Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing aiming for ‘high five’ at the New Zealand Herald In-Port Race in Auckland
Abu Dhabi, UAE, 13 March 2015: Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR) will be looking to make it five-out-of-five podium finishes in the In-Port Race series to tighten its grip at the top of the leaderboard as Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) action resumes on Saturday in Auckland, New Zealand.
The six-boat VOR fleet was scheduled to leave New Zealand for Brazil on Leg 5 the following afternoon. However, the threat of encountering huge boat-breaking seas in the open oceans of the South-Western pacific caused by Tropical Cyclone Pam has forced Race organisers to delay the start until at least Tuesday morning, New Zealand time, to allow the storm to pass.
However, fans can still catch some action on Sunday as, if inshore conditions around Auckland permit, an additional one-hour ‘short-course’ race is planned, although results from this ‘sprint challenge’ will not count towards the overall scores.
The team - led by British double Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker and backed by the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) - currently leads the short course series by four points after an unbroken string of top three results at the first four stopovers.
In-port races are used to decide a points-tie on the final overall leaderboard; ADOR and Dongfeng Race Team are tied on points in the main race after four legs, but Abu Dhabi have the overall lead because of superior IPR Series results.
Walker said he and his crew were preparing for Saturday’s New Zealand Herald In-Port Race as diligently as they had on the four previous occasions.
“We have always known the in-port series is important and have always treated it as such,” Walker said. “Our lead in the series is the result of that strategy and we want to consolidate our advantage with a good placing on Saturday. Auckland is a great venue for spectators to get a good view of the fleet in action and if we get the solid breeze that is forecast it will be a real spectacle.”
Under-30 reserve Louis Sinclair will sail in place of UAE Olympian Adil Khalid who was not fully recovered from a bug that forced him out of the previous leg from China. Khalid flew to Auckland hoping to be well enough to sail but a medical assessment ruled him out of the gruelling 6,776-nautical mile leg through the freezing Southern Ocean to Itajaí, Brazil. Under race rules sailors racing in-port races must have taken part in either the previous offshore leg or be on the crew list for the next one.
Khalid, who worked intensively with medical staff and fitness specialists in Abu Dhabi during Leg 4 to try to be ready to re-join the Azzam line-up in Auckland, said he was disappointed not to be going and would redouble his efforts to be ready for action in Brazil.
“We all want to sail every leg so to miss two legs is very disappointing,” he said. “However, I’m not well enough to come back just yet. I will be cheering the boys on from Abu Dhabi though and I will be on the dock in Itajai to greet them when they arrive.”
ADOR’s official under-30 reserve, 24-year-old Sinclair was born in New Zealand but is an Antiguan national. He has sailed regularly with the crew in pre-race training and said he was excited to join the line-up for Leg 5.
“To get the chance to race with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing in the Volvo Ocean Race is an amazing opportunity,” he said. “I did plenty of miles with the guys before the race so I’m hoping I will be able to slot in without too much trouble.”
Lending his support to the ADOR crew for the In-Port race will be rugby legend and scorer of the most ever tries in rugby World Cup history, Jonah Lomu who will join the sailors as celebrity guest on board Azzam for the day. Lomu said he was looking forward to seeing the Abu Dhabi yacht perform.
“Azzam looks amazing and I can’t wait to see her in action,” Lomu said. “I understand it takes good teamwork, strength and power to get the best out of a racing yacht. Those are things I know plenty about!”
The New Zealand Herald In-Port Race starts at 1400 local time (0500 in Abu Dhabi) on Saturday and ADOR fans can watch the action live at volvooceanrace.com.