Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing on a roll
The Ian Walker-skipper Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing scored her second victory in two days as she clinched first place on leg 3A, the reverse of leg 2B, a 106 mile sprint up the United Arab Emirates coast to Sharjah, east of Dubai.
From the start, the Spanish VO70 Telefónica was fastest out of the blocks, leading the five boats off the line. Ahead of England's first Test against Pakistan in Dubai next week, cricketers Alistair Cook and Graeme Swann joined Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing for the race start, before diving off the boat.
Some slick sailing from Ian Walker's crew saw them jump from fifth to second around the inshore course, while Puma locked horns with Groupama in some aggressive close-quarters combat.
But after more than 100 miles of racing the sprint to Sharjah was decided in the final 10 miles. Telefónica led the fleet around the final turning mark, but in a replay of what occured on Leg 2B to Abu Dhabi, the Spanish VO70 was unable to defend her lead. The black UAE entry made a last ditched charge for the finish line, overhauling leaders both Telefonica and second-placed Groupama with less than three nautical miles to go. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crossed the finish line at 1629 UTC just one minute and 16 seconds ahead of Puma Ocean Racing in second.
“It was a very good two days for us,” said a jubilant Walker. “I think what everybody is seeing here is what all the skippers have been saying all along - we have five very good boats and five very good teams and it’s easy to be last. Telefónica, you thought they would win that hands down with the lead they had and it’s just not that easy because you’ve got very good people behind you and you don’t need to do much wrong for people to come past.”
Puma also staged an impressive comeback rising through the fleet from fifth to second in the dying moments to claim five points. Skipper Ken Read said the result made up for the disappointing fourth-place finish in the in-port race: “For sure we were going faster in the reaching conditions,” Read said. “The tweaks that we’ve done have obviously appear to have helped in those conditions, so we’re very pleased about that. We weren’t real stellar in that triangle out of the bay, but on the reach we were pretty quick. Tactically on the long run coming into here, we picked the correct side of the course so it was a nice comeback for the good guys.”
Franck Cammas’ Groupama took the final podium position and four points while Telefónica, skippered by Iker Martínez, had to settle for fourth place and three points after being reeled in on the home strait. Chris Nicholson’s Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand took fifth, scoring two points.
From Sharjah the five VO70s will again cross the pirate-infested waters of the Indian Ocean by ship to the 'mystery port' where they will be unloaded. Racing will resume from the mystery port to Sanya, China on around 23 January.
Team Sanya, forced to retire from Leg 2 with rig damage, will meet the fleet at the 'mystery port' and rejoin racing for Leg 3B.
Leg 3A results:
|1||Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing||Ian Walker||6h 29m 45s|
|2||Puma||Ken Read||6h 31m 01s|
|3||Groupama||Franck Cammas||6h 33m 09s|
|4||Telefonica||Iker Martinez||6h 34m 45s|
|5||Camper||Chris Nicholson||6h 38m 34s|
|5||Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing||Ian Walker||6||31|