Chinese sailor Teng Jiang He grinned from ear to ear as he helmed Team Sanya across the finish line to a hero’s welcome from their home crowd.
"We’re all staying here, we’re all very excited and we’re looking forward to a wonderful stopover” – Mike Sanderson
Teng, better known as Tiger, was draped in a Chinese flag as he led Mike Sanderson’s men across the line at 12:35:17 UTC, bringing to an end 14 days of gruelling racing in Leg 3 Stage 2 from the Maldives.
Cheers went up from the crowds as they welcomed home the first ever sole Chinese entry in the Volvo Ocean Race.
New Zealander Sanderson, who led ABN AMRO ONE to victory in the 2005-06 edition of the race,was visibly shaken with emotion as he stepped onto dry land where he was reunited with his wife and children.
Sanderson said despite disappointment about their sixth-place finish he was already looking forward to lining up against his rivals in Leg 4.
"We’re competitive racers, we’re not here to sail around at the back of the fleet,” Sanderson told moments after crossing the finish line.
"We’ve got to look forward now. We’ve got lots of positives to take from and we can definitely get the boat going faster. It’s a slightly off feeling because we haven’t hit the dock yet and I’m already looking forward to having another chance to race the other guys.
"I really feel this isn’t a true reflection of our performance and we need to get out there and have another go.”
Always honest about Sanya’s straight-line speed deficit against the five new boats, Sanderson said his team’s strength lies in pouncing on tactical opportunities but admitted their strategies didn’t pay in Leg 3.
"The Malacca Strait posed a great opportunity for us if the weather was very changeable, but of course that was always going to be a double-edged sword,” he said.
"I always talked about the positives of us being able to catch up and pull a Houdini act in the Malacca Strait but the flipside of that is you can get dropped by the rest of the fleet, and that’s what happened to us.
"We finished a day and a half behind, but we entered the Malacca Strait 15 miles behind after the first five days of racing. We’re not a day and a half slower, we’re probably 50 or 60 miles slower over the whole leg.
"We need tactical opportunities and we need them to come right for us.”
While a lot of the teams are sending their sailors home for well-earned rest and recuperation, Sanderson said his crew would stay in Sanya for the duration of the stopover.
"This being our home stopover we felt it was very important we had a strong presence in Sanya,” he said. “We’re all staying here, we’re all very excited and we’re looking forward to a wonderful stopover.”
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