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Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing win Etihad Airways In-Port Race

by Volvo Ocean Race media 13 Jan 2012 12:38 GMT 13 January 2012

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing scored a commanding victory on home waters on Friday, taking top spot in the Etihad Airways In-Port Race to the delight of thousands of ecstatic fans at the Volvo Ocean Race's first Middle Eastern stopover.

Abu Dhabi, skippered by Ian Walker, produced a faultless performance along the eight nautical mile course to win in a time of 57 minutes 51 seconds ahead of Groupama sailing team in second and CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand in third.

Walker, twice an Olympic silver medallist for Britain, was joined on board by HRH Prince Andrew and Sheikh Shakhboot bin Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan for what was a second victory in three in-port races following their success in Alicante.

The enduring image of that victory in Spain was of a jubilant Adil Khalid, the first Emirati sailor to take part in the race, and the 23-year-old Abu Dhabi crewman was at the heart of the action again as waved a giant United Arab Emirates flag to the home crowd before being launched into the water by his team mates.

PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG were fourth and Team Telefónica, the overall race leaders, came in fifth.

Walker said victory made up for the disappointment of arriving into Abu Dhabi at the end of Leg 2 in fifth place.

Etihad Airways In-Port Race Highlights

“We so wanted to win the race so we were prepared to take risks,” said Walker, whose team picked up a maximum six points for their victory against the spectacular Abu Dhabi cityscape. “We knew if we could win it would be very special for everyone.

“We’re involved in a nine-month odyssey around the world but today is the most important day for Abu Dhabi. We have never seen this many boats out on the water to watch racing, and there are lots of people out who are new to sailing. Right now all they are seeing is their country flag being waved. It’s a real thrill for that to happen.”

Franck Cammas’ Groupama sailing team, winners of the Leg 2 second stage sprint into Abu Dhabi, took five points for second place. Chris Nicholson’s CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand took the final podium position and four points, their fifth podium finish of the race so far.

"I'm very pleased with the result but the thing I'm most pleased with is all the work of the team, which is something we set out to improve over the Abu Dhabi stopover," Cammas said.

“In this race things can turn around really quickly,” added Nicholson. “It's on a real knife edge. It only takes one bad result and that changes everything. We feel like we're nicely in the middle and we're poised to get it right. I can't wait until that moment.”

A light southerly breeze of around seven knots greeted the teams as they took to the racetrack in the waters off the Abu Dhabi Destination Village.

In an unusual downwind start, PUMA led off the line but their dreams of a win were all but ended shortly after the start when Ken Read’s team had to take a penalty turn for an infringement involving Team Telefónica.

Abu Dhabi snuck round the first mark ahead, chased by Groupama. The two teams exchanged the lead on the way to the second mark before Abu Dhabi emerged in front. Nothing was going to tear victory from Ian Walker’s hands as he and his crew sailed a perfect race, winning by 57 seconds.

“People will ask whether this win will restore our confidence but we never lost confidence,” Walker added. “We feel we’re only just getting started in this race. Sometimes it’s your day, sometimes it isn’t. The main thing is to enjoy the moment.”

Despite today’s results, the overall leaderboard remains unchanged although CAMPER are now within six points of overall leaders Telefónica.

Saturday sees the start of Leg 3 from Abu Dhabi to Sanya in the Chinese province of Hainan. As with Leg 2 of the race, Leg 3 will be split into two parts to prevent the boats from sailing through dangerous waters off the coast of Africa. Early forecasts are tipping fresh north-west winds of 13 to 16 knots inshore, building to 18 to 22 knots offshore.

Leg 3 Stage 1 starts at 1400 local time (1000 GMT) with the boats racing a short sprint to the northern United Arab Emirates before being loaded onto a ship and transported to a safe haven port in the Indian Ocean. Once the boats are unloaded, racing will resume to Sanya.

Etihad Airways In-Port Race Results:

1. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing – 57 minutes 51 seconds – 6pts
2. Groupama sailing team -- 58:48 – 5pts
3. CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand – 60:47 – 4pts
4. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG – 62:22 – 3pts
5. Team Telefónica – 62:47 – 2pts

Overall Standings:

1. Team Telefónica 68pts
2. CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 62pts
3. Groupama sailing team 47pts
4. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 31pts
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 25pts
6. Team Sanya 4pts*

* If Team Sanya complete Leg 2 Stage 1 under racing conditions they will receive four points for that stage, plus 1 point for Leg 2 Stage 2, and 2 points for the Etihad Airways In-Port Race.

