Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Azzam win Round Britain & Ireland Race
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR) have continued their promising preparations for the impending Volvo Ocean Race by winning the Round Britain and Ireland Race.
The crew led by skipper Ian Walker completed the 2,900-kilometre race course on Friday evening on their Azzam boat in a time of four days, 13 hours, 10 minutes and 28 seconds to lop more than 30 hours off the previous course record.
It was not all plain sailing for the ADOR crew on board as two members were hurt during the race.
Bowman Justin Slattery injured his ribs while trimmer Phil Harmer is suspected to have a broken hand.
A hydraulic leak and a malfunctioning water maker also tested the crew’s engineering and maintenance skills, but they battled on regardless.
Walker acknowledged it had been a demanding event for him and his team.
“This has probably been harder on the crew than a leg of the Volvo Ocean Race,” Walker said.
“With so many headlands, sandbanks and other navigational hazards there wasn’t a moment to relax, especially as all the teams were pushing each other so hard.
“Sifi [Simon Fisher], our navigator, barely put a foot wrong, and I’m so pleased with the attitude and work rate that the team put in during the race. Azzam is the name of our boat and Azzam is the attitude of this great team.”
The first 36 hours saw a neck-and-neck race out of the English Channel and up the eastern coast of England – with consistent speeds of 20 knots and above.
ADOR battled with the experienced Spanish team, led by Iker Martinez, and both boats were within 200 to 400 metres of each other for most of the day and following night.
Several well-timed sail changes and strong helming skills saw ADOR gain a small lead as Azzam approached Muckle Flugga, the northern most point in the British Isles.
From there, navigator Fisher managed to position the boat to take full advantage of a shift in the wind, which allowed Azzam to extend its slender lead to a more comfortable 50km.
As the winds eased, the crew encountered more comfortable conditions along Ireland’s west coast but were still being pressed hard by the Spanish.
Rounding the Fastnet rock first, ADOR then led the fleet home to finish well ahead of the Spanish and smashing the 2012 Groupama vo70 monohull record by one day, eight hours, 16 minutes and 27 seconds.
“The conditions made for fantastic sailing, and it’s a great reward for both the sailors and the shore team who have worked so hard on our training and preparation, to have our first trophy in the cabinet,” Walker said.
The win adds to ADOR’s impressive record in Britain but for the team it is primarily a chance to hone their skills before they arrive in Alicante, Spain, to begin the Volvo Ocean Race on October 4, which remains Walker’s main focus.
“While this has been a great race and a great result, our main focus will always be the Volvo Ocean Race, and our preparation will continue with that goal in mind,” he said.
Updated: August 16, 2014 04:00 AM