Volvo Ocean Race: 'Yes, we do know how to sail this boat'

(CNN)After 18 months of intense training, things hadn't started brightly for the first all-female team to sail in the Volvo Ocean Race for more than a decade.

Team SCA, based in Gothenburg, Sweden, struggled for form in the early stages of the grueling nine-leg, 39,000-mile, nine-month event.
Their failure to make too many waves drew some criticism from within the sailing world -- but the 15 crew members never lost belief.
    And everything changed when, in the eighth leg of the race from Lisbon, Portugal to Lorient in France, everything went right.
    Team SCA arrived in port after a dramatic night of sailing to find nobody else had got there yet.
    They had seen off the rest of the field and silenced their detractors by becoming the first all-female crew to win a leg of the race for a quarter of a century.
    English skipper Sam Davies told CNN's Mainsail: "We're all really competitive and we want to win.
    "We knew we were nearly there -- from leg three onwards, we made leaps and bounds in how we were sailing the boat and our speed.
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    "But every time we'd make a tiny mistake or be unlucky, and it only takes a tiny thing [to prove costly]. The levels are so high, and the other crews are so good.
    "So you might be getting pretty close, but you're still behind in the rankings -- and that's what the general public looks at."
    Davies said Team SCA only knew for sure that they had triumphed in leg eight when they reached land at Lorient.
    "You can watch them [the other boats] on the tracker, but it's not real until you're actually on the dock," she explained.
    "I guess leg eight was confirmation that yes, we do know how to sail this boat and we do know how to put it in the right place."
    She said the win demonstrated "the team spirit we have" but had not come about because the crew did anything that differed from previous legs.
    "It wasn't a case that something clicked and we'd learned how to do it -- we sailed the boat just how we had been," she explained.
    "It was an amazing feeling."
    Team SCA also achieved four podium positions in the Volvo's short In-Port racing events to go with their eighth-leg victory, including a 'home win' at Gothenburg.
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    Davies dedicated those successes to the memory of former coach Magnus Olsson, who died in 2013 at the age of 64.
    And she described how the crew had gone through "a massive learning curve" since its final lineup was selected 18 months ago.
    The Volvo Ocean Race took its competitors from Spain to South Africa, Abu Dhabi, China, New Zealand, Brazil, the U.S., the Netherlands and finally to Gothenburg.
    Davies added: "We've had some amazing experiences, ups and downs, memories that are going to last forever.
    "There's nothing like the pressure of the race, and the last nine months have been really satisfying -- especially managing to win a leg. That's definitely made it worthwhile."
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    Satisfying it may have been -- but the relentlessly tough nature of the race meant there wasn't much in the way of celebrating.
    "Most of us just went to bed because we were so tired," Davies admitted ruefully. "We would have loved to have partied, but we couldn't.
    "I think it is the longest sporting event in the world, both in time and in distance. We don't have weekends. We don't have holidays.
    "I'm convinced I'm not going to be recovered for a good few months yet."