Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing tighten grip on in-port race series with second in Sanya
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – 7 February, 2015:Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR) - the UAE capital’s entrant into the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) - extended its lead in the In-Port Series with a second place finish in the Sanya In-Port Race in China on Saturday.
The Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi)-backed crew made it four-out-of-four podium finishes in the ‘short-course’ Series, crossing the finish line behind winners and ‘home’ team Dongfeng and ahead of Team Alvimedica in third place.
After a second place in Alicante, a first in Cape Town, and a third in Abu Dhabi, ADOR, led by double Olympic medallist Ian Walker, are now four points clear at the top of the In-Port Series leaderboard.
The In-Port race results do not count towards the overall VOR points tally, but could be used to split a tie at the very end of the race in Gothenburg in June, so Saturday’s result banks important points for ADOR’s overall challenge.
The one hour, three-lap race was sailed in light and shifty winds on the waters off Serenity Marina on China’s Hainan Island and produced some of the most thrilling in-port race action so far with several lead changes and plenty of close boat-to-boat encounters around the tight inshore course.
ADOR, onboard Azzam – which means ‘determination’ in Arabic - made a bold move soon after the start, gybing away from the pack to search for stronger wind on the right of the course. That move put Azzam in third place at the first pair of turning marks, hot on the heels of Turkish-flagged entry Team Alvimedica and the Dutch crew Team Brunel.
One lap later the Azzam crew had to dig deep when they dropped to fourth when Dongfeng surged past the leading three and took the lead. Walker’s men held their nerve though and clawed their way back into contention at the start of the last lap by passing first Brunel and then Alvimedica.
At the final turning mark Azzam was just 20 seconds behind the Chinese yacht as the pair started the last leg but try as they might the ADOR crew could not find a way past and at the finish had to settle for second.
“It was great racing – really tight with lots of lead changes,” said Walker. “I’m pleased with second place of course – it’s another podium and we have doubled our lead in the overall series - but I’m also frustrated not to have been able to get past Dongfeng.”
ADOR’s Emirati sailor Adil Khalid agreed that the racing had been exciting and paid tribute to the tactics of skipper Walker and navigator Simon Fisher.
“It was not easy to predict what the wind was going to do out there,” Khalid said. “Ian and SiFi work well together and they always had a comeback plan when we got behind. We were close with Dongfeng on the last leg of the course and I thought for a while that we would close them down – but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.”
For his part, Fisher said he had enjoyed the challenge of making sense of the unpredictable conditions and clocking up another top three result.
“It looked for a while that the course would be quite one-sided with not many passing lanes,” Fisher said. “The wind was quite hard to read but there were plenty of chances to make a comeback and that made the racing really good fun.”
ADOR now has less than 24-hours to switch into offshore mode before the crew sets off to the 5,264 nautical mile fourth leg to Auckland, New Zealand. ADOR will start Leg 4 in second place overall, just one point behind today’s in-port race winner Dongfeng.