Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing surged to a commanding victory in the Iberdrola in-port race in Alicante, taking maximum points from the first competitive action in the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 to gain an early advantage over their rivals.
The crew, led by British skipper and double Olympic silver medalist Ian Walker, roared home to a massive 14-minute win over their closest rivals to make it a dream debut for the first team from the United Arab Emirates to enter the race. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG were second, ahead of CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand in third. Team Sanya edged the Groupama sailing team in the battle for fourth and fifth, with Team Telefónica trailing home.
“It’s a great win — I feel fantastic,” said Walker on board Azzam, the team’s strikingly designed racing yacht. “It’s a great start for Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. I don’t think it means too much but I said before we left the dock that whoever wins today’s race can go home with a spring in their step and look forward to the week ahead.”
The in-port race marked the start of the epic 39,000 nautical mile round the world race, tipped to be the most hotly contested edition in the event´s 38-year history. And after opening their account with a crucial win, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing will go into the first offshore leg with a maximum six points and a psychological advantage.
In-port races take place in all 10 host ports around the world, testing the crews’ skills at close-quarters maneuvers and tactics. More than 20 percent of all points are up for grabs in the in-port racing, which could prove vital when overall positions are decided. The races also provide a show for the millions of people who will watch the race worldwide.
Strong winds and pelting rain greeted the teams as they left the dock in Alicante, Spain, but by the time the start gun fired at 1400 local time the weather cleared with a 10-15 knot breeze blowing down the race course and the state-of-the-art Volvo Open 70s blasting along Alicante’s coast around the short inshore course.
Courtesy of www.volvooceanrace.com.