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#vor – Cork's Justin Slattery along with skipper Ian Walker and the rest of the victorious Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew have presented His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, with the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 trophy.

Briton Walker and Ireland's Justin Slattery, who won Afloat's Sailor the month award in June, described the meeting last week as the highlight of the visit that followed their victory in Gothenburg at the end of last month.

The all-conquering crew of eight also clinched the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series Trophy on June 27 in the Swedish port among several other victories including the IWC 24-Hour Speed Record Challenge and the Inmarsat Onboard Reporter Award, won by Matt Knighton (USA).

They also met the chairman of backers Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), His Highness Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, during the visit to the team's home country.

Walker believes that only part of the mission has been completed following victory in the nine-month offshore race – he still has an ambition to grow the sport of sailing in the region.

"Getting sailing on the front pages of the newspapers and encouraging school kids to read about and see it, it's a great thing," he said.

"But sailing's not going to grow here without a lot of work at the grassroots level and I think that's the challenge now; to take the message out into the schools and the clubs and to try to get kids in boats.

"It's a great sport, it's healthy, it's outdoors and the climate's fantastic, certainly nine months of the year - with ideal sailing conditions. Hopefully, we can use this win as a springboard to build on.

"And I think it's already happening. You see more and more boats off the Corniche here in Abu Dhabi. But we'd really like to see that grow 10-fold over the next few years."

The crew's Emirati sailor, Adil Khalid, added: "This is the greatest moment of my life. I am immensely proud for my crewmates and my country.

"The United Arab Emirates 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."

Many have asked whether Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing will return for a third Volvo Ocean Race campaign, but TCA Abu Dhabi has made it clear that no decision will be made for several months.

Walker added: "Hopefully, the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and the Tourism & Culture Authority will come up with new ways to move sailing forward and we've created this fantastic brand. For sure I'd love to be involved again and I hope it moves forward in a way that I can be involved.

"Right now we're just enjoying the moment, sharing it with as many people as we can. We'll have a holiday and then we'll take stock."

The achievement of Walker and his men has been lauded by the campaign's chief supporters.

"The Volvo Ocean Race is rightly regarded as the 'Everest of Sailing', the pinnacle of offshore sailing challenges, and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has made it to the top." said Sheikh Sultan.

"From the start of the race in Alicante, it's been an incredible competition in the face of some of the most challenging and dangerous conditions our planet has to offer.

"I am tremendously proud of our skipper Ian Walker, our Emirati sailor, Adil Khalid, and all Azzam's crew for securing first place in the 2014-15 edition of the race.

"It is another landmark achievement for the United Arab Emirates and the team has represented our emirate with bravery, distinction, and skill."

Sultan Al Dhaheri, Acting Executive Director of TCA Abu Dhabi, added: "The team has represented our country with pride as we competed against the best sailors in the world, and we've strengthened our position as a sailing nation in front of a global audience.

"I hope all the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing fans in Abu Dhabi, and around the world, join me in congratulating all the members of our victorious team."

Published in Ocean Race

#VOR - Ian Walker and his victorious Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew have the chance of a rare double today (Saturday 27 June) when they attempt to win the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series Trophy.

They are hot favourites to do so, taking a six-point advantage into the Inmarsat In-Port Race Gothenburg, the final race in a 10-part series.

Only a victory for their nearest competitors Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) and a last-place finish, or a failure to complete the course, can deny Walker’s men from collecting another piece of handsome silverware.

They have already sealed the overall offshore trophy with five points to spare, again from the Dutch crew of Bouwe Bekking, after finishing fifth in the ninth and final leg from Lorient, France to Gothenburg, Sweden on Monday 22 June. 

The offshore and in-port double is not unique in Volvo Ocean Race history – Mike Sanderson’s ABN AMRO ONE achieved it in 2005-06 – but victory would be another major feather in the cap for a region, which only entered the 41-year-old event for the first time in 2011-12 under the Abu Dhabi flag.

Walker, 45, was typically taking nothing for granted in the final press conference for the nine-month race today. “We try to win everything we do,” he said. “Basically, we just have to make sure we don’t finish last.

“But it’s a pretty tight race course and there’s plenty of trouble out there if you’re not careful.”

Bekking, 52, could be forgiven for being sick of the sight of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s stern after trying to catch it over 38,739 nautical miles and nine offshore legs since the race started back in October last year from Alicante, Spain.

