ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Chinese boat Dongfeng Race Team were pipped to victory for the second time running as Team Brunel snatched the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race on Saturday.
Dongfeng lost out to Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing in the first leg from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town by 12 minutes after nearly a month’s racing.
This time they were denied in the leg from South Africa to the UAE by 16 minutes by the Dutch team led by 51-year-old Bouwe Bekking, who is competing in a record-equalling seventh race.
The key moment came five hours from the finish at around 1030 ET, when Bekking’s crew passed Dongfeng with a masterly maneuver, although the boats were in similar winds, sailing just a few hundred meters apart.
Dongfeng Race Team’s French skipper Charles Caudrelier could not conceal his disappointment in a pre-finish call to www.volvooceanrace.com.
“Brunel have been much faster than us since a few days and we don’t know why. We’re a bit disappointed because we did a good job to pass them, but they keep passing us. You have to do well, but you also have to be fast. If you’re not fast, it’s difficult to win a leg,” he said.
Bekking, in contrast, could not wipe the smile off his face as he cruised from the finish line to the dock. His team are locked with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Dongfeng on four points after two stages but are ranked top because of winning the most recent leg.
“It is a good feeling,” he told reporters. “I’ve always said, it’s better to be lucky than good but we’ve been good this leg as well so it’s so nice to win this one because it could have been an easy leg to finish last. The team did a fantastic job, we sailed the boat much better than in the first leg.”
Bekking has never won the 41-year-old race and it remains a lifetime ambition for him.
Most professional offshore sailors do not race past their 50th birthday but the Dutchman is known in the sport as one of the toughest and fittest in the business.
Editing by Ed Osmond