Etihad Airways In-Port Race Full Replay

Pride of a nation as Azzam seals historic win (from Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing)

Jubilant Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing Crew Lays Down Marker in Volvo Ocean Race Ambitions

In the presence of Their Highnesses Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, and Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing claimed an historic win in the Volvo Ocean Race 2011/12 Etihad Airways In-Port Race in Abu Dhabi today.

The win sparked wild scenes of celebration both onboard the team’s Azzam (determination) yacht and in the purpose-built Race Destination Village on the Corniche breakwater, which was also attended by His Excellency Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, Chairman, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA).

A herculean effort by Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, skippered by Briton Ian Walker, a double Olympic medallists, and backed by ADTA, which is also behind the emirate’s historic maiden Volvo Ocean Race stopover - saw the 11-man team dominate a hugely tactical contest and romp home ahead of Groupama, CAMPER, Puma and Telefonica, respectively.

With special guests, His Highness Sheikh Shakhboot bin Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan and His Royal Highness Prince Andrew, Duke of York, also onboard Azzam for the day, an overjoyed and relieved Walker beamed with satisfaction at the finish line.

“We wanted to win this in-port race so much and we knew we would have to take some risks to do it. We always knew winning here would mean a very special day for everyone,” said Walker. “We’re involved in a nine-month odyssey that is made-up of lots of little bits, but today is a very important day for Abu Dhabi - it is the single biggest day of the race for us.

“We’ve only just started in this race, but we’ve never lost our confidence. The important thing is to enjoy the moment; you have to enjoy the good moments and not beat yourself up when things go wrong. This is a very special day.”

A clearly jubilant Adil Khalid, the Emirati crew member who clinched his spot in the team ahead of 120 other national hopefuls, revelled in the patriotic fervour as he proudly waved the UAE flag as Azzam crossed the finish line.

“Words just cannot express how I feel right now - this is the most special day of my life,” said Khalid, who was thrown overboard by his fellow crew members after the finish. "The feeling as we approached the finish when I knew we were going to take the win was incredible. Winning is the result of months and months of hard work by so many people; it is great that we could get the win and give Abu Dhabi and the UAE’s sailing community such a huge boost.”

With all five competing yachts’ skippers predicting the race would be won and lost at the start, perfect 10-12 knot winds prompted different philosophies off the line and the fleet was well spread in the downwind sprint to the first marker. As hundreds of spectator boats jostled for position, it was Azzam which benefitted from the best racing line at the right-hand side of the field to round mark one in the lead.

Closest challengers, Groupama, pushed and pushed in their chase of the front-runners, but Walker’s decision to opt for the seaward side into the second marker saw Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing consolidate its lead and, despite a few scares, never relinquish it.

The finish turned into a procession and with fresh cacophonies of cheers erupting from the spectator fleet every time Azzam rounded markers, euphoric scenes of celebration greeted the team’s victory.

“I’ve never seen this many boats in Abu Dhabi to watch a race,” said Walker. “It is an amazing scene and after the tough time we had in the previous legs, it is great to know that everyone will sleep well tonight!”

The Etihad Airways In-Port Race was shown on global television, with commentators immediately dubbing it the most riveting Volvo Ocean Race in-port race so far and a “tremendous win for the destination”.

As eyes moved away from the prize giving to the skies above, the tens of thousands of fans were treated to a special aerobatics show by the UAE’s Al Fursan team, who lit up Abu Dhabi’s skies with a series of gravity-defying moves in celebration of the race.

Franck Cammas affirms and reassures (from Groupama in the Volvo Ocean Race)

Though Ian Walker unquestionably dominated the In-Port race off Abu Dhabi, Franck Cammas and his men demonstrated outstanding potential in the light airs, which swept a race zone covered in spectator boats. By scoring second place, Groupama 4 confirms that her slight deficit in breeze of less than eight knots is already ancient history...

