March 26, 2019

Impressive ADOR get off to a confident start

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR) started the 2014/15 Volvo Ocean Race impressively before falling back as Spanish crew Mapfre took charge on day one of leg one.

The UAE team, skippered by two-time Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker, occupied second place for the opening few hours after the competitors left Alicante.

The race is in the very early stages though and at midnight last night, only 2.9 nautical miles separated Mapfre from the Chinese-backed Dongfeng Race Team in seventh.

ADOR were nicely poised in fourth place, just 0.6 nautical miles adrift of the Spaniards.

Mapfre is skippered by Olympic gold medallist Iker Martinez and held a slender 0.1 mile advantage over second placed Team Brunel, led by experienced Dutchman Bou­we Bekking.

The UAE yacht, Azzam, was in close proximity to the American/ Turkish-backed Team Alvimedica, who were 0.1 of a mile in front.

Team Vestas Wind, from Den­mark, were an equal distance be­hind in fifth.

Azzam began the race shortly after midday local time following an emotional dockside farewell to family and friends.

An enormous crowd of around 50,000 spectators gathered at the quayside in Alicante to bid the teams bon voyage.

Walker said: “This is the culmina­tion of years of planning. We have trained hard and done our home­work and I couldn’t ask for a better crew to take on this challenge with.

“Our yacht is named after the Arabic for determination and every single ADOR sailor is focused on living up to that quality.”

The 6,487 nautical mile first leg is expected to take the fleet around three weeks to complete, with an estimated arrival in Cape Town around November 3.

The opening leg is the sec­ond longest in the nine-stopover, around-the-world race and among the most challenging.

It will take the Abu Dhabi Tour­ism & Culture Authority-backed Azzam, and the rest of the fleet, out of the Mediterranean Sea via the Straits of Gibraltar and into the Atlantic Ocean.

On their way to South Africa the crews must cross the Equator and round the island of Fernando de Noronha, near the coast of Brazil, before pointing their bows towards Cape Town.

With the teams racing in identi­cal one-design yachts, Walker said he would adopt a percentage strat­egy during the race.

“Just like in the Olympics, when you’re racing one design you don’t have to win every race of the series to take the gold,” he said.

“Our aim is to minimise risk and avoid any bad scores – if we can finish in the top-three on every leg we’ll be in good shape by the end of the race.”

The opening leg from Spain to South Africa is traditionally one of the toughest, with the Mediterra­nean and Atlantic often battering the fleet.

In 2011/12, two boats had to be nursed back to shore within 24 hours after an opening night storm led to a broken mast and a delami­nated bow.

One of those was Azzam and the incidents were part of the driving force behind the introduction of the new, one-design Volvo Ocean 65 which was built with durability, safety and also speed in mind.

“It’s a mixed leg,” said Azzam skipper Walker.

“It’s fantastic, strategic, there’s lots of downwind sailing, lots of tropical sailing. It’s one of the most testing in the race.”

He added: “Obviously we’d love to win, but if someone was to offer me top two at this stage, I’d probably take it.

“The first thing we’ve got to do is just get out of the Med – and the emphasis there is on not losing the race, not making any stupid deci­sions.” 

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Impressive ADOR get off to a confident start