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Abu Dhabi, Dongfeng Battle For Volvo Ocean Race Lead As Fleet Nears Caribbean

30th April 2015
Abu Dhabi, Dongfeng Battle For Volvo Ocean Race Lead As Fleet Nears Caribbean

#VOR - What a difference a few days make! After back-marking the Volvo Ocean Race fleet out of Itajaí for the first week of Leg 6, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing have raced into pole position.

As recently at this past weekend, the crew of Azzam - including Ireland's own Justin Slattery – were still holding up the rear before the big push north that saw Dongfeng Race Team claim the lead.

The Chinese boat, which had Kerry sailor Damian Foxall on deck for the previous leg, held the advantage as the closely packed fleet rounded the north-eastern corner of the South American continent.

But after crossing the Equator for the final time this race, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing made their move over the course of "a mad few hours" – as skipper Ian Walker put it – sailing along the edge of the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone.

The ITCZ is a belt of low pressure that circles the earth where the trade winds on both sides of the Equator meet.

And it was marked out for the fleet by a massive 50-mile-long cloud with more than 30 knots of wind below it.

"As soon as we got hooked into we were off in a cloud of spray, doing over 25 knots for about two hours. It was incredible!" said Walker. "We sailed right up to Brunel and over the guys to leeward closer to land.

“It came on so quickly that hardly anyone on deck was dressed for the strong wind so we all got totally soaked. We couldn’t even dive below for our wet weather gear, as it needed all of us to keep control.

"So, there we were, ripping along on the very edge of control with water everywhere and just dressed in shorts and t-shirts. We all ended up just laughing at how ridiculous we all must have looked.”

The huge speed boost catapulted Azzam to the front of the pack, which as of lunchtime today (Thursday 30 April) was spread out by some 47 nautical miles between the lead boat and current last-placed Team SCA, and about half that between Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and fifth-place Team Alvimedica on either side of the fleet.

While the race dashboard shows a tightly knit group of yachts from overhead, the standings show a race of three distinct duels for position.

Ineed, Azzam's lead is a narrow one, as Dongfeng Race Team – out of sight to their port side but not out of mind – are within two nautical miles according to the most recent race tracker update.

At the back, the women of Team SCA and the American-Turkish boat Team Alvimedica are just 5nm apart, while the other battle is for third place as Team Brunel and MAPFRE duel around 16nm from the leaders.

Published in Volvo Ocean Race
MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy

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MacDara Conroy is a contributor covering all things on the water, from boating and wildlife to science and business

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