Little wind and glorious sunshine coloured this return to racing after a few days rest in Abu Dhabi: between five and seven knots of SE'ly wind graced the coastal course which involved a great deal of manoeuvres and various sides of the race zone, which was encircled by spectator boats. Indeed, though the fleet only had eight miles to cover (in less than an hour for the Emirati winner), there were no fewer than seven marks to be rounded with a spinnaker start, a few short stretches of reaching, two beats and another section under spinnaker in a relatively stable wind in terms of direction.

With Laurent Pagès calling tactics, Franck Cammas was put into a difficult position just prior to kick-off by Chris Nicholson, Camper keen to hang onto her pole position at the Committee boat end of the start line, leaving Groupama 4 in her wake... In the middle of the line, Puma was also knocked off course a bit as Telefonica managed to block her and a light contact forced Ken Read to perform a penalty turn after the start, which caused him to lose contact with the head of the fleet as he was already sailing under spinnaker before beginning the 360° move!

Good speed in light airs

Franck Cammas had us believe that the performance by Groupama 4 should be improved in breeze of less than eight knots. In this way, today's In-Port was an opportunity to confirm that the newly adjusted rig and the arrival of a new Code 0 (large genoa for sailing with eased sheets) could bear fruit. From the first spinnaker dash, the French crew were piling the pressure on the New Zealanders. Indeed by gybing just before Camper, Groupama 4 managed to reposition herself to windward in a little gust of breeze, which enabled her to cover her rival and overtake her prior to the first course mark. On the opposite side of the racetrack, `local boy' Ian Walker on Azzam, was first to round mark 1, with a lead of three boat lengths over the French boat, which was just ahead of Camper. Telefonica and Puma had already dropped back considerably by that stage. The first beat saw Franck Cammas, furthest to the right hand side of the race zone, cross in front of the Emirati boat, which was forced to bear away to avoid him. Azzam snatched back the lead at the end of this upwind section but only had a 43 second lead at mark 2, whilst the New Zealanders appeared to be less at ease in these light airs and the Spanish on Telefonica made a series of mistakes during their manoeuvres.

After two short sections of reaching, Ian Walker was controlling the fleet, shadowed by Franck Cammas, whilst the rest of the fleet were losing more and more ground. In this way Camper lost another minute to Groupama 4 after another spinnaker run, the wind still only reaching eight knots. For the Spanish meantime, a catastrophic spinnaker drop destroyed any chances of them making a comeback and their only hope was to continue their duel with Puma... As such the only teams vying for the two top spots were Abu Dhabi, unquestionably more at ease in these conditions, and Groupama 4, which was really hanging on in there! Indeed, the second beat enabled Ian Walker to open up his lead a little more on the French boat. The two final sprints with eased sheets, where Franck Cammas and his crew hoisted their Code 0, enabled them to make up over fifteen seconds in the last six minutes of the race...

Auguring well!

After Groupama 4's victory in the coastal race between Sharjah and Abu Dhabi and following this second place in the In-Port race, the French boat stands a good chance of scoring well in tomorrow's coastal course between Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, the first part of the third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. Indeed, the NW'ly breeze is set to hit nearly twenty knots during the long reach, after a warm-lap off the Emirati port. These conditions should favour Groupama 4 and the ease of manoeuvring experienced by Franck Cammas' crew today confirms that the sailors have made good progress in these short race formats. As regards the overall standing, the top three have bunched together following a poor performance by the Spanish today, whilst the Americans are now sixteen points shy of the French boat.

Quotes from the boat

Franck Cammas, skipper-helmsman on Groupama 4:
"It was a fine battle and a very fine score. Particularly of note was a fruitful confrontation with Camper, which is a real specialist in this type of short course. Our consistent performance enabled us to get past them. It's also great for Ian Walker and his crew on Abu Dhabi! They weren't the best conditions for us but we managed to get some good boat speed and that's good news for the next stage... We have to believe in what we do, take the initiative and be aggressive: we have to keep up the work we're doing. We've adapted the boat for the third leg where there will be a fair bit of close-hauled sailing and light airs and today's results back up our options: it's getting better and better aboard the boat in terms of communication and refining the trim. Even the best crews, such as that on Telefonica, can lose races, but we know that we're all very similar in terms of performance and the Volvo Ocean Race is very long! Things are working well for us at the moment and it's very hard to say who's going to lose and gain places over the coming legs..."

