin. “Because I know how it feels when it’s your material that has been destroyed but at the same time I guess the fish are happy! At least it didn’t slow us down, although there was a moment when we thought it would never come off!”
Before the boats left the dock yesterday in Abu Dhabi, Cheng Ying Kit (also known as Kit) explained that he was delighted to be chosen for this leg especially because “If you ask anyone in this team which leg we want to win, the answer is leg 3.” Kit is now the fourth Chinese sailor to sail onboard Dongfeng as part of the team’s long term sporting mission: to bring offshore sailing to China. A mission not without challenges.