x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

'Every boat could come first' in the Volvo Ocean Race

While Azzam leads Leg 7 the two race leaders are duelling at the back of the pack.

Although out of contention for the main prize Azzam is at the front Leg 7.
Although out of contention for the main prize Azzam is at the front Leg 7.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing continued to build on its lead in Leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race yesterday, and last-place Team Sanya also made a surprising surge, moving up to fourth place in the voyage from Miami to Lisbon, Portugal.

Their success pushed Telefonica, the overall race leaders, and second-place Groupama to the back of the pack.

Abu Dhabi and Sanya are out of contention in the overall standings - in fifth and sixth place, respectively - but the battle among the top four could be in for a big shake-up.

The possibilities have driven Will Oxley, the Camper navigator, to consider the potential impact, including scenarios where his team could take the lead.

"I've done all the sums,'' he said. "If Puma beat us they go ahead of us on the table, and we have to beat Telefonica by three places and we have to beat Groupama by two to go ahead of them."

But with a massive ridge lying off the coast of Portugal that will slow down the fleet after about 48 hours of power sailing, anything could happen.

"We're certainly in with a chance; every boat could come first or last at this point," Oxley said. "We say that regularly, but for us, with this ridge, it really is the case.

"First in, first out could certainly make a difference, but in this instance if you have someone just ahead of you and you see them parked you can choose to go around them, so that's going to be hard work."

Tom Addis, the Puma navigator, said he was trying to remain focused on the job at hand: winning his team's third consecutive leg.

"I guess you're all mentally crunching numbers, but there's really nothing we can do about it," he said. "We just have to do the best we can.

"Volvo sailors tend to just be the type who just get on with it, we're just trying to go as fast as we can."

Ian Walker, the Abu Dhabi skipper, said his crew are prepared to battle to hold the lead and win the leg after disappointing results in the race so far.

"All we can do is sail as fast as possible and hope that the wind field evens up as the boats get closer together," he said. "We need to try and minimise our losses as best we can and position ourselves well for the final section of the race.

"One thing for certain is that there is going to be a very tight finish from first to last place. The weather gods have scripted that. So far we have sailed a very good leg and everyone on board is fiercely determined to defend our lead for as long we possibly can."