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VOR: MAPFRE, ready to start the most iconic leg of the race

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MAPFRE, Volvo Ocean Race 2017/18
MAPFRE, Volvo Ocean Race 2017/18

7600 miles, extreme conditions and the legendary rounding of Cape Horn. Xabi Fernández's crew are gearing up to face the start of one of the most eagerly-awaited legs in the round-the-world race this Sunday, and as such, initiate the route back home.

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Auckland (New Zealand), 17th March 2018

One of the most eagerly-awaited legs in the Volvo Ocean Race, and just 48 hours away, on Sunday the fleet will take the start line in Auckland for this iconic leg between the City of Sails and Itajaí (Brazil); a 7600-mile journey through one of the most inhospitable parts of the planet. Xabi Fernández's crew are well aware that it will be tough and tricky sailing, in extreme and cold conditions, frozen sea temperatures, and water battering the deck almost continuously, yet the Spanish team's aim is clear: they are out to win and strengthen their overall leadership of the round-the-world race.

“To tell the truth, we are all eager to get started. It has been a great stop-over, three weeks here in Auckland; where it is easy to feel at home, and we really appreciate how important the race is to the general public, and how much they understand what it is we do. The boats have been out of the water for over a week, and it has been a good refit. I think the boat and the sails are in really good shape, and the crew has also had the chance to rest, so everything is fine," explains MAPFRE’s skipper.

The start is scheduled for this Sunday at 14:00 local time (0100 UTC), and is promising to be challenging, with predictions of strong winds of about 20 knots for the fleet; a high-speed entry into the Southern Ocean.

Cape Horn and the Southern Ocean challenge

There are many reasons this is one of the sailor's favourite legs. Leg Seven is the longest leg in the Volvo Ocean Race, and most of the 7,600 miles take place in the Southern Ocean, where the fleet will reach latitudes lower than the 'Roaring Forties'. The seven participating teams will have to face harsh conditions, extreme winds, sub-zero temperatures and frozen sea water constantly battering the deck.

However, the Southern Ocean sailing is not the only challenge of the leg. Once the start gun has sounded, the fleet will begin to make their way south, to reach the strong squall-like conditions which will catapult them eastwards for 13 days before rounding the legendary Cape Horn, considered the true Everest of sailing, and a truly unique moment for all offshore sailors.

As Pablo Arrarte, MAPFRE's watch captain explained, "Cape Horn is special for everyone. We all know that it is very far, and that the conditions there are really tough. I have rounded it three times now, and almost every time it has been really, really difficult, so we have to be careful, as you can really come up against any situation, and you know that there have been a lot of accidents in the past. It is also one of the objectives of the race, because once you round Cape Horn you are back into the Atlantic, and on the way home, so I think it is going to be a special moment, and I'm looking forward to going round again.”

The MAPFRE crew have rounded the legendary Cape a total of 22 times between them, but this time it will be a first for Spanish sailor Támara Echegoyen.

“Rounding Cape Horn is a great opportunity for me, because it is something that all sailors dream of doing once in their lives, and I am proud to be able to do so with this team," stated the Olympic champion.

Once the team have rounded Cape Horn, they will be back in the Atlantic Ocean and begin to head northwards to Itajaí. It is the beginning of the route back home.

Double scores, double motivation for an iconic leg

“Leg Seven is clearly the 'queen' of legs in the Volvo Ocean Race for many reasons,” the team's skipper Xabi Fernández, began to explain. “Firstly because we will be back in the Southern Ocean, with its tough conditions, Cape Horn, which in itself is an incentive, and then also because there is an extra point there, but also because the whole leg scores double. It makes this leg really unique, and as a team we have never won it, so I hope that we might have options to do so this time."

MAPFRE begins the leg as overall leaders of the race, with a three-point advantage over Charles Caudrelier's Dongfeng, in second place; their team's major rivals to date. Xabi Fernández and his crew are well aware of the importance of gaining a good result, and with so many points at stake, each of the teams will be pushing hard from the very start, all with the same objective in mind: to fight for victory.

“All the teams know that this is a very important leg, so I think we will all be pushing as hard to see who will finish first," admits Pablo Arrarte, adding to the Basque skippers words, “In leg three between Cape Town and Melbourne, the teams who were the most prepared, Dongfeng and ourselves, had an advantage, and one which we have seen in the race. But now that we are half-way through, I am sure that other teams will come back stronger and be a much greater part of the battle.”

MAPFRE's aim remains clear; to fight tooth and nail to add a third victory to their name in this leg of the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18.

FACTS & FIGURES

- 7,600 nm from Auckland (NZL) to Itajaí (BRA)

- 18/19 days

- 16 points

+14 points for the winner, +12 for the second, etc.

+1 extra point for the winner of the leg

+1 extra point for the first boat to pass Cape Horn

- 22 rounds to Cape Horn on MAPFRE

Xabi Fernández - 6

Joan Vila - 5

Rob Greenhalgh - 4

Pablo Arrarte - 3

Ñeti Cuervas-Mons - 2

Willy Altadill - 1

Sophie Ciszek - 1

Blair Tuke - 0

Támara Echegoyen – 0

OVERALL STANDINGS AFTER 6 LEGS - VOLVO OCEAN RACE 2017-18

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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