Lack of wind delayed the practice race as the Volvo Ocean Race fleet tries to prepare for the In-Port Race on Friday.
Practice 'all right' as Azzam and crew get reacquainted
While the sun worked like mad and the wind took the day off Wednesday afternoon, the five present Volvo Ocean Race teams held their in-port practice race, with the French entry Groupama winning and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing finishing second.
"It was all right," Ian Walker, the Abu Dhabi skipper, said. "Everyone was a little bit rusty, including us.
"But it's going well, we had a good start."
Ahead of the Pro-Am race Thursday and the points-yielding in-port race on Friday, the practice race at the inaugural Abu Dhabi stopover had a 40-minute delay Wednesday while everyone waited for a seven-knot breeze to show up.
From there, Groupama sustained the form that helped it win the Leg 2, Stage 2 sprint from Sharjah on January 4, while Abu Dhabi aimed for a desired repeat of last October 29, when they won the opening in-port race in Alicante, Spain. "I think that's been one of our strengths," Walker said.
"I think so far in the in-port races, I think our crew work has been pretty tight.
"They're pretty quick races so you've got to make sure you don't make any mistakes."
Telefonica, the Race overall leader, which was last in the first in-port race (Alicante) but first in the second one (Cape Town), ran fifth Wednesday as teams used the practice mainly for testing.
Six points go to the winner of in-port races, with five for second place and one fewer for each place thereafter.
With Telefonica having won both legs plus one of the two in-port races thus far, Iker Martinez, the skipper, said on the Volvo Ocean Race website: "I'm feeling good. Now I really want to go out there and sail.
"Very light airs inshore races are probably not the easiest conditions for us so we have been training here and working on our boat handling manoeuvres.
"I think we have made some good improvements. So now we will see. Hopefully we will have a good race or at least not a bad race."
Walker noted that if Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing could have gathered any home-port advantage from having had practice sails in this region in its early team stages, it would have happened out in the Gulf of Oman and the Strait of Hormuz, areas the boats passed only on a ship after race organisers altered the course because of piracy concerns.
"For a one-mile course off the Corniche, probably not," he said. "It will be like in any in-port race: You need a good start, nice manoeuvres, keep it clean."
The boats will repeat their sprint of January 4 in the other direction with the start of Leg 3 on Saturday, after which they will be loaded on a ship for passage to an undisclosed port, from which they will sail to the fourth stopover in Sanya, China.