Laurent Pagès, tactician on Groupama 4:
"We're very happy with the result: some very good work by the whole crew and the tactics weren't easy, even though the conditions were relatively stable. On a personal level I'm really fond of courses where it's possible to play with the wind, both upwind and downwind. A spinnaker start is always very interesting. We had the opportunity to put more pressure on Abu Dhabi when it crossed just behind us on the first beat: we preferred to control Camper (currently more dangerous in the overall standing) which is still a threat to us at this stage of the race. I don't regret our decision and it's a very good thing for Azzam to have won today... I won't be at the start of the next leg, but I'll feel the same tension as the sailors! I have complete trust in the group which is homologous and really getting to grips with Groupama 4, an excellent boat, even in light conditions like today. We have no reason to have any hang-ups..."

Puma fourth in Abu Dhabi In-Port Race, ready for the start of leg 3 on Saturday (from PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG)

The PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG team collected three points with a fourth-place finish in the Etihad Airways In-Port Race on Friday, January 13, in Abu Dhabi, UAE – the third port of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing landed on top of the podium in their home port, followed by Groupama in second and CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand in third. PUMA ended with a time of 1:02.26, and remains in fourth place in the overall standings with 31 total points.

“We’re pretty demoralized at a umpire’s call on the first leg that essentially wrecked the race for us,” said skipper Ken Read. “We have to go talk to them to find out what they saw, because what they saw and what we saw are very different. So, we’ll get that sorted and move on to tomorrow. The good news is we have a quick turnaround to go redeem ourselves and not dwell on it. The bad news is we just lost a couple more points. It’s a shame because we really liked our spot.”

PUMA took a quick leap to lead off the starting line after a downwind start before being forced to make a penalty turn due to a port-starboard call by the on-the-water judges. While the penalty turn was underway, the rest of the fleet slipped by and made the most of the downwind stretch. PUMA’s Mar Mostro and crew gradually closed the gap toward the second mark and rolled past Team Telefónica to move to fourth – the position they held through the end of the race.

“Unfortunately, we had a penalty right off the start line. We thought we were completely clear on Telefónica, and the umpires saw it the other way,” said Kelvin Harrap, inshore tactician. “It set our whole race up – having to do a penalty turn in 9-10 knots of win puts us 3 minutes behind everyone straight off the bat. Obviously everyone was frustrated, and we just ran out of time to get on the podium. We’ve now got to pick our game up.”

Leg 3 of the race begins Saturday, January 14, beginning with an 8 nautical mile in-port loop, followed by a 98 nautical mile sprint up the Sharjah coastline. Start time is 10:00 UTC/14:00 local in Abu Dhabi.

As was the case with Leg 2, the Leg 3 route has been redrawn and split into two stages due to the threat of piracy in the Indian Ocean. In Stage 1, the teams will race in one-day sprint out of Abu Dhabi on Saturday, sailing up the Sharjah coastline. The boats will then get loaded onto a ship to be transported back to the safe haven port they first arrived at during Leg 2. After unloading all of the boats, the second part of Leg 3 will get underway with the teams racing to the fourth port of Sanya, China.

The PUMA Ocean Racing team is once again under the leadership of Read (Newport, Rhode Island, United States). Collectively, the crew has won the Around the World Race six times. The core includes: Tom Addis, Navigator (Sydney, Australia); Ryan Godfrey, Pitman (Adelaide, Australia); Kelvin Harrap, Helmsman, Inshore Tactician (Napier, New Zealand); Brad Jackson, Design Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Rome Kirby, Trimmer & Driver (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Michael “Michi” Müller, Bowman (Kiel, Germany); Tony Mutter, Aerodynamics Coordinator & Watch Captain (Auckland, New Zealand); Casey Smith, Systems Manager & Bowman (Brisbane, Australia); Jonathan “Jono” Swain, Helmsman & Trimmer (Durban, South Africa); Amory Ross, Media Crew Member (Newport, Rhode Island, USA); Kimo Worthington, General Manager (Portsmouth, Rhode Island, United States); and Tim Hacket, Shore Team Manager (Sydney, Australia).

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