23 January 2018
It’s an historic win for skipper David Witt and his team who had to overcome significant setbacks on the fourth leg before grabbing the lead with a bold tactical call out of the doldrums last weekend. “We had a bit of a plan and we stuck to it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and this time it worked for us,” Witt said.
It was an extended doldrums crossing, and Scallywag had moments where they appeared to be in a strong position. But late in the crossing, after falling behind the fleet again, Witt and navigator Libby Greenhalgh made the decision to cut the corner, and turn to the west earlier than the opposition who kept pressing north in search of stronger winds.
The move paid dividends on the leaderboard almost immediately as Scallywag had less miles to sail to the finish line, but pundits cautioned that the teams in the north would almost certainly overhaul them as the trade winds filled in from the northeast. It never happened.
Even when the team dropped miles recovering man overboard Alex Gough who was swept off the boat by a wave, after executing a flawless recovery, Scallywag returned to racing and extended to a nearly 100-nautical-mile lead. It wasn’t long before the chasing boats began chipping away at the lead though, and two days out from the finish, the margin had been cut significantly and the pressure mounted.
“I was really impressed with the way we operated over the past couple of days,” Witt said.
“We had a pretty big lead and then through no fault of our own, about two-thirds of it got taken away. But we stuck to our guns, did what we thought was right, and it worked out.”
With the Leg 4 win, Scallywag picks up eight points (seven points for first place plus a one-point win bonus). It will vault the team up to mid-fleet on the overall leaderboard – and a very respectable fourth place.
“It was always going to take us longer than the others to get up to speed as we were the last to enter,” confided Witt.
“All teams need a bit of confidence, and one thing that is underrated in sport is momentum. This will certainly give the Scallywags plenty of that. We’re all still learning and we’re going to keep getting better as we go on.”
As the local team leading the fleet into the first ever Volvo Ocean Race stopover in Hong Kong, Witt acknowledged the significance of the win for team owner Seng Huang Lee, who has supported Scallywag sailing over the years. It’s a big moment: “We’re a privately owned team and our owner Mr Lee has poured his passion, enthusiasm and vision into this project. This win will be very special for him.
“Winning this leg will be a massive platform for Scallywag going forward.”
All eyes will be on her.