However, he has not totally given up hope of an upset result that will rely on his opponents slipping up uncharacteristically badly.

“We will fight for it and we still have a slight chance,” he told reporters. “It would certainly be nice to win that trophy.”

Today's in-port race, which concludes the 12th edition of the triennial sailing event, will also resolve some unfinished business in the overall competition as a tie-breaker.

Team Alvimedica’s (Charlie Enright/USA) Leg 9 win in Gothenburg from Lorient via a manic pit-stop in The Hague last week drew them level with MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP) on 34 points, in joint fourth place overall. 

The Turkish/American team currently stand two points ahead of the Spanish crew, but that advantage could easily be swept away on a tight, challenging Gothenburg course.

MAPFRE were boosted by an eve-of-race visit to the boat in Gothenburg from King Juan Carlos of Spain yesterday. He will be an onboard spectator with the Spanish flag-bearers in today's race – if the weather is good.

"I haven't sailed for four years and I'm really looking forward to it," he told reporters.

Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR), presently fourth behind Team Alvimedica, and, less likely, sixth-placed Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA), also have outside chances of a top-three podium place in the in-port series if results go their way.

Team Vestas Wind (Chris Nicholson/AUS) will largely be racing for pride having missed all but the Alicante, Cape Town, Lisbon and Lorient in-port races because of their grounding in the Indian Ocean during Leg 2.

The action will start at 1pm local time and so far the forecasters are predicting strong enough winds to offer the prospect of a fitting finale to a memorable and extraordinarily close-run event all round.

Published in Ocean Race

#vor – Irish global boating shoe manufacturer Dubarry has congratulated to Ian Walker and Cork bowman Justin Slattery and the crew of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing on their victory in the Volvo Ocean Race yesterday.

As Afloat reported previously, the crew wore Dubarry's Crosshaven Offshore Performance Sailing Boot which was developed by Dubarry's Design Team in Ballinasloe following consultation with Green Dragon, Ireland's Volvo ocean race entry in the 2008-09, Ian was skipper to this boat during the 08-09 campaign.

Dubarry would also like to congratulate skipper Bouwe Bekking and the Crew of Team Brunel who finished in second position to whom Dubarry were Official Footwear Partner.

The Dubarry GORE-TEX® boots are comfortable, have excellent grip and keep us dry during our quest of winning this round the world race.' said Bouwe Bekking, Captain of Team Brunel. Team SCA, the all-female crew that finished in 6th place, were also wearing Dubarry's Crosshaven Offshore Performance Sailing Boot. "It's because of our association with the leading professionals and events in the sport that we are proud that Dubarry continues to be the world's leading brand of performance sailing footwear", Michael Walsh, Marketing Director at Dubarry of Ireland.

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#vor – Team Alvimedica's skipper Charlie Enright won the final offshore battle of the Volvo Ocean Race, but the overall trophy belonged firmly with his rival from Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Ian Walker with Cork's Justin Slatter onboard.

The Turkish/American boat led the tightly packed fleet home to crowded docks in the final stopover in Gothenburg, Sweden, to bring to a close 38,739 nautical miles (nm) and nine months of some of the closest racing ever witnessed in the 41-year-old offshore marathon.

The Team Alvimedica victory underlined, once more, the incredibly close nature of competition in the first event raced with strictly one-design Volvo Ocean 65 boats.

Only one team, Team Vestas Wind (Chris Nicholson/AUS), have failed to win a leg - and they missed five because of a boat rebuild.

Behind Enright, in fifth, Walker's boat, Azzam, slipped almost quietly into port, but the mile-wide smiles on all the crews' faces told their own story: We are the Champions!

It seals one of the greatest global sporting triumphs for the Gulf region and makes Walker the first British skipper to win the overall trophy.

The Chinese boat Dongfeng was forced to relinquish their hoped-for second place in the leg to Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED), whose finish secured the runners-up spot in the overall standings.

Despite not being able to hold off Spanish challengers, MAPFRE (Iker Martinez/ESP), for third position, Charles Caudrelier's crew still took the final place on the podium in third place overall - an incredible result with four Chinese rookie sailors in their ranks.

