ABU DHABI, December 15 – One design racing has so far served up just the outcome Volvo Ocean Race fans, sailors and organisers alike had hoped for with the introduction of the new identical Volvo Ocean 65s – incredibly close-fought racing and thrilling finishes.
After Leg 2 was brought to a close when Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) sailed in to Abu Dhabi in the dead of night in sixth place, the standings showed three boats locked together on four points at the top.
Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED), winners on Saturday of the latest stage of the race between Cape Town and Abu Dhabi, are ranked highest on the scoreboard as victors of the most recent leg.
But Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR), who claimed the first leg between Alicante and Cape Town, and Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA), who finished as close runners-up in the opening two stages, are also on four points and equally ideally placed.
The three joint leaders are clearly the form horses in a fleet that has been, for the moment, reduced to six following the grounding of Team Vestas Wind’s (Chris Nicholson/AUS) boat on a reef near St. Brandon in the middle of Indian Ocean.
But fourth-placed MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP), Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA) and Team SCA all have grounds for optimism despite finishing in the Leg 2 pacesetters’ wake on Sunday and Monday.
The Spanish boat, MAPFRE, enjoyed a beautiful Emirati sunrise before easing into Abu Dhabi in fourth place after 24 days 11 hours and 18 minutes at sea on Sunday morning.
They finished just off the podium, but there were plenty of smiles on board Martínez’s boat following their considerable improvement on Leg 1, when they finished seventh and last of the fleet.
“We’re very happy, the improvement since Leg 1 is huge and I’m proud of everyone doing a good job,” said Martínez. But he couldn’t help thinking about what might have been, adding ruefully: “We were leading at one stage.”
Team Alvimedica’s young crew could also congratulate themselves on the many positives of their leg that took a detour on November 29 when they sailed to the assistance of the stricken Team Vestas Wind.
They still have the option of a claim for redress for their actions to be heard by an independent, ISAF-appointed, international jury.
For now, though, Enright wants to reflect quietly on the performance and pinpoint where improvements can be made.
“Part of us wants to start Leg 3 tomorrow, but it will be good to have some time to rest and reflect,” said the 30-year-old skipper. “We’re excited about where we are. It’s just a matter of refining some small things.”
Team SCA, who came home at 2223 UTC late on Sunday, were frustrated at finishing sixth, but bursting with determination to put it right on the next stage.
“We are determined to grow from our mistakes and take the time in the next two and a half weeks to really fix them,” said the team’s Onboard Reporter, Corinna Halloran.
“The debrief might possibly be the most important debrief to date, as we now fully understand the complexities of the race and the other teams. We will analyse, in detail, our strengths and weakness in order to capitalise oxn our strengths and remedy our weaknesses.”
The crews will now take a breather over Christmas while the shore crews check out the boats for the next three weeks. The Abu Dhabi in-port race will be held on January 2, before the fleet sets sail again for the open seas for the 4,670-nautical mile Leg 3 to Sanya in China the following day.
– VOR Media