LISBON, Oct 28 (Reuters) - American skipper Charlie Enright led his Vestas 11th Hour Racing team to a commanding victory in Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race on Saturday.
Vestas, sailing under American and Danish flags, held a lead of around 10 nautical miles (18.5 km) over Spanish rivals MAPFRE as the teams approached the Tagus river in Lisbon, at the end of the 1,650nm (3,055km) leg from Alicante, Spain, where the 2017-18 edition began last Sunday.
Victory was barely in doubt, although they did have to work hard on the way into Lisbon – putting in a series of tacks on the way to the line, after a lack of wind and the effects of the current had them going backwards for a short time.
MAPFRE went on to clinch second place, holding off Chinese team Dongfeng in third after the two teams were caught up in an agonising drift-off to the finish line.
Enright, the 33-year-old from Rhode Island, is only the third American skipper to win the opening leg of the race around the world, which has been run every three or four years since 1973.
The other two – John Kostecki, on Illbruck in 2001-02, and Paul Cayard on EF Language in 1997-98 – went on to seal overall victory.
“It was something else,” Enright said from the boat as the team pulled into Lisbon. “It feels like a lot longer than six days, I can tell you that. (I) Can’t argue with the result.
“For us it’s really been about improving every day. We prioritised getting the right people. We’ve felt like we’ve improved every time we’ve been sailing so this gives us a lot of confidence.
“We have a good group of people who work well together and see the world the right way. We try not to get too high or too low.”
Racing resumes on November 5 with Leg 2 from Lisbon to Cape Town in South Africa.
In total, the teams will race more than 83,000 kilometres around the world, on a course with a total of 12 host cities. (Editing by Christian Radnedge)