Sailing-Women's crew takes global race gamble to outsmart rivals

ALICANTE, Spain, Feb 14 (Reuters) – The only women’s team in the Volvo Ocean Race were hoping on Saturday that a bold tactical move to sail in the opposite direction to all but one other team in the fleet would pay dividends on leg four to Auckland from China.

While their rival boats ducked south in the 5,264-nautical mile (nm) route from Sanya to New Zealand, Team SCA (Sweden) went north in apparently the wrong direction towards Taiwan through the Pacific Ocean.

The only crew to follow their lead was Team Brunel (Netherlands), the boat led by Bouwe Bekking, who is competing in a record-equalling edition of the world’s most prestigious offshore sailing event.

The two boats are likely to sail more than 300nm further in the leg than the rest of the six-strong fleet but the pay-off is probable stronger wind pressure, which could well catapult them clear of the main pack in the long term.

As Team SCA’s navigator Libby Greenhalgh (Britain) conceded in a blog from her boat midweek, it is a strategy that could well take up to a week to play out — for good or bad.

“We are heading towards Taiwan and to the north, which is much the opposite direction to where New Zealand is and sounds a bit backwards in going forward. But looking at the routings and weather ahead, it seemed to be the right thing to do,” she wrote.

“It will appear at first that we have taken a massive loss but in about six days’ time we will see exactly how the cards have played out and whether it was worth taking the risk.”

Team SCA are the first all female team to take part in offshore sailing’s toughest crewed race for 12 years.

So far, after three legs of nine, they have been struggling against their elite male competition, finishing last in the previous two and second-last in the opening stage.

However, there are still six legs to sail in an event that will eventually cover 38,739nm and visit 11 ports plus every continent. It is scheduled to finish on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

The boats are expected to arrive in Auckland on March 1-2. (Editing by Toby Davis)

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