Vestas 11th Hour Racing have won Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race, crossing the finish line in the River Tagus in Lisbon, Portugal on Saturday afternoon.
It’s a tremendous victory for American skipper Charlie Enright and his team, who earn 8 points for their efforts (including a one point ‘bonus’ for winning the leg).
It wasn’t easy. The wind shut down on the final approach, and an early morning lead of 34-nautical miles over second-placed MAPFRE was whittled down to 10-miles, with the finish in sight, but the current in the river even pushing the leaders back out to sea in some of the lulls.
But the crew on the Vestas boat held their nerve, tacking first up and then down, zigzagging towards the line, into agonisingly light headwinds.
“It’s incredible,” said Mark Towill, Team Director, from on board the boat moments before the finish.
“What a way to kick off the event. it’s been an incredible performance for the team… It’s been a challenging leg. We still have a lot to improve and long way to go… Today is our day, we’ll enjoy it, but then we have to get back to work and focus on the next leg.”
Charlie Enright is the third American skipper to win Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race. The others were John Kostecki, on illbruck in 2001-02, and Paul Cayard on EF Language in 1997-98.
Both of those teams went on to an overall victory – so the omens for Charlie Enright are certainly good.
Vestas 11th Hour Racing – which carries US and Danish flags – are the first American flagged team to win Leg 1. They are also the first Danish team to win a leg.
The light near-shore conditions are forecast to slow the pace of the Spanish MAPFRE team, expected to finish some two hours behind the winners.
More to come with reaction from all the teams as they finish Leg 1 and arrive at the Race Village in Lisbon.
Leg 1 – Results – Saturday 28 October (Day 7) – 14:09 UTC
1. Vestas 11th Hour Racing — FINISHED — 14:08.45 UTC
2. MAPFRE + 9.3 nm
3. Dongfeng Race Team +20.3
4. team AkzoNobel +24.1
5. Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag +44.2
6. Team Brunel +66.4
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic +67.3