Leg 9 Finish positions:
1. Team Alvimedica, FINISHED - 04d 09h 00m 53s
2. Team Brunel, FINISHED - 04d 09h 24m 18s
3. MAPFRE, FINISHED - 04d 09h 29m 07s
4. Dongfeng Race Team, FINISHED - 04d 09h 31m 56s
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, FINISHED - 04d 10h 17m 41s
6. Team Vestas Wind, FINISHED - 04d 11h 30m 21s
7. Team SCA, FINISHED - 04d 11h 39m 05s

Final Overall Volvo Ocean Race Standings:
1. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 24 points
2. Team Brunel (Netherlands) 29
3. Dongfeng Race Team (China) 33
4= Team Alvimedica (Turkey/USA) 34
4= MAPFRE (Spain) 34
6. Team SCA (Sweden) 51
7. Team Vestas Wind (Denmark) 60

Published in Ocean Race
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#VOR - Team Alvimedica led the Volvo Ocean Race fleet out on the final ‘sprint’ to Gothenburg today, as the seven teams bade farewell to The Hague after a hugely successful pit-stop in the famous old Dutch port.

The Turkish/American boat skippered by Charlie Enright (USA) retained the 1hr 46min lead they established in the first part of the 1,000-nautical mile-plus ninth and final leg from Lorient, France to Gothenburg in Sweden, having arrived just after 1.30am local time on Friday morning (19 June).

The seven boats have around two-and-a-half days of challenging sailing ahead of them in fluctuating wind and sea states, with the possibility of a compression of the fleet as the breeze drops further into the leg.

They also must steer clear of numerous Traffic Separation Schemes (TSS), which litter their paths and have already caused penalty points for three teams in earlier legs following inadvertent infringements.

Leg 9 victory in Gothenburg would taste so sweet for Enright and the youngest crew in the race, which is also peppered with experience including 50-year-old navigator Will Oxley (AUS), who is taking on his fourth Volvo Ocean Race.

Team Alvimedica have yet to score a leg win since the race began in early October, and nothing would delight Enright more than to follow Leg 8 winners Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) in making the breakthrough.

It would also give them an outside chance of an overall podium place, although a showdown for fourth spot looks more likely for them.

Enright and his crew departed at 12 noon local time today (Saturday 20 June) in around seven knots of breeze.

“Once we get out of here we’ve got a lot of decisions to make,” he told a pre-departure press conference. “There’s the TSS zones and which way we’re going to go. Some of the guys who are still in the dock can sit back and see which way we go and whether it works out for us. But that’s the same for any lead in this race.”

If the positions remain the same on arrival in Gothenburg as when the fleet finished in The Hague, Team Alvimedica would find themselves in the interesting position of being locked in joint fourth place on 34 points with MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP). The Spanish boat left port in third place.

That tie could only then be broken by the In-Port Race Series that reaches its own finale next Saturday 27 June with the Inmarsat In-Port Race Gothenburg.

A similar situation exists for second place, where Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA) are attempting to claw back a two-point deficit on current runners-up Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED).

The Chinese boat was second out of the harbour in The Hague, 1hr 46min behind Team Alvimedica, in three to four knots more wind speed than Enright’s crew.

Team Brunel, who exited fourth, were given a late royal boost when the Dutch King Willem-Alexander visited the crew prior to their mid-afternoon departure.

Although the race will not receive official figures on attendance for several days, early estimates show some of the biggest crowds of the entire race – measured in the tens of thousands per day – have seen the boats close-up in the port in Scheveningen.

Team Vestas Wind (Chris Nicholson/AUS) and, finally, Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) were last to leave The Hague, the latter 4hrs 32mins after Team Alvimedica.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) were simply hoping to avoid any mishaps on their way to what should be huge celebrations for them as overall Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 champions in Gothenburg.

The Emirati boat and crew – including Ireland's own Justin Slattery – hold an unassailable eight-point lead at the top of the standings and only last place in Leg 9, victory for Team Brunel, and a two-point penalty can ruin their moment of glory now.

“We’re in a kind of strange position,” summed up Azzam’s skipper Ian Walker. “It shouldn’t matter where we finish, but of course it does, because we have a lot of pride and we want to do as well as we can. We’ll be very, very careful and just make sure we don’t do anything stupid.”

Published in Ocean Race

#VOR - Team Alvimedica made a triumphant entry into The Hague at 1.34am local time this morning (Friday 19 June) and put themselves in pole position to win Leg 9 of the Volvo Ocean Race.

The Turkish/American team, skippered by Charlie Enright (USA), still have 480 nautical miles of the final leg of the nine-month offshore marathon to negotiate to Gothenburg, Sweden, having sailed two days, eight hours and 34 minutes since leaving Lorient in France on Tuesday.

