ITAJAÍ, Brazil, April 17 – Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) carry a seven-point advantage into the start of Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race on Sunday, but their team are taking nothing for granted. As skipper Walker told a press conference on Friday in the south-east Brazilian port of Itajaí, there are plenty of points still to sail for with four stages left to race.
© Marc Bow / Volvo Ocean Race
“Last leg was obviously very good for us, to win the leg and the misfortune that happened for Dongfeng has changed the leaderboard somewhat,” he said. Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA) broke their mast midway through the leg from Auckland to Itajaí, and were forced to retire, falling seven points behind Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
“We’ve got 45% of the points left and what that last leg shows is how easy it is to lose a lot of points. In the next leg, it could be us or anybody else,” added Walker. “I think for us, nothing has really changed. We have to keep doing the same thing.”
As rival skipper, Bouwe Bekking (NED) of Team Brunel pointed out, in the last race in 2011-12, Team Telefónica retained a similar advantage by the time they reached Brazil, but ended up fourth overall.
“We know from previous races that the game starts very often here in Brazil,” he said. “In that sense, there will be a lot of pressure on Abu Dhabi.”
Caudrelier is aiming to follow in the footsteps of a mentor, Franck Cammas, his compatriot who skippered French boat Groupama to success in 2011-12. They too broke a mast on Leg 5, only to bounce back and win the trophy. “We are reminded once again that anything can happen, we are reminded that our goal at the beginning of this race was to be on the podium,” he said.
“We realize that maybe we were having a good time until now and in light of what has happened we only have one option and that is to come back fighting.”
Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR), meanwhile, were disappointed by a decision by the independent ISAF international jury not to allow them to replace a key sail which was damaged in the previous leg when the all-female crewed boat suffered a Chinese gybe, crashing on its side. Instead, they must use their repaired fractional code zero sail (FRO). “Not being able to use the FRO for two thirds of Leg 5 had a major impact on our performance,” said Davies. “We will now look to do everything in our power to try to make this sail as usable and as safe as possible.”
For Team Alvimedica skipper Charlie Enright (USA), it was more a case of counting down the hours before setting off on Leg 6 for their ‘homecoming’ to Newport, Rhode Island. “Sailing into our home port with friends and family is a dream come true and I couldn’t ask for more,” said Enright, who grew up in the area.
“If there ever were a leg where we could get some extra motivation and hit that next gear, it’s certainly this one. Coming into Newport will be special for a lot of reasons. It is where the journey began so many years ago just learning to sail on Narragansett Bay.”
First, though, the teams will contest the Team Vestas Wind Itajaí In-Port Race, starting at 1400 local time (1700 UTC) on Saturday.
Team SCA, who won the previous race in Auckland to become the only team to triumph twice in the series so far, are currently in third place (see panel above) with the first four teams all within four points of each other.