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Abu Dhabi clinch nerve-jangling victory

Fireworks go off, as Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, skippered by Ian Walker from the UK finish first on leg 7 ©PAUL TODD/Volvo Ocean Race
Fireworks go off, as Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, skippered by Ian Walker from the UK finish first on leg 7 ©PAUL TODD/Volvo Ocean Race

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing shrugged off seven months of frustration to secure their first leg victory, narrowly crossing the Lisbon finish line ahead of Groupama sailing team who have now claimed the overall race lead.

“It’s one of the most amazing experiences of my sailing career" -Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker


Ian Walker’s men crossed the finish line at 21:23:54 UTC, less than six minutes ahead of Groupama, after 12 days racing more than 3,500 nautical miles from Miami, across the Atlantic to Portugal. 

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG rounded out the podium, finishing third at 23:26:22 UTC.

The closest finish was reserved for Team Telefónica who rallied to claim fourth place just one minute and 42 seconds ahead of CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, who stalled in the Tagus River’s current just metres from the finish. Team Sanya crossed the line in sixth place at 01:44:25 UTC.

After brief celebrations a visibly emotional Walker spoke to volvooceanrace.com, saying that clinching victory in the leg, which they led from May 26, was one of the greatest moments of his sailing career.

“Do you think you can make the last 10 miles of a race any harder than that,’’ he said.

“It’s a massive relief it was such a tough race. Everyone knows we’re not as quick as some of the other boats so we just had to make up for it in other ways.

“It’s one of the most amazing experiences of my sailing career, that’s for sure. We paced ourselves pretty well, we were even sleeping today.

“We were preparing ourselves for a night in the river if we had to. Mentally, certainly I’m exhausted. It's just such a relief."

Abu Dhabi score 30 points for victory taking their total to 104 points in fifth place overall, while Groupama score 25 taking their score to 183.

The final line-up means Groupama have edged to the top of the overall leaderboard, having finished two places clear of Telefónica, the leaders since the end of Leg 1 in November.

PUMA score 20 points for third place, rounding their total to 171 points and taking them up to third overall. Skipper Ken Read said it was great to be on the podium.

"This is a great result -- it could have been first or last about a million different times,'' Read said. "This is a leg to survive. There’s still a lot of points on the board. To be on the podium is a big deal for us. We’ve come a long way."





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