That gave them a 26nm advantage over the second-placed boat Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA), which finished at the Dutch port more than 1hr 45mins behind.

“It always feels good going into the locker room at halftime ahead, but that’s all it really is," said Charlie Enright shortly after crossing the line. "It’s kind of like Cape Horn, no points but still a great accomplishment.”

Enright, 30, the youngest skipper by far in the race, also led his team to the Cape Horn landmark ahead of the fleet on Leg 5, but relinquished that lead and eventually finished third.

If Team Alvimedica can complete the job and win in Gothenburg, they would be the sixth of seven boats in the competition to have won a leg in this 12th edition.

They have already shown their top form, winning the SCA In-Port Race Lorient at the weekend, for their second success of the in-port series.

“It sounds like there’s a fight [behind us]. It’s nice to be watching it and over the line,” he added.

Enright talked through the ‘decision of the leg’ – whether to hug the English coastline or stick, as he did, to the French and Dutch shorelines to the south of the English Channel.

Initially on Thursday it looked as if north would pay, as Dongfeng Race Team, MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP) and Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) seemed to be making gains in stronger winds midway through the day.

But Team Alvimedica stuck to their guns and eventually the tides and breezes turned to their advantage for an entrance into The Hague and across the finish line, chased by dozens of spectator boats.

They will head out of The Hague at 12 noon local time on Saturday 20 June with their 1hr 46min 29sec advantage over Dongfeng Race Team, and the rest of the fleet also taking their advantages and deficits over their rivals, in a staggered start.

The seven boats are due to finish the leg in Gothenburg on the afternoon of Monday 22 June, according to the latest estimates.

If Team Alvimedica were to be first into port there too, they would need Team Vestas Wind (Chris Nicholson/AUS) and Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) to improve on their current sixth and seventh places and sandwich themselves between Enright’s crew, Dongfeng Race Team and MAPFRE, to take an overall podium place.

Team Brunel were hoping to do better than fourth place sailing into their home port, but as Bekking said before the leg started, only the finishing positions in Gothenburg really matter.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) sailed serenely on to claim fifth place in The Hague, having avoided any major problems on the first half of Leg 9.

They have an unassailable eight-point advantage over Team Brunel at the top of the overall standings.

If the current positions stay as they are, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing would have 24 points, Team Brunel and Dongfeng Race Team 31 apiece, MAPFRE and Team Alvimedica 34 each, Team SCA 51 and Team Vestas Wind 60.

That would leave the Inmarsat In-Port Race Gothenburg on Saturday 27 June to split the ties between second and third and fourth and fifth: the perfect finale to one of the most closely contested races in 41 years of event history.

Published in Ocean Race

#vorinjury – A woman has been seriously injured close to the starting area for Leg 9 of the Volvo Ocean Race earlier today in Lorient, France The woman is currently receiving treatment at a hospital in Lorient following an incident on the water involving a trimaran (not related to the Volvo Ocean Race) and a Volvo Ocean Race marshal rib.

The crash happened at 1615 local time (0015 AEST), marring the start of the 960-nautical mile race to Gothenburg in Sweden, via a 24-hour stopover in The Hague.

A trimaran crashed with an organiser's inflatable boat with four people aboard.

A woman suffered a serious leg injury, according to the maritime police in Brest, and was evacuated by helicopter.

A statement issued by Volvo Ocean Race organisers tonight said: 'We are concerned about her wellbeing and remain in close contact with the Lorient stopover organisation and local authorities'. 

It is understood the collision was between the multihull "Spindrift" (non-competitor) and a race organiser's rib with four people onboard.

A passenger on the rib received leg injuries in the collision and was supported onsite by SNSM** semi-rigid boats SNS 704 and SNS 722 based in St Nazaire. After a conference call between the SAMU*** Medical Coordination Centre (SCMM 64) in Bayonne and CROSS Etel, it was decided to evacuate the injured person to the nearest hospital.

The civil security medical helicopter "Dragon 56" was immediately dispatched. The injured woman was airlifted at approximately 5:11 pm and transported to Scorff Hospital in Lorient were she was treated by medical staff at 5:16 pm.

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#VOR - The Volvo Ocean Race fleet set off for Gothenburg from Lorient in perfect sailing conditions today (Tuesday 16 June) with Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) leading the chase to reach the pit stop in The Hague.

