Justin Slattery’s Ocean Race Log

Tensions are at an all-time high as we’re now in the endgame

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing passing by Costa da Morte – Coast of Death – in Spanish waters during leg eight between Lisbon and L’Orient. Photograph: Getty Images

And finally, after 38,000 miles sailed around the world, the endgame begins for the Volvo Ocean Race. Tension is running at an all-time high on board Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing as leg eight from Lisbon to Lorient draws to a close.

This is but a sprint of 900 miles and this morning we will know whether the race is ours or will we have another few weeks of pain. It’s that close.

While our strategy of delivering podium results for every leg served us well until the finish into Lisbon 10 days ago, our priority has now switched to covering our two key challengers.

Charles Caudrelier on Dongfeng is now tied with Bouwe Bekking on Brunel for second place just six points behind us. As we close on the finishing line off the Breton port, Alvimedica and Mapfre have wedged the pair of them into the back of the fleet.


Those two places are critical: added to our current points they would give us an eight-point overall lead in the race provided we finish in our current third place or better. That would give us the race win with a leg to spare.

This leg finish in the early hours of this morning doesn’t look like a repeat of either the finish in Lisbon or Newport where we had light air drifting matches. We have solid breeze forecast for the next two days and, barring gear failure, the pecking order appears set. That breeze is northeasterly which means banging hard upwind which is far from comfortable.

This leg is providing more than a little upset for the fleet standings. While we’re happy with third on the water we would still like to win this or any leg, having both our key rivals stuck in seventh and eighth places.

Six months

Normally, we’d expect to see

Sam Davies

and the all-girl crew on



taking this spot even if by the smallest of margins. We also haven’t seen the eighth boat in almost six months but now Chris Nicholson’s

Team Vestas

has been completely rebuilt and launched in Portugal just as we were finishing the last leg.

Right now Davies and the girls are holding their own in first place for the leg with a clear 10-mile lead. Nothing to do with them being a female team or anything but while we’d like to beat them we’re all secretly hoping that they get a well-deserved victory or even podium place that has eluded so far.

Nico and his boys are holding second place so they are getting their moment in the spotlight, though the gap back to us is only three miles. Still, the SCA girls clearly had their own game plan as we headed up the coast of Portugal towards Gallicia.

Clearer breeze

While most of the fleet headed offshore for clearer breeze, Davies went into the coast and nipped into the lead. It was always risky but it has paid-off as they have been leading for most of this leg.

On board Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing we've had our own battles as we covered the middle ground and must have done 12 tacks in as many hours, while the boats that went furthest offshore only did two tacks and we still all ended up in the same place when we converged at Cabo Torinana: all that exhausting stacking and shifting gear with no sleep and for no gain!

We soon forgot about that as we rounded the corner and into the might of the Bay of Biscay. Let's just say there are nicer places in the world to sail. The wave patterns here are nasty. We've seen worse in the Volvo Ocean Race such as three races ago on Green Dragon pushing upwind in the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, the Dragon's former skipper is feeling the pressure on this leg as he mulls over every aspect of the remaining race with navigator Simon "Sci-fi" Fisher. He'll be okay;he thrives on pressure. And the end is in sight.