With boat needing repair ahead of Leg 6 of Volvo Ocean Race, focus shifts to winning in-port series.
Azzam crew refresh their goals
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing faced a race against time just to be ready for today's in-port race ahead of Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race after their boat, still in need of repair, was delivered to Itajai in Brazil on Thursday.
The shore crew refined their repair plan, which had been due to take 72 hours, meaning they stand a good chance of making the race and pursuing their new goal of taking the prize for the best record in the in-port race series.
"When we started off on this campaign we had a goal to get in the top three, which we knew would be tough given when we started," said Ian Walker, the skipper. "Now we have had to re-set that goal and say: 'Let's try and win the in-port series, let's see if we can win a leg'.
"We really want to be out there for the in-port race here. It's something we are good at. We have won two of them and we really enjoy the sailing so we will be doing everything possible to make it to the start line."
Abu Dhabi, who were forced to ship their boat to Itajai after sustaining structural damage on Leg 5, have two wins from the first five in-port races and every reason to be optimistic about their chances today.
For the four teams still in contention to win the race, the points available today will be vital. The Telefonica, Groupama, Camper and Puma teams are locked in a four-way battle for overall victory.
Team Telefonica have a 20-point lead in the overall standings but with 30 points awarded to the winners of each of the remaining four offshore legs, and six points for the winners of five more in-port races, that advantage is far from secure.
The Groupama team are Telefonica's closest challengers but Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand (28 points behind the leaders) and Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg (34 points back) are also within striking distance.
The Leg 5 race through the Southern Ocean and around Cape Horn to Itajai took a toll on the teams: only Puma made it to the finish line without stopping for repairs. Team Telefonica had to make a pit stop at Cape Horn before finishing, Groupama lost their mast within touching distance of a second successive leg victory, and Camper and Abu Dhabi were forced to take refuge at Puerto Montt in Chile.
Puma's victory, their first of the campaign, followed three consecutive second places and confirmed that they are in the running for overall victory.
"When the gun goes we'll be out there trying to beat everyone," said Tom Addis, the Puma navigator.
"But this inshore is going to give us quite a mixed-up breeze, up and down, left and right, and in those conditions anyone can win."
Like Abu Dhabi, Telefonica have two victories under their belts in the in-port race series but they have finished last in the other three.
"The shore crew did great work to get the boat ready early so we could do three days of training while some of the other teams are rushing to be ready," said Xabi Fernandez, the trimmer. "We have improved a lot and we are fully ready to go and I really hope we have a good in-port race.
"We always think that to be in a podium position in the in-port race is important but up to now we have either won or been last. This time we will really fight for the podium." Groupama are the only one of the top four teams not to have won an in-port race as yet, but Brad Marsh, the bowman, said they had confidence in their new rig and were looking forward to a return to competition.
"As a team, the problem with the rig helped us get stronger," said the New Zealander. "We lost a few points but we feel we still have the confidence and the momentum with us."
Camper took their first in-port win in Auckland, to the rousing cheers of their home fans, and the team are eager for more of the same after their hopes of a Leg 5 victory were dashed by the serious structural damage they took in the Southern Ocean.
They arrived in Itajai on Tuesday to take fourth place, more than 10 days after Telefonica. Tony Rae, the helmsman/trimmer, promised it would be business as usual in today's race.
"We had to nail the in-port race in Auckland; we didn't have a choice," Rae said.
"It was a pretty special day to pull that off and make it happen.
"It would be awesome to have another race like that here and get a few more points on the board," Rae added.
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