Southern Spars new run of VO65 masts passed their first test, helping Mapfre carve seven minutes off the Round the Isle of Wight record. The seven teams took off around the race course which was the setting for the foundation race for the America’s Cup.
All crews pushed their VO65s to the limit in this shakedown event which saw four of them come in under the old record time of 3hrs 20mins, set by the 100-footer Maximus.
Mapfre’s benefited from their strong presence of America’s Cup and Olympic sailors – including their new recruit Blair Tuke – easily winning the start ahead of Vestas 11th Hour Racing and Brunel.
With wind from the south between 15-20 knots at the start and gusts up to 35 knots, the boats flew down the Solent on the outgoing tide. The most recently announced team, and thus the team with the least miles in training, Dee Caffari’s Turn the Tide on Plastic was the only boat with a reef at the start. They were quickly joined by the rest of the fleet as the wind built during the drag race down the Solent.
After the southern point of the island the Volvo Ocean 65s were finally able to bear away onto their favourite point of sail, with navigator Joan Vila perfectly choosing MAPFRE’s course and sail changes.
There was no surprise that all the top teams around the back of the island had done the previous race, with MAPFRE leading Dongfeng and Brunel. Bouwe Bekking’s strong performance demonstrated that despite only a week’s training before today, and crew trials still underway, the 39,000 miles sailed in the 2014-15 edition are worth gold.
The boats will now regroup in Gosport as a final opportunity to prepare for the Rolex Fastnet Race, the second stage of Leg Zero, starting on Sunday. After the Fastnet, the teams complete Leg Zero by sailing from Plymouth to St Malo and then on to Lisbon.