Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing Tops in-port race series leaderboard after newport fightback
Azzam Finishes Third in Rhode Island to Secure 12th Podium Finish From 13 Starts
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR) – the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) team from the capital of the UAE – surged back to the top of the In-Port Race Series (IPRS) leaderboard after battling back from last place to finish third in the American leg of the ‘sprint’ competition.
The result in Newport, Rhode Island on May 16 is the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi)-backed team’s 12th podium result from 13 starts in this edition of the race and means it now tops the IPRS standings as well as top spot on the leaderboard for the main race - an eight-month, nine-leg, 39,000-mile, multi-ocean challenge around the world.
ADOR’s UAE sailor Adil Khalid said the crew was jubilant after what he said had been a close-fought hour of racing in front of a large and noisy Newport crowd.
Photo caption: Thousands of fans line the rocks in Newport Harbour to
watch the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Race
"There are few places in the world more closely associated with yacht racing than Newport – it’s in people’s blood here, so we wanted to put on a good show for the fans," - Khalid said.
The course saw the fleet sailing straight lines between the turning markers and there were scarce opportunities to make gains or overtake. On the first leg, disturbed wind flow from yachts nearby slowed the Abu Dhabi yacht Azzam significantly and she rounded the first marker in last place.
However, ADOR skipper Ian Walker and his crew held their nerve and soon after overtook Dutch crew Team Brunel on the second leg before splitting with the pack on the penultimate leg to leapfrog both Dongfeng Race Team and Team SCA into third place.
Double Olympic silver medalist Walker said he was pleased with the result which came after the Azzam crew staged a fightback from last place at the first rounding marker. With the In-Port race used to split any tie in the overall series, Walker said regaining the series lead and holding an 8-point IPRS advantage over Dongfeng Race Team was an important boost for the team.
"The in-port racing is always tight,” Walker said. “But the natural topography in Newport means the racecourse is long and narrow and that forced the yachts even closer together and that made it harder to find passing lanes."
And ADOR’s navigator Simon Fisher, who masterminded the comeback, agreed, saying: "The tactical options were few and far between. We had to stay calm and take our chances when they came. In the end, third is a good result and it puts us back on top in the series by a point."
Sailing on board Azzam as celebrity guest was six foot nine inch professional ice hockey player Zdeno Chára - captain of the local Boston Bruins team and famous for having the hardest slap shot in the game.
Prior to joining the ADOR crew on board Azzam, a large crowd cheered Chára on as he took on the ADOR crew in a penalty shoot using a street hockey puck and goal. All of the sailors hit the target, but Spaniard Chuny Bermúdez impressed the most - hitting a shot that had Chára nodding with approval.
Afterward, Chára, who led ADOR to the dock in the Sailors’ Parade, said racing on Azzam had been a breathtaking experience that he would never forget.
"It was thrilling, all action from start to finish," - Chára said. "Ian and Adil showed me how Azzam worked before the race - but when the start gun went the guys were working flat out the whole time. This is a great crew who really work well together so I’m not surprised they are leading the race. I’ll be rooting for them now for the rest of the race."
As ever, the ADOR crew had to quickly reset their minds from inshore to offshore racing as they pack their bags for the start of the race’s seventh leg across the Atlantic Ocean to Lisbon, Portugal on Sunday afternoon.
More Information about:
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, please visit www.volvooceanraceabudhabi.com.
Abu Dhabi, please visit www.visitabudhabi.ae.