Volvo Ocean Race: In Neptune’s Court

Charles Caudrelier’s Dongfeng Race Team led the fleet over the famous line of latitude at 0941 UTC with the slimmest of leads over MAPFRE, Vestas 11th Hour Racing, Team Brunel and team Akzonobel. By 1126 UTC all five boats in the tight leading pack had crossed the Equator, the delta between them just shy of 18 nautical miles going into their ninth day at sea in Leg 2.

Turn the Tide on Plastic and Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag, in sixth and seventh respectively only 60 miles behind Dongfeng, are tipped to cross the Equator within the next few hours. With the crossing of the Equator came the offerings to King Neptune, the Roman God of the Sea. Ancient maritime tradition dictates that any sailor that hasn’t yet crossed the Equator – known as a Pollywog – be inducted into Neptune’s court by the Shellbacks, those onboard with crossings already under their belts.

The induction ceremony usually involves a certain degree of hair shaving while being covered in whatever slop the team have managed to concoct over the previous few days. Four days’ worth of rotting freeze-dried food went over the heads of Dongfeng’s Equator rookies Jack Bouttell and onboard reporter Jeremie Lecaudey, while Team Brunel’s Peter Burling waved goodbye to his hair.

Across the fleet there are 21 sailors to initiate – while of the seven OBRs only Turn the Tide on Plastic’s Sam Greenfield was safe from Neptune. Even Turn the Tide on Plastic skipper Dee Caffari had to fend off desperate claims from her teammates that, despite having five laps of the planet to her name, she hadn’t been properly inducted because her previous Equator crossings had been solo.

“You’re going to really struggle to say that I haven’t done any proper Equator crossings,” she told her mutinous crew, laughing. “It ain’t gonna happen, and any revolt will be punished 10 times worse.”

Besides crossing into the Southern Hemisphere, Caffari’s team had plenty of reasons to celebrate. They pulled back a place in the…

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