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Abu Dhabi Ocean racing leads Volvo Ocean Race after tense second place finish in Auckland

posted on 01/03/2015: 1411 views



Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR), the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) entrant from the United Arab Emirates' capital, has surged into first place on the overall leaderboard after coming in second on Leg 4 of the round-the-world yacht race, from China to New Zealand.

The team, backed by the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) and led by British double Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker, crossed the finish line in Auckland at 2035 yesterday (local time), a fraction over four minutes behind winners MAPFRE after almost three weeks at sea on the more than 5,000 nautical-mile passage from Sanya.

ADOR held off a sustained attack on the final day of the leg from its main rival in the overall standings – Dongfeng Race Team – who finished a close third, another four minutes back. ADOR had to be at the top of their game to fend off the Chinese yacht as the sun set over Auckland's Hauraki Gulf, matching their every challenge with a blocking countermove.

ADOR's second place extends the team's unbroken string of podium places in the offshore legs and ties the Abu Dhabi team with Dongfeng on points at the top of the overall leaderboard. The race's rules break the tie in favour of ADOR giving the Abu Dhabi the overall top spot based on the count back of points.

"It's been one of the most hard fought legs I can recall," said ADOR navigator Simon Fisher. "The top three were closer at the finish after 5,000 miles than they were at the end of the inshore loop leaving China! Well done to MAPFRE for their victory. We are very happy with second. We had a great battle with Dongfeng and I won't lie, we are delighted to get one over on them and take the overall lead." ADOR was the most consistent team during the Leg, rarely dropping out of the top three and finally taking the lead in the early hours of February 22 – shortly after crossing the Equator for the third time in the race - when Walker's men overhauled long-time leaders Team Brunel, who had got in front early in the Leg courtesy of a brave tactical call to pursue a much more northerly route around the top of the Philippines.

ADOR's lead was far from secure, however, and only hours later as the team encountered the virtually flat, calm conditions of the Doldrums zone, Azzam ground to almost a full halt, allowing Dongfeng and MAPFRE to sail around the outside. But ADOR responded immediately, setting about preventing the Chinese and Spanish crews from turning their overtaking move into an uncatchable breakaway.

Despite some of the tightest racing in the race so far, ADOR found the time to welcome ‘King Neptune' aboard shortly before the Equator, for a long-standing maritime tradition for sailors making their first crossing of the line dividing the northern and southern hemispheres.

ADOR's under-30 reserve Alex Higby took the initiation that took him from ‘Polywog' (crossing the Equator for the first time) to ‘Trusty Shellback', with his punishments including a having to drink a noxious smelling concoction put together by boat medic Phil Harmer, being daubed with the contents of the bilge and washing-up water, and being subject to some highly rudimentary hairstyling from the rest of the crew.

Meanwhile, as Dongfeng and MAPFRE continued to make gains in the east, ADOR stayed resolute on its more westerly track and was eventually rewarded with stronger breezes that put it bow-to-bow for the lead with the other two as it made the transition from the Doldrums into steadier easterly winds with 1,000 miles to go to Auckland. - Emirates News Agency, WAM -http://www.wam.ae/en/news/sports/1395277243496.html

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