First Gulf Entry Snatches Top Points In ‘Everest of Sailing’ Opener  

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing delivered a blow to its rivals, picking up the first points of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 with a commanding victory in the inaugural Iberdrola In-Port Race in Alicante, Spain.  

The crew, led by British skipper Ian Walker, came out on top in a tense start to what is shaping up to be the most hotly contested edition in the race’s 38-year history.  

Abu Dhabi timed its start to perfection and kept its nose in front of closest rivals CAMPER, as well as Emirates Team New Zealand and PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG, all the way to the first mark, rounding with an advantage of just 15 seconds.  

As the wind died, a slick sail change from the Abu Dhabi crew saw them round the second mark 26 seconds ahead of CAMPER, who then lost territory dramatically, losing second place to PUMA’s Mar Mostro and slipping down the fleet.   Abu Dhabi held off PUMA to go through the gate ahead once again and Walker and his crew on Azzam roared home first as the wind picked up again.  
PUMA finished in second place ahead of CAMPER, followed by Team Sanya, who came through with new breeze to roll Groupama on the line to take fourth. Team Telefónica were sixth.  

“It’s hugely satisfying and a real boost to the team’s confidence. We worked hard, and were really slick with our manoeuvres. Yet we still know we have a long way to go,” said Walker, skipper of Abu Dhabi’s state-of-the-art racing yacht, Azzam (determination).  

The win also marked the debut of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Emirati star, Adil Khalid, who becomes the first Gulf national to compete in the Volvo Ocean Race.   The Volvo Ocean Race is the world’s longest professional sporting event. Sailing the fastest monohull race yachts ever built, the six teams start in Alicante and end in Galway, Ireland next summer. The race will make history this New Year when it comes to Abu Dhabi – its first stop-over in Arabia.