Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing remain top of In-Port Race leaderboard despite sixth place finish in Auckland
Abu Dhabi, UAE, 14 March 2015: Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR) – the United Arab Emirates’ entrant into the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) – maintained its lead in the round-the-world race’s ‘short-course’ Series despite having to settle for sixth place in today’s New Zealand Herald In-Port Race in Auckland.
Despite having Kiwi rugby hero Jonah Lomu aboard as celebrity guest for the sixty-minute race in Auckland Harbour, an unexpected windshift just minutes after the start left ADOR at the back of the pack early on.
The result – the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi)-backed team’s first non-podium result in the race so far – sees it tied on points at the top of the leaderboard with Dutch crew Team Brunel, but leading the In-Port Series on count-back. Swedish all-female crew Team SCA became the first team to win two races when they capitalised on their first leg lead to take victory.
Despite the early windshift dumping ADOR’s yacht Azzam to the back of the fleet just a few minutes into the race, the crew, led by double Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker, immediately set about clawing their way back into contention. But the course, which took the fleet under the Auckland Harbour Bridge twice, offered few chances to overtake, meaning a podium place was never on the cards.
ADOR had to settle for giving Turkish/American Team Alvimedica a scare when they almost overtook them on the finish line, missing out on claiming fifth by just one second.
ADOR skipper Walker was philosophical about the team’s worst result in the In-Port Series so far.
“At the start there were two winds fighting to establish themselves and we had to choose which one we thought would win,” he said. “As it turned out, we backed the wrong horse in the end, but that’s just sailing – it happens sometimes. The course meant there weren’t any passing lanes so it was hard to put together a comeback.”
After taking a turn at Azzam’s wheel before the race and then getting a close up view of the Azzam crew in action from his vantage point in the stern, celebrity guest Lomu said he was hugely impressed with the level of skill, strength and stamina shown by the ADOR sailors.
“Even though the winds didn’t go their way today they never let their heads down once and that’s the sign of a solid team,” Lomu said. “Having seen how Azzam performs in today’s lightish breezes, I can only imagine how fast she must be in the open ocean. Being on-board today has given me a newfound respect for what these guys do. It’s been an experience I will always cherish.”
For Under-30 reserve sailor Louis Sinclair the race was his first chance to race as part of the ADOR line-up after being called in to replace UAE Olympian Adil Khalid who missed the previous leg due to illness and is still recovering. Sinclair said the action on-board Azzam during the short course race had been frenetic.
“Racing these ocean-going yachts around a short course is always tough,” Sinclair said. “We gave it everything we had to get back into the race but it just wasn’t to be. The guys made it easy for me to slot into the line-up and the fact that our manoeuvres were smooth is a positive we can take from the race.”
Normally ADOR would have just 24-hours to refocus from inshore to offshore sailing for the start of the next leg the next day. However, the imminent arrival of severe cyclone Pam in the area has forced race organisers to delay the fleet from leaving until Tuesday afternoon at the very earliest. The idea of running an exhibition charity race was also scrapped when weather experts predicted 40-knot winds for midday on Sunday.
With an extra 48-hours or more time to prepare, the ADOR sailors will concentrate on refining their strategy for the 6,772-nautical-mile passage that will take them through the desolate expanses of the Southern Ocean and around Cape Horn before they turn north towards the finish in Itajaí, Brazil.