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Mixed emotions as Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing reach safe haven

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, training in Cascais, prior to the start of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 © Ainhoa Sanchez/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, training in Cascais, prior to the start of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 © Ainhoa Sanchez/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing arrived in the Volvo Ocean Race safe haven on Tuesday in fifth place, meaning all the boats being shipped to Abu Dhabi have completed the first stage of Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race.

“I am upset not to have finished with a better result but on the other hand after the disaster of breaking our mast on Leg 1 I feel a strange feeling of relief to have at least completed the first part of the second leg” - Ian Walker


Ian Walker’s crew crossed the line at 08:56:38 UTC, 15 hours behind stage winners and overall race leaders Team Telefónica.

Stepping off his team’s Volvo Open 70 Azzam for the first time in 16 days, British double Olympic silver medallist Walker said he had mixed feelings about the result.

“I am upset not to have finished with a better result but on the other hand after the disaster of breaking our mast on Leg 1 I feel a strange feeling of relief to have at least completed the first part of the second leg,” he said.

“To have failed to make the stopover in Abu Dhabi would have been absolutely disastrous for the team and the stopover.”

A thrilling finale to the race, from Cape Town to an undisclosed ‘safe haven’ in the Indian Ocean saw Iker Martínez’s Telefónica edge out arch-rivals CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand by just one minute and 57 seconds after more than 15 days’ sailing.

PUMA Ocean Racing, who also suffered a broken mast in Leg 1, took third place finishing at 23:33:10 UTC on Monday, with Groupama sailing team more than two hours behind arriving in the safe haven at 02:04:20 UTC on Tuesday.

During the first stage of Leg 2, Abu Dhabi held the lead on five separate occasions but fell foul of a low pressure trough that blocked the fleet’s path for several days.

After making back more than 150 nm on the leaders, a slow Doldrums crossing all but sealed Abu Dhabi’s fate.

“It has been a very bizarre leg and one during which we have scarcely seen another boat after the first night despite a very conservative strategy,” Walker added.

“Fifth place does nothing to help get us back up the leaderboard where we wish to be and every member of the crew is feeling the pain.

“One thing that gets to me is that the guys have sailed the boat pretty well and yet all the effort expended actually now counts for very little in terms of reward.”

Walker said his crew would regroup at the safe haven and turn their focus to the second part of the leg into their home port of Abu Dhabi.

“There is no shame in being beaten by any of the teams in this race and the pain of finishing fifth will make the taste of future victories even sweeter,” he said.

To reduce the risk of piracy, race organisers implemented a stealth zone in which the positions of the yachts were withheld for the latter part of the leg to mask the identity of the safe haven port.

The five boats will now be loaded on to a ship – a risky manoeuvre that has never been done in the race before – and transported to a point off the Sharjah coastline in the northern United Arab Emirates, from where the leg will be completed with a day-long sprint to Abu Dhabi.

Team Sanya, the sixth boat in the Volvo Ocean Race fleet, was forced to suspend racing and head for Madagascar after picking up rigging damage while in the lead on Day 9.

Their current focus is on getting the boat in the best shape possible for Leg 3 into their home port of Sanya in China.


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