Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing won two races in two days on home waters, taking first place in a thrilling Leg 3 Stage 1 sprint from Abu Dhabi up the coast of the United Arab Emirates and the In-port race of the Abu Dhabi Volvo Ocean Race stopover.
Ian Walker’s team surged for the Sharjah finish line at the end of a 106 nautical mile sprint from their home town, overhauling long-term leaders Team Telefónica and second-placed Groupama sailing team with less than three nautical miles to go to claim a maximum six points at 1629 UTC.
Victory, by a margin of just one minute 16 seconds, followed hot on the heels of their resounding success in Friday’s Etihad Airways In-Port Race and came in stark contrast to their disappointing fifth place arrival into their home port at the end of Leg 2.
Ian Walker said:
“It was a very good two days for us. I think what everybody is seeing here is what all the skippers have been saying all along, we have five very good boats and five very good teams and it’s easy to be last. Telefónica, you thought they would win that hands down with the lead they had and it’s just not that easy because you’ve got very good people behind you and you don’t need to do much wrong for people to come past.”
PUMA Ocean Racing also staged an impressive comeback rising through the fleet from fifth to second in the dying moments to claim five points. Skipper Ken Read said the result made up for the disappointing fourth-place finish in the in-port race.
“For sure we were going faster in the reaching conditions. The tweaks that we’ve done have obviously appear to have helped in those conditions, so we’re very pleased about that. We weren’t real stellar in that triangle out of the bay, but on the reach we were pretty quick. Tactically on the long run coming into here, we picked the correct side of the course so it was a nice comeback for the good guys.”
Franck Cammas’ Groupama took the final podium position and four points while Telefónica, led by Iker Martínez, had to settle for fourth place and three points after being reeled in on the home strait. Chris Nicholson’s CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand took fifth, scoring two points.
As with Leg 2 of the race, Leg 3 is split into two parts to prevent the boats from sailing through dangerous waters off the coast of Africa. The fleet will be loaded onto a ship in Sharjah and transported to a safe haven port in the Indian Ocean. Once the boats are unloaded, racing will resume to Sanya around January 23, and the first boats could reach Sanya by February 4.