MAPFRE lead a spectacular start from Auckland © María Muiña/MAPFRE

MAPFRE lead a spectacular start from Auckland © María Muiña/MAPFRE

Volvo Ocean Race: MAPFRE lead a spectacular start from Auckland


19/03/2018 - 10:22

Auckland (New Zealand), 18th March 2018

It was an emotional, spectacular start to Leg Seven. As the Spanish team’s shore crew agreed from the boat’s support RIB, it really couldn’t have been any more perfect; a pleasant temperature (20ºC), sunny skies and the odd cloud softening the strong southern hemisphere sunshine, whilst thousands of spectators on the water applauded the team as they led the fleet from the very start of the leg.

So begins the iconic Southern Ocean leg of the round-the-world race, which takes the teams down south, and around the legendary Cape Horn, and three months later, back into the Atlantic Ocean. Their destination: Itajai, in the south of Brazil, 7000 miles from Auckland.

A punctual start, dominated by MAPFRE

An impressive number and variety of spectators were out on the water in the Bay of Auckland to see off the Volvo Ocean Race fleet, with hundreds of sail boats, all shapes and sizes, RIBs, yachts, ferries, kite surfers (with and without foils), windsurfers and many, many others. Trimmer and helmsman Blair Duke, without a doubt, one of the most applauded team members.

The start gun sounded punctually at 14:00h local time (early morning in Spain), with a great performance from MAPFRE, driven by Cantabrian sailor Pablo Arrarte, one of the best helmsmen on the Volvo Ocean Race fleet.

A great start for the Spanish team, who immediately positioned themselves at the front of the fleet with noteworthy challenges from Dongfeng, and leading the entire three legs of the initial circuit within the Bay of Auckland.

After the last mark rounding, MAPFRE turned to head for Brazil at the front of the fleet, with over 23 knots of speed, to begin the long upwind route to the East Cape, the most easterly point of New Zealand.

Thereon in Xabi Fernández and his team will make their way southwards, marked by the ice gates, initially at 59º S.

“It has always been said that preparation is one of the most important parts of this race, and that is true particularly for these kinds of conditions. As a team we really like this kind of sailing, and I hope that once again we can fight for victory,” declared the team’s skipper Xabi Fernández, just moments before leaving the dock.

“In the last Southern Ocean leg from Cape Town to Melbourne, we saw that perhaps along with Dongfeng we had a greater advantage over the others, because we’d had more experience and training. But I think that the whole fleet is now much more equal,” added Pablo Arrarte. “The other teams have all learnt a lot, and this leg is very likely to be extremely tough, so we are all going to be a lot closer than the last time.”

The only crew change is the return of Cantabrian sailor Antonio “Ñeti” Cuervas-Mons, and initial predictions show that MAPFRE may take between 18 to 20 days to complete leg seven, i.e., the VO65s are expected to arrive in Brazil between 4th-6th April.


Pablo Arrarte, watch captain

We are now almost half-way through this round-the-world race, and this is the most important leg for all the teams. This leg scores double, and in Itajaí things will be a lot more marked, so it is very important for us to do well.

You can never really be sure of anything until you cross the finish line of the last leg of the race, which will be in The Hague. We know there is a lot of sailing still left, and we will continue to work as hard as we have done since the very first day, to push the boat and stay on the podium.

Támara Echegoyen, trimmer

In this leg there are a lot of points at stake. It scores double, and the first boat around Cape Horn also earns an extra point, so the team will have to be really focussed to do the best job we can.

All the points add up, and we are now leading the overall scoreboard, but with so many boats sailing at the same level, pushing hard and fighting for every point, it is a good chance for us to stay at the top.


- 7600 nautical miles from Auckland (NZL) to Itajaí (BRA)

- 18 - 20 days of sailing

- 14 points at stake

- 1 additional point for the leg winner

- 1 additional point for the first boat to reach the latitude of Cape Horn

- Stealth mode not permitted

- The fleet are expected to take 12 days to reach Cape Horn


Xabi Fernández (ESP), skipper

Joan Vila (ESP), navigator

Pablo Arrarte (ESP), watch captain

Rob Greenhalgh (GBR), watch captain

Willy Altadill (ESP), trimmer/helmsman

Blair Tuke (NZL), trimmer/helmsman

Antonio “Ñeti” Cuervas-Mons, bowman

Sophie Ciszek (AUS/USA), bowman

Támara Echegoyen (ESP), trimmer

*Ugo Fonollá (ESP), on-board reporter


1. MAPFRE (ESP, Xabi Fernández), 39 points

2. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN, Charles Caudrelier), 34 points

3. Sun Hung Kai Scallywag (HKG, David Witt), 26 points

4. Team AkzoNobel (NED, Simeon Tienpont), 23 points

5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing (USA/DEN, Charlie Enright), 23 points

6. Team Brunel (NED, Bouwe Bekking), 20 points

7. Turn The Tide on Plastic (Naciones Unidas, Dee Caffari), 12 points

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