x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Azzam win puts all four teams in reckoning for Volvo title

With just two short legs remaining, 'anything can happen' now in the tightest of finishes ahead in the race's history.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's crew members celebrate a much-wanted win in the race.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's crew members celebrate a much-wanted win in the race.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's victory in Leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race has thrown the race for overall honours in the 39,000-nautical mile contest wide open, with four boats in with a realistic chance of winning with just around 10 days of offshore sailing left to go.

Although Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's entry, Azzam, are not in the running to win the event, never in the 39-year history of the race have so many boats been in contention with just two legs left to go.

After usurping long-term leaders Telefonica following Leg 7, Groupama top the standings with two offshore legs left - but with only 21 points lying between them and fourth-placed Camper, everything is still to play for.

Telefonica's six-month lead came to an end with Groupama taking second in the 3,590-nautical mile race from Miami to Lisbon while Iker Martinez's crew had to settle for fourth.

Though far from happy, Martinez said his only focus was the overall race result, which will come down to the performance in Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient, expected to take around a week, and the three-day Leg 9 sprint from Lorient to Galway, as well as the Lisbon, Lorient and Galway in-port races.

"The truth is that the only thing all of us will remember will be how we end up in Galway," he said. "We always said our goal was to be in a position to fight for the race in the final leg. Today we are there so it's not bad but obviously it's not as good as we have been."

Groupama skipper Franck Cammas added: "We didn't expect this when we started in Alicante, so to be in this position with just two legs to go is a dream for us as we are a new entry team.

"Being overall leader is a good moment, but the race is not finished for sure.

"We are not alone - there are still three or four boats that can win this race. We just need to make sure we have no regrets in Galway."

With just two legs remaining, both under 1,000 miles long, Knut Frostad, the Volvo Ocean Race chief executive, said he expects the race to go down to the wire.

"It's going to be very close racing in these last two legs," he said. "They are short legs. You have land on one side ... and that means it is very likely that we will have very close finishes. When you have close finishes, anything can happen."

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