Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing takes first leg of Volvo Ocean Race

Irishman Justin Slattery part of seven-strong crew to triumph in Cape Town

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team skippered by Ian Walker approaches the finish line to win leg one of the Volvo Ocean Race from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa. Photograph: Nic Bothm/EPA

Former British Olympic medallist Ian Walker and his team on Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, including Ireland's Justin Slattery, firmly laid old ghosts to rest this afternoon when they won the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race.

The team arrived into Cape Town with a slim three-mile lead over Chinese flagged entry Dongfeng after dominating the opening stage for much of the 6,800 mile sprint from Alicante.

After three and half weeks at sea, Walker and his seven crew led the seven-boat fleet since crossing the equator almost two weeks ago.

Sailing further than initially planned, most boats dived southwards into the Southern Ocean to skirt the blocking St Helena high-pressure system and its light winds.


Tensions ran high approaching the finish as the breeze died steadily coming into the influence of the famed Table Mountain and its wind shadow effect.

However, the threat from Dongfeng was tempered as they too slowed in the lighter conditions.

But second place for French skipper Charles Caudrelier and his crew is a major boost and comes after a series of gear breakages that they managed to overcome without losing too much ground.

Five boats remain at sea with more finishers expected tonight while the tail-enders have several hundred miles remaining to sail.

David Branigan

David Branigan

David Branigan is a contributor on sailing to The Irish Times