There was drama from the very first seconds with Leg 8 winners Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) and Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA) both finding themselves on the wrong side of the line at the start and were forced back to cross for a second time.

Bouwe Bekking, in contrast, stormed away to the perfect start and was still narrowly ahead as he led the fleet out of a packed Lorient with all six boats in hot pursuit after five laps around the port.

Team Brunel, like three other boats, has a podium position to sail for in this final 960-nautical-mile leg to Sweden after more than eight months at sea, despite Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR) already having the overall title virtually sewn up with an unassailable eight-point lead.

The Dutch boat is currently in second place on 27 points after eight legs, two clear of Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier), and four ahead of MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP).

All have the chance of finishing in second if the last leg results go their way, and even fifth-placed Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA) on 33 points could sneak in to grab the runners-up spot if they end up as leg winners and their rivals finish down the field.

Both Team SCA and Team Vestas Wind, first and second from Lisbon into Lorient last week, will be determined to put a spoke in all their wheels and repeat the previous stage’s somewhat surprising finish.

As Ian Walker put it, meanwhile, his tactics on board Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing are pretty simple on a stage which is full of exclusion zones, avoiding a busy shipping route skirted by rocks: “Don’t hit any rocks and avoid breaking any rules.”

Bekking would like nothing better than be first to reach The Hague in his home country, probably on Friday, a belated birthday present as he turns 52 years old tomorrow (17 June).

“We just have to beat them, it’s easy,” he said in an interview dockside before the action started at 5pm local time.

“We have no strategy as such but, of course, we’re going to keep an eye on the guys. It will be massive to go home [The Hague] but we know it’s just a stop and it’s all about the finish in Gothenburg.”

Another birthday boy, Iker Martínez onboard MAPFRE, who turns 38 today, said that the leg offers fairly unique challenges.

“There are lots of rocks involved, and our first priority is not to hit the rocks," he put it matter-of-factly.

“There’s going to be lot of current, but it’s difficult to know where the key of the leg is going to be. We could arrive in Scheveningen and then the whole thing starts again. The best thing is to be in front in any case.”

Charlie Enright of Team Alvimedica agreed, adding: “We are in a really complicated situation – but at least we know it’s complicated.”

The boats will be precisely timed as they pass the interim line in Scheveningen, near The Hague, on Friday 19 June. No points will be awarded for how they finish there.

From 12 noon local time onwards the following day, they will depart for Gothenburg with whatever advantage or deficit they took into the pit stop on their rivals. They are expected to arrive in Gothenburg on Monday 22 June 22 or possibly the following day.

The nine-month, 38,739-nautical-mile marathon event will finally come to a halt in the famous maritime Swedish city on Saturday 27 June with the Inmarsat In-Port Race Gothenburg.

Published in Ocean Race

#VOR - Team Alvimedica claimed their second Volvo Ocean Race in-port race series victory in Lorient, France today (14 June) after leaving their rivals trailing following a delayed start due to lack of wind.

The victory, which follows their triumph in the opening in-port race in Alicante eight months ago, bolsters the hopes of Charlie Enright’s crew to claim a much-coveted final podium finish in the series that concludes in Gothenburg, Sweden on 27 June.

The SCA In-Port Race Lorient victory will also lift their chances of a top-three finish in the overall standings.

The series acts as a tie-breaker for the tightly contested second and third places in the offshore competition that also finishes in Gothenburg the week after next.

A lack of breeze on the race track kept the fans in Lorient waiting some 30 minutes before the action started, but there was drama aplenty from the off.

MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP) were forced to duck behind the rest of the seven-strong fleet as a premature start loomed and they immediately conceded seemingly costly ground on their rivals in such a key race.

Team Alvimedica had no such problems and led the boats on the windier right hand side of the course, giving them a good advantage in the chase to the first gate.

Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) and Team Vestas Wind (Chris Nicholson/AUS), first and second respectively in Leg 8 from Lisbon to Lorient, chose the lefthand side of the course and that stored up problems for them as they approached the first mark.

Both were ordered to take penalty turns: the all-women crew for apparently failing to give MAPFRE enough space (or rather, water) as they tacked around the mark, and Team Vestas Wind for committing a similar offence against Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED).

The fleet split right and left on the next leg, while Team Alvimedica cruised untroubled away at the head of the fleet, building their lead to around 300 metres.

