Surprise! Our world exclusive scoop was confirmed by the folks at VOR today when they announced Pete Burling has joined Bouwe Bekking for the Dutch skipper’s 430th lap around the planet. Maybe more importantly, this shot from the Sailor Girl’s excellent Fastnet coverage shows supernav Andrew Cape aboard the bumblebee colored boat as well. Bouwe adds Capey and a golden boy who will undoubtedly be the fastest downwind driver in the fleet, and for us, there are now three clear favorites for the final crown of the VOD65 era. Yes, it’s a bit early for form guides, but now’s as good a time as any if you’re looking to place your bets. Our early call for the podium is below, in order.
- BRUNEL: Bouwe has finished in pretty much every position on the leaderboard except the one that counts, and his youth is far behind him. With the Dutch presence in the race and all eyes on the senior Dutch team, Bouwe has everything to prove and has never been more motivated. We may have discounted his chances thanks to history and a less-than-optimal budget, but nabbing the ETNZ driver and Olympic destroyer means his priorities are in the right place. In other words, in a fleet this close, a driver with a clear speed advantage and lots of durability is going to be the most important crew aboard.
- DONGFENG: They seemed likely to win the thing the last time around until losing the rig, and that was with n00b Chinese crew and a team more known for singlehanded prowess than good teamwork and communication. They’ve got one of the best navs (and solo skippers) in the world behind the nav station in Pascal Bidegorry, and almost everyone on the boat can drive the shit out of a boat. Expect Caudrelier to work a bit more on conserving the boat, and rack up the podium finishes needed to win this race.
- MAPFRE: Always a bridesmaid, but this time, without the bride. Well, without the fiery Iker Martinez who’s run the past couple of Spanish attempts at least, and with the more workmanlike, blue-collar Xabi at the reins and no Olympic distractions. Tuke, Altadill, and Greenhalgh mean plenty of speed on the helm, with serious Spanish sailing and stacking experience in big Pablo Arrarte and Antonio the boat captain. Spain has something no one else has though: Joan Vila is one of the two best offshore navigators in the world, and few will argue that point. Along with Stan Honey, this dude is pure money, and we’d expect MAPFRE to win quite a few legs – but probably not the race.