Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing wins squally Cape Town In-Port Race
Abu Dhabi, UAE, 15th November 2014 - Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR) – the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi)-backed entry in the Volvo Ocean Race – won the Cape Town In-Port Race on Saturday after a bold opening move proved decisive in wildly fluctuating winds up to 25 knots in Table Bay.
ADOR was the first of the seven crews to react to a significant shift in wind in the final minutes before the start, breaking away from the rest of the fleet to start alone on the left hand end of the line. The move immediately paid dividends, giving skipper Ian Walker and his crew an early lead that they maintained to round the first marker 30 seconds ahead of the Swedish all-women crew, Team SCA.
Near-perfect tactical positioning from navigator Simon Fisher on the second leg earned ADOR a one-and-a-half minute advantage at the end of the first lap. However, the wind was becoming increasingly unpredictable. With two more laps to go, nothing could be taken for granted and the ADOR sailors had to stay on their guard to hold off the chasing Swedish crew.
ADOR began the final leg 45 seconds ahead but in the first half of the leg SCA and the Dutch crew, Team Brunel, narrowed their lead considerably. However, Walker’s decision to fly Azzam’s largest headsail saw them pull away again when the breeze dropped down to 10 knots halfway to the finish. From there on it was straightforward sailing for ADOR and at the finish they crossed the line one minute and three seconds ahead of Brunel who snatched second from SCA in the final minutes of the race.
Although the hour-long race does not count towards the overall Volvo Ocean Race score, Walker said he and crew never took anything for granted in the tricky conditions.
“We got a great start and that gave us a jump on the rest of the fleet,” he said. “But there were plenty of pot holes to dodge along the way. It was very squally and unpredictable out there and we couldn’t relax for a second. What ultimately pulled us through was great crew work and boat handling – I asked a lot of the crew and they came through brilliantly.”
Emirati sailor Adil Khalid said the action on board Azzam had been frenetic as the eight-man crew wrestled the 65-foot ocean going yacht around the tight inshore course in gusty conditions in the shadow of Table Mountain.
“It was a real workout,” Khalid said. “Azzam is an ocean thoroughbred designed for eating up miles offshore. In-port racing is always tough on the crew but when conditions are as changeable as today it means lots of sail changes and that is really physically challenging for the sailors.”
The ADOR sailors were joined for the one-hour race by South Africa’s leading triathlete Richard Murray, who described the experience as ‘fascinating’.
“It was non-stop action out there,” Murray said. “I had know idea how incredibly strong and fit the sailors need to be. The pace was relentless and there was never a moment to relax. From the moment we started, there was no let up in the work rate - everyone was working at 100 per cent all the time.”
The Cape Town victory, along with a second place in the Alicante In-Port Race in October, puts ADOR in first place in the overall In-Port Race series. However, the team must now switch modes to be ready for the start of Leg 2 on Wednesday November 19, when the seven boat international fleet will set off on the 6,125-nautical mile passage to Abu Dhabi.