Three teams started the final leg of the Volvo Ocean Race on Thursday afternoon in an unprecedented dead-heat on the overall leaderboard.

And in the winner-take-all sprint from Gothenburg to The Hague, it was Charles Caudrelier’s Dongfeng Race Team taking the early advantage over their rivals for the overall title, Team Brunel and MAPFRE.

While Dongfeng Race Team found a clean lane to windward for the race start, Xabi Fernández’s MAPFRE and Bouwe Bekking’s Team Brunel were entangled at the leeward end of the line. In fact, MAPFRE was boxed out at the line and needed to circle around before starting behind the fleet.

As the boats lined up for the early reaching stage of Leg 11, Caudrelier was in pole position for the win, vying with team AkzoNobel for the early leg lead, well ahead of his competition for overall race victory, Brunel and MAPFRE.

“We’re excited to get going on this leg. It looks interesting and this is the kind of leg I really like,” Caudrelier had said before the start. “It’s reminds me of when I started to race, this kind of coastal racing. We’re ready for the fight and we know it’s going to be a big fight for sure.”

Bekking’s Team Brunel is the form team, having won three of the last four legs. They will need all of that ‘flow’ as the skipper calls it, to grab the title in The Hague.

“We believe we can win. I believe we can win,” Bekking said on the dock, pre-start. “It’s a fantastic way to finish this race. It’s my eighth time and we think we can we do it. As a team we’re still growing and we’re confident we can beat the two red boats.”

For MAPFRE the intensity of the final leg is something skipper Xabi Fernández welcomes.

“We’ve prepared all we can and we have plenty of confidence,” Fernández said. “We’re happy to have a little bit of everything in the forecast for this leg. There won’t be much of a watch system for this one – all hands on deck!”

There’s another battle at the opposite end of the leaderboard where David Witt’s SHK/Scallywag leads Dee Caffari’s Turn the Tide on Plastic by just one point. Caffari has made it clear she would love to overhaul the Scallywags on the final leg of the race.

“We need to beat them with a boat or more in between us,” Caffari said. “We do not want to finish at the bottom of the leaderboard… So we have to sail our boat confidently and at the level we know and make sure we’re in amongst the rest of the fleet.”

But early on it was Scallywag starting the upwind beat to Norway ahead of Turn the Tide on Plastic. And as the fleet settled into what will be a 100-mile upwind push to Norway, Vestas 11th Hour Racing topped the leaderboard marginally ahead of Dongfeng Race Team. Significantly, Team Brunel and MAPFRE were trailing the fleet.

The race course for Leg 11 takes the boats west out of the islets dotting the entrance to Gothenburg before turning north to head to a turning mark just off the coast of Norway. Then, it’s a dive south to round a mark near the Danish city of Aarhus, followed by a return north around the top of Denmark before racing south to The Hague. Numerous tactical options are in play throughout the leg, with the weather forecast promising strong winds early, and lighter conditions near the finish on Sunday.

“This leg is going to be about speed, managing the transitions, having the right sails, making the right choices,” Caudrelier said. “It’s a complete test. We will have all different kinds of windspeed and wind angles so it’s going to be the best team who has learned the most and can take the good decisions under pressure who will win.”

The ETA in Aarhus is for Friday afternoon, while the finish in The Hague is expected on Sunday afternoon. Factoring in the turning marks off Norway and Aarhus, the leg length could approach 1,000 nautical miles. (Note the turning mark off Norway is currently a mark of the course to be rounded before and after the Aarhus turning mark).

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Volvo Ocean Race Leg 11 Leaderboard – 1300 UTC Thursday 21 June
1. Vestas 11th Hour Racing – 951.8 nautical miles to the finish
2. Dongfeng Race Team – 0.0 nautical miles to leader
3. SHK / Scallywag – 0.1 nautical miles to leader
4. team AkzoNobel – 0.3 distance to the leader 
5. Turn the Tide on Plastic – 0.4 nautical miles to leader
6. Team Brunel – 0.7 nautical miles to leader
7. MAPFRE – 0.8 nautical miles to leader

Volvo Ocean Race Overall Points Leaderboard after Leg 10
1. MAPFRE – 65 points 
2. Team Brunel – 65 points 
3. Dongfeng Race Team – 64 points *
4. team AkzoNobel – 53 points 
5. Vestas 11th Hour Racing – 38 points 
6. SHK / Scallywag – 30 points 
7. Turn the Tide on Plastic – 29 points

* One additional point will be awarded to the team with the best elapsed time at the conclusion of the race in The Hague. Currently, Dongfeng would win this point.
** Should there be a tie on the overall race leaderboard at the end of the offshore legs, the In-Port Race Series standings will be used to break the tie.