- Walker celebrates epic Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing win
- Emirati boat moves seven points clear at top
- MAPFRE, Team Alvimedica and Team Brunel chase them home
- Team SCA rocked by another setback as rudder breaks
ITAJAÍ, Brazil, April 7 – Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) buried the miserable memories of three years ago to win an epic Southern Ocean/south Atlantic crossing in Leg 5 and claim their second stage victory in the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15.
In 2012, Walker’s crew were forced to return to Auckland with hull damage and eventually retired from the leg to Itajaí, Brazil.
They must have feared more of the same when Cyclone Pam delayed the departure from New Zealand for three days, but despite taking the worst that the Southern Ocean and then the south Atlantic could throw at them, the Emirati team emerged triumphant after nearly 19 days of ultra-challenging, super-tight sailing.
Amazingly, skipper Ian Walker reported that they had reached Itajaí with the least amount of work for their shore crew to do of any leg so far in this edition.
©Ainhoa Sanchez / Volvo Ocean Race
To add the icing to their cake, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing set the new best mark in the chase for IWC prize for the most nautical miles sailed in 24 hours with 551nm leading up to Cape Horn. “Awesome. It’s been such a monster of a leg, we were so, so stoked with the 24-hour record,” said a jubilant Walker, 45, straight after crossing the line in front of a waterfront packed by thousands of spectators.
He credited his team’s versatility for much of their success (elapsed time for Leg 5: 18 days 23 hours 30 minutes 10 seconds). “Seven out of eight of our guys drive, so nobody has to drive for too long. We rotate everybody and I can’t speak highly enough of everybody in our team.”
He added that he dropped the keel on two occasions in the heaviest of the weather with 50-knot winds (92.6 kilometres an hour) buffeting the fleet, losing some ground, but keeping his boat intact. “In hindsight, that looks a pretty shrewd decision,” Walker said.
The stage victory leaves Walker’s team seven points clear at the top of the standings with five of the nine legs now completed.
That gap was opened up following the misfortune of a broken mast, which struck Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA) early last Monday and led to their retirement from the leg two days later. The Chinese boat is now being sailed, partly under motor, to Itajaí where its shore crew face a race against time to have the new mast refitted in time for the start of the next leg to Newport, Rhode Island, on April 19.
Walker, in his third race, is far too experienced to take anything for granted yet, however, despite becoming the first team to clinch their second stage win of the 2014-15 edition.
The leg was incredibly closely fought throughout its 6,776nm with MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP), Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA) and Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) chasing Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing all the way to Itajaí and finishing in that order. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing beat the Spanish team by a little over 32 minutes with less than an hour separating the leading four.
Battered, bruised, but defiant to the last, Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) finally completed a gruelling Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race on Tuesday and arrived to a well-deserved Brazilian welcome fit for heroines.
© Buda Mendes / Volvo Ocean Race
At the beginning of last week, having struggled in 50 knots of wind and a confused sea state, Team SCA were one of three crews to crash on their sides during a Chinese gybe, damaging their fractional code zero, a key sail in the process. Then, last Sunday, they were rocked again by three collisions with unidentified objects as they raced up the Brazilian coast in the South Atlantic, the first doing considerable damage to the rudder.
Undaunted, Davies and her 11-strong crew battled on to finish the event’s toughest leg on Tuesday.
In all, the fleet will cover 38,739nm and visit 11 ports and every continent.
The Fleet will arrive in Newport, RI around May 5. Plan to visit the Race Village at Fort Adams State Park May 5-17. For info about the stopover, click here.
The race concludes in Gothenburg, Sweden, on June 27.
Leg 5 Finish Times