Final sprint to Abu Dhabi

Volvo Ocean Race's 98 mile long leg 2B starts this morning

Wednesday January 4th 2012, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Arab Emirates

Following the shipping of the five boats for the 'mystery port' into the Gulf to sidestep the piracy threat that prevades most of the Indian Ocean, so leg 2B of the Volvo Ocean Race sets sail today at 0500 UTC with a final 98 mile long sprint from Sharjah to the finish in Abu Dhabi. Sharjah is the third largest emirate in the UAE, and is located just 10 miles northeast of Dubai.

The course takes the fleet initially out from the Sharjah coast (to avoid the Palm, etc) before turning for a fast run parallel with the shore. After rounding the final mark, the fleet will power directly towards the finish line at Abu Dhabi.

According to Telefónica's Navigator Andrew Cape says that they should finish the leg in roughly six and a half hours, which means that the second leg of the round the world regatta may finally be wrapped up by 15:00 UTC tomorrow.

“It'll be a battle of speed, but there is a bit of close-hauled at the beginning, right at the start, which will be very important," said Telefonica trimmer Xabi Alonso. "It will be important to get into a good position at the start.”

20% of the available points for leg 2 of the fully crewed round the world race are up for grabs.

“This is pretty unusual,” said Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper Ian Walker, who is looking forward to racing into the team’s home port. “We’ll be going for a bit of glory in Stage 2. They’ve done a fantastic job here and I’m sure whatever the result there’ll be a fantastic reception not just for us but for everyone.”

Despite their last-gasp victory in the first stage from Cape Town to the 'mystery port', Telefónica is not yet certain of overall leg honours. Iker Martinez' Spanish team scored 24 points when they arrived in the 'mystery port' just 1 minute 57 seconds ahead of Camper, which scored 20.

The winning team on leg 2B will scoop six points, with five for second, four for third, three for fourth and two for fifth. So if Camper was to win and Telefónica finish fifth, the teams would be on level points for Leg 2.

“It’s a day-long race and we’ll be thinking about it more or less like an in-port,” said Telefónica skipper Iker Martínez. "We'll have to be very focused."

Camper skipper Chris Nicholson predicted that slick work on sail changes could hold the key to victory. “We will need to change headsails for the long reach along the coast and then change again for the last leg to the finish. Getting each of those choices right could be the key moments for everyone.”

Puma skipper Ken Read, whose team are in fourth place overall after their Leg 1 dismasting, said the short race would be as competitive as any other. “You won’t see anyone letting up and you’ll see everyone pulling out all the stops. In the position we’re in we need the points. It’s not that anyone can say they don’t need the points but there are a couple of boats up there that are sitting fairly comfortably right now, and we’re chasing them so we need every point that we can get.”

The Groupama sailors had to carry out a minor repair on the hull at the unloading port late on Monday. A more comprehensive repair will have to wait until the shore crew have access to the boat in Abu Dhabi, but skipper Franck Cammas said it would not be a significant problem in the race.

"The boat had a crack on the ship,” Cammas explained. “There is a little plaster on the hull that the team had to fix. It's always annoying from a mood point of view, but we won't think too much about it. It will anyway be a minor brake to the boat's performance.”

Kiwi bowman Brad Marsh was suspended by his harness over the side of the hull to carry out the repair. "The position was uncomfortable and I was afraid of doing it wrong, but everything went very well. It was a real team effort," said Marsh.

Photos by Ian Roman/Volvo Ocean Race

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