Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR) – the emirate’s Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) contesting team – finished second in an electrifying Alicante In-Port Race on Saturday, losing out by just six seconds to the Turkish-American entry Team Alvimedica.
After rounding the first mark in third place, ADOR, led by double Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker, took the lead at the next mark of the six-leg contest. A lap later, however, Alvimedica had pegged ADOR’s yacht Azzam back and the two boats were tied for the lead at the start of the last lap.
As ADOR and Alvimedica rounded the final mark there was nothing to choose between them as they split to opposite sides of the course. Both looked to have the advantage as they zeroed in on the finish.
When they came together in the final few hundred metres, Alvimedica was less than a boat-length ahead. An aggressive passing move by Walker in the final minute came tantalisingly close to paying off, but ultimately Alvimedica held on to take the gun six seconds ahead of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) backed team.
Walker was typically forthright about his team’s performance in the race, which does not count towards the overall points tally for the VOR, which starts next Saturday.
“I’m happy enough with the result,” he said. “But normally when we get ahead like that during a race I would expect us to go on and win. We had an issue with furling the headsail at the end of the first lap and that meant we were slow the next time we used it and that let Alvimedica to close us right down.”
ADOR tactician Simon Fisher confessed to being slightly relieved to have finished second as superstition suggests the opening in-port race winner never goes on to win the overall trophy.
“I’m not superstitious but I have won the first in-port race twice and never won overall,” Fisher said. “So I can’t say I’m too upset to have been edged out. It was tremendous racing and we have come away from it with plenty to discuss and work on.”
British Olympic triathlon gold and bronze medal-winners, brothers Jonathan and Alistair Brownlee, were celebrity guests aboard Azzam for the race.
“We absolutely loved it, it was incredibly exciting,” said Jonathan who had started the day with a sunrise training run with Walker on the beach adjacent to the race area.
“We were both amazed by how intense it was for the crew. It was a full hour of winding, pulling ropes and running around on the boat.”
Older brother Alistair was also impressed, saying: “It was fantastic to see up close how a boat like Azzam works. I thought we were going to win at one point but we were pipped at the post in the end. Nevertheless, it was an amazing experience.”
ADOR’s focus now shifts to completing preparations for the first offshore leg, a 6,487-mile ocean passage from Alicante to Cape Town, South Africa starting on October 11.