By the fourth leg, the young Turkish/American-backed crew continued to stretch away with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing heading the chasing pack and quite happy to consolidate their position at the top of the overall in-port race standings if they could.

The result now was in no doubt in terms of who would win, but Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, Team Brunel and Dongfeng Race Team were still separated by only metres as the fifth leg continued.

As the leg finished, Azzam and no less than three other boats converged on the mark with Team Brunel, MAPFRE and Dongfeng Race Team scrapping for second place with the Emirati boat.

Into the final leg, MAPFRE steamed through in the closing stages with a perfect angle and extra wind to snatch second from Walker’s crew and Dongfeng Race Team also bypassed the Emirati boat as the line approached, leaving them fourth.

Team SCA then won a three-way showdown for fifth, just ahead of Team Brunel, with Team Vestas Wind taking seventh.

The results leave the in-port standings perfectly poised for the final deciding race in Gothenburg.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, the overall event winners elect, are still top on 25 points, six clear of Team Brunel (31), with Team Alvimedica (32), Team SCA (33), MAPFRE (34) and Dongfeng Race Team (36) all with good chances of podium places.

Team Vestas Wind, who missed all the in-port races from Abu Dhabi to Newport, Rhode Island because of their rebuild following a collision with a reef, are on 66 points.

Should Team Brunel win the final race in Gothenburg, they would lift the trophy at the expense of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing since they would have the most individual victories in the series.

Walker, who is already assured of the main offshore trophy as long as his crew do not pick up a batch of penalty points in the final leg from Lorient to Gothenburg, was satisfied with Sunday’s performance.

“It was a good result for us,” he told reporters. “We were just trying to cover Team Brunel and to get enough points to get the series won. We’ve not quite done that, but we’re in a pretty good position.”

Enright then summed up: “We had a really, really good start which made it pretty easy to execute our game plan. We need another good result in Gothenburg to close the deal.”

Published in Ocean Race

#vor – Former Irish Green Dragon sailors Ian Walker (GBR) and his Munster bowman Justin Slattery on Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing have all but clinched the 12th edition of offshore sailing's toughest challenge in the early hours of Thursday, when a third place in Leg 8 left them with an eight-point lead in the Volvo Ocean Race with one stage to go.

Only a very unlikely combination of a last-place finish in Leg 9 to Gothenburg from Lorient, France, plus at least two penalty points can deprive the team of a remarkable achievement.

For Walker, 45, it is the realisation of a career ambition to become the first British skipper to win the overall trophy in the 41-year-old event, although John Chittenden won the Cruising Division of the 1989-90 edition won by Sir Peter Blake's Steinlager2.

Walker led an Irish team round the world with the Green Dragon Volvo Ocean Race bid in the 2009 race. He has been contiously racing round the world since then in search of his historic win.

In spite of the disappointing performance of Green Dragon the boat was welcomed in to Galway after the 2009 Transatlantic leg by a huge crowd and a week long celebration that has subsequently set the bar for all other stop over ports in the 2012 race.

For Cork's Slattery, it will be his second win in the global race and follows his ABN–AMRO victory in 2006.

And it is no less of an extraordinary achievement for the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing project, which only entered the race for the first time in 2011-12 and finished a disappointing fifth. The team and skipper Walker learnt hard lessons.

A pre-race strategy for 2014-15 of a podium finish in each leg has been carried out almost to perfection - they were fifth in Leg 7 - to take them through to a handsome victory.

Their triumph was set up at 0305 UTC/0505 local time on Thursday, when they finished in the final podium position behind fairy-tale Leg 8 winners Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) and runners-up, Team Vestas Wind (Chris Nicholson/AUS).

With MAPFRE (Xabi Fernández/ESP) obligingly sandwiched in fourth between Azzam and Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED), it was mission all but accomplished for Walker and his ecstatic crew.

"It's not really sunk in yet," said a still dazed Walker. "When we passed the finish line we all went quiet and asked ourselves 'is that it?'

The boats will have a short maintenance period before Sunday's SCA In-Port Race Lorient (June 14) before the fleet set sail for Gothenburg, via a much-awaited pit-stop in The Hague, on Tuesday, June 16.

The Race is anything but over, of course. No less than four boats can still finish runner-up behind Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing with Team Brunel (27 points), Dongfeng Race Team (29), MAPFRE (31) and Team Alvimedica (33) all within six points of each other.

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