Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing holding their own in Volvo Ocean Race
Team scored their second leg win of the race so far and maintained their pre-event goal of taking podium places in every leg
Ian Walker at the helm of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing during the the Volvo Ocean Race. Photograph: Getty Images
In what has become a hallmark of the new one-design boats in the Volvo Ocean Race, the fifth leg of the 39,000 nautical mile contest drew to a close at the Brazilian port of Itajai last night with four boats fighting for first place less than 15 miles apart.
Since rounding the infamous Cape Horn a week ago, overall race leader Ian Walker on Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has held a slender lead as the front-runners endured breezy conditions for most of the northwards stage past the Falkland Islands to the finish.
“It’s been a pretty epic leg,” said Walker as he steered the 65-foot yacht to the finishing-line after 5,000 mile of racing from New Zealand across the Southern Ocean. “There’s plenty of golf left in this hole.”
Nevertheless, the team scored their second leg win of the race so far and maintained their pre-event goal of taking podium places in every leg. The team also set a record for this race when they recorded 550 nautical miles in 24 hours during the leg.
The British double-Olympic medallist is on his third campaign since first skippering an entry in this race when he led Ireland’s Green Dragon team in 2008.
Cork sailor Justin Slattery is on board with Walker for the third time and his fifth round the world race. He won in 2006 on ABN AMRO and is aiming to repeat the performance in the new breed of ocean racers.
In second place was the Spanish team led by Olympian Iker Martinez on Mapfre that won the previous leg but must recover from their fifth place standing.
American Charlie Enright on Alvimedica was in third barely two miles behind but was in turn under intense pressure from seven times race veteran Bouwe Bekking on Dutch-flagged Brunel.
Walker and Slatterys’ hopes for this race received a boost last week when French skipper Charles Caudrelier on the Chinese flagged Dongfeng racing reported their mast had broken and eventually retired from the leg into the Argentinian port of Ushuaia.
The boat is currently motoring-sailing to Itajai under jury rig to receive a new mast in time for the next leg. However, the team has now incurred maximum points for the leg and is ranked second overall.
Walker’s team now enjoy a points-margin equal to one whole leg meaning that if they were to incur a similar misfortune they might still hold the overall lead.
The sixth stage of the race is due to start in two weeks time and will be the second-last ocean leg as the fleet heads for Newport, Rhode Island.