Hectic opening

Controversy continued for Team AzkoNobel ahead of the first leg the Volvo Ocean Race, 1450 nautical miles from Alicante, Spain to Lisbon, Portugal via Porto Santo.

Photography by Volvo Ocean Race

23 October 2017


In a big back flip following arbitration, Simeon Tienpont was reinstated as skipper of Team AkzoNobel just hours before start time.

The team has been in flux since it was announced that original skipper Simeon Tienpont was off the team and replaced by watch captain Brad Jackson last weekend. Following Tienpont’s return, Jackson, navigator Jules Salter, and Joca Signorini have decided not to sail the first leg and are considering their future plans. Rome Kirby has also decided not to sail.

The Dutch Arbitration Institute settled the dispute on Friday evening, and its decision was to find fault with the team’s actions. This paved the way for Tienpont’s reinstatement. The team submitted an updated crew list with Tienpont leading a newly constituted squad, shortly before the dockout.

It is still not clear what prompted such a radical move by Team AzkoNobel to remove their skipper just before the start of the series, with both parties keeping details close to the chest. Described by AkzoNobel officials as a breach of contract. The breach was apparently related to Tienpont’s management company Steam, which had been contracted to manage all facets of AkzoNobel’s entry.


In a statement released by the team, Tienpont commented that, “this has obviously been an incredibly difficult time for everyone involved since we arrived here in Alicante just 10 days ago. I have now reached an agreement with AkzoNobel and all parties now want to put this behind us and focus on our campaign for the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18.

“I would like to thank Brad Jackson for stepping up at such a challenging time to keep Team AkzoNobel moving forward with our preparations for the race. Thanks also go to Joca Signorini and Jules Salter for their contributions to the campaign so far and also to Rome Kirby. We are grateful to Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag team owner Seng Huang Lee and skipper David Witt for loaning us Antonio Fontes for this first leg.

“Personally, I am relieved to be back with my team and excited to be getting our Volvo Ocean Race campaign underway.”

The new crew list is as follows:

  • Simeon Tienpont – skipper
  • Brad Farrand
  • António Fontes
  • Martine Grael
  • Luke Molloy
  • Ross Monson
  • Emily Nagel
  • Nicolai Sehested


On the sailing side, conditions couldn’t have been better for the start of the first leg.

The fleet of seven teams got underway in bright sunshine and a 15-20 knot Easterly breeze.

The bay off the Alicante sea front was crowded with hundreds of spectator boats, ringing a short inshore race course, before the fleet was free to fly off, downwind, towards Gibraltar.

They were treated to some of the most intense racing ever seen in the opening minutes of a Volvo Ocean Race.

The highlight came on the approach to the final turning mark before leaving the bay, when Dongfeng Race Team came screaming in on a collision course with Team Brunel and MAPFRE, both of whom were forced into a quick gybe to avoid the right of way Chinese boat.


Separated by less than a metre at times, as they went through their manoeuvres, the on-water Umpires judged neither Brunel nor MAPFRE had kept sufficiently clear and penalised both, pushing them back down the fleet.

“This is going to be such a close race, every metre counts,” Dongfeng skipper Charles Caudrelier had said before the start. “We know we will be fighting all the way to the finish.”

After winning round one of the fight, Dongfeng then sped off with the lead, with Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, Vestas 11th Hour Racing and Turn the Tide on Plastic in close pursuit. All three would thread their way through the spectator fleet, at times within an arm’s length of the astonished guests, before finding a clear passage out to sea.

With the start behind them, the teams will settle into the routine of life at sea, as they begin the first leg of what will be a 45,000 nautical mile race around the planet.


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