Saturday, 29 October 2011

Fixed course holds no fear for Walker and Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi passes Puma going the other way
Photo: Mark Covell 
Fourteen minutes is a massive margin to win a yacht race – especially when the yacht race is only 53 minutes long. 

Here in Alicante for the first in-port challenge, double Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker skippered a near-perfect race in the trickiest conditions to claim the first six points on the board.

The day started wet, windy and cold. The teams left the dock looking like they were heading for the Southern Ocean. The Puma shop was doing brisk business selling rain jackets as fast as they could. Thankfully the weather front slowly cleared and racing got away on time.

Passing lanes
The big difference in this edition of the in-port race is that the course is fixed and not laid for the conditions and wind direction on the day. Some teams worry that the fixed course could become a procession. After today’s race, their fears were firmly quashed. There were plenty of passing lanes from wind shifts, sail choices and forced errors.

Abu Dhabi got a good start and just nudged round the first mark in front of Camper, but the real race-winning manoeuvre was when they both rounded the second mark.

A difference choice in headsails saw Walker’s team extend their lead, leaving Camper to be swallowed up by the chasing fleet. At one point Camper fell back to last.

Turning gate
Abu Dhabi managed to hold the last grain of boat speed to slither through the turning gate and head for the shortened course finish. I took a great shot of Abu Dhabi heading past Puma, 100 metres down the track sailing in opposite directions.

I don’t think you can draw too much from this crazy race - but a win is a win !

Provisional results:
Position / Team / Time / Points
1. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing / 53 minutes 44 seconds / 6 points
2. Puma Ocean Racing powered by BERG / 1 hour 07:58 / 5 points
3. CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand / 1:10:11 / 4 points
4. Team Sanya / 1:10:43 / 3 points
5. Groupama sailing team / 1:11:11 / 2 points
6. Team Telefónica / 1:12:08 / 1 point

Mark Covell

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