THE OPENING scores in the Volvo Ocean Race were decided over the weekend as the first in-port race of the nine-month round-the-world contest was won convincingly by Ian Walker and the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team.
The British skipper has entered his second race after cherry-picking his last campaign for a fully-funded project this time around. He has a top-drawer crew that includes Ireland’s Justin Slattery in his usual role as lead bowman.
Walker, a double Olympic silver medallist, won the start on Azzam, a sleek black 70-foot yacht, and pulled away from the five other contenders to win comfortably by 14 minutes on the unique course set a few hundred metres from the Alicante shoreline by principal race officer Bill O’Hara .
Light and windless patches during the 72-minute race ensured a tactical contest for the other five, including Mike Sanderson’s Team Sanya who delivered his pre-race goal to deny places to the brand new fleet with his second generation 70-footer that sailed as Telefonica Blue three years ago.
Sanderson managed to out-sail his fellow Kiwis on Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand who later muscled back to take third place just ahead of the former race winner.
Sanderson was happy with fourth place ahead of France’s Groupama, reputedly the biggest and best-funded team in the race.
And the local entry led by Iker Martinez placed an embarrassing last place after being forced into penalty turns just metres from the finishing line when they failed to give way to Sanderson’s charging Chinese entry.
The first ocean leg to Cape Town starts on Saturday. The results of the opening inshore race stands as: 1, Abu Dhabi (skipper Ian Walker); 2, Puma (Kenny Read); 3, Camper (Chris Nicholson); 4, Sanya (Mike Sanderson); 5, Groupama (Franck Cammas); 6, Telefonica (Iker Martinez).
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