Ian Roman Photography / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing seals the deal

Walker's crew continues its celebrations in Gothenburg

Monday June 22nd 2015, Author: James Boyd, Location: Sweden

Despite having won the Volvo Ocean Race with a leg to spare, Ian Walker and all his crew slipped into Gothenburg to take fifth place on the final leg with mile-wide grins on their faces.

On his third attempt Ian Walker has become the first British skipper to win the Volvo Ocean Race since the race was created by the British Royal Naval Sailing Association in the early 1970s.

"I said at the start of the race that I was confident, but there are a hundred ways to lose this race, but only one way to win it. And it just all came together for us perfectly," a jubilant Walker commented: Walker has 470 and Star Olympic silver medals from the Atlanta and Sydney Olympiads, but added: "Olympic medals are special, but this victory is extra-special with Abu Dhabi behind us and with such a great team on Azzam.”

He said the reaction back in Abu Dhabi had been overwhelming, with huge media and public interest. On a personal level, he was still waiting for the scale of his achievement to sink in. “It’s only when I get to share this with friends and family that I’ll really process it,” he said.

The Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority-backed team was assured of victory irrespective the Leg 9 result and will be crowned Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 champions on Saturday at the Life At The Extreme Awards.

“This is my second Abu Dhabi campaign and I am grateful for our backers at Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority for their unwavering support," Walker continued. 

ADOR’s win sees UAE Olympian Adil Khalid become the first ever Arab to win the 39,000-mile Volvo Ocean Race. He was sailing his second round the world race with Walker's team: “This is the greatest moment of my life. I am immensely proud for my crewmates and my country,” Khalid said. “The Abu Dhabi flag has been flown proudly at every stopover throughout the race and now we have sealed a wonderful victory our fans in the UAE and around the world can celebrate.”

ADOR had to play catch-up for much of the first section of Leg 9 from Lorient to a pit stop at The Hague in The Netherlands after being slowed by large clumps of seaweed along the Brittany coast.

The Abu Dhabi yacht made it into The Hague in fifth place after a southerly route around a 140-mile exclusion zone failed to pay off.

The fleet departed from The Hague for the 460-mile second section of Leg 9 in the order they arrived, with Walker’s men setting off three hours, 53 minutes and the Azzam crew pushed the Abu Dhabi yacht hard in flat water and strong winds on the way to the northern tip of Denmark by the time they passed the Danish town of Skagen – the most northerly headland in the entire race – had closed to within visual range of the top four.

Light winds at the finish, however, saw Ian Walker and his crew have to make do with fifth as they turned their attention to the victory celebration awaiting them

ADOR navigator Simon Fisher, who also sailed for Abu Dhabi in the previous race, confessed he was relieved the team’s victory had been sealed before the final: “Both sections of Leg 9 were complex with lots of exclusion zones and we were sailing conservatively to avoid any chance of penalties. It feels good to have our final offshore leg complete and now we can plan for the celebration next weekend.”

Two of the ADOR line-up are now double VOR winners: Ireland’s Justin Slattery, who has sailed with Ian Walker on his last three campaigns, first tasted victory as part of the ABN AMRO One crew in 2005-06; while Australian Phil Harmer has won back-to-back races after sailing with the French Groupama sailing team in the 2011-12 race.

“This is my fifth Volvo Ocean Race and the introduction of identical yachts has made the racing the closest of all of them,” Slattery said. “So it’s very satisfying to have won with a leg to spare.”

Harmer added: “I’m delighted to have done the double. The VOR remains the greatest challenge in fully crewed offshore racing, so to win it twice is very special."

As well as securing the overall title, ADOR also leads the separate short course In-Port Race Series with an advantage of six points over its nearest rival, with just next Saturday’s final Gothenburg test to go.

ADOR skipper Walker said he believed achieving a double victory was a realistic prospect. “Nothing is guaranteed in the In-Port Races,” Walker cautioned, "but we would dearly love to bring both trophies back to Abu Dhabi after the race.


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