ABU DHABI // The arduous second leg of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race, from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi, concluded early Saturday afternoon with a victory for Team Brunel, who were welcomed into the capital in style.
All that was missing was a victory for the home team, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam, but after leading the 23-day, 16-hour race for more than a week, and as late as Friday, in the Strait of Hormuz, skipper Ian Walker and his crew finished third.
Brunel, the Dutch team, arrived ahead of the Dongfeng Race Team after a compelling finish to a 6,125-nautical-miles leg. Azzam’s third-place finish, following their victory in Cape Town, left those three boats tied for the lead in the world’s toughest ocean race.
The boats were greeted at the Corniche Breakwater Village, purpose-built for the stopover, by brilliant sunshine and blue skies, a combination that makes for a great day but not necessarily the best sailing conditions.
After 23 days on water, the sailors were given a fitting welcome, draped in the traditional Arab bisht walking off the boats surrounded by Sasha and Yola dancers.
Azzam skipper Ian Walker was desperate to win the leg before he set off from Cape Town but ultimately was satisfied to finish third, just behind the leaders.
“For sure, we wanted to win this leg, but I said before the start of leg I would take a podium place,” he said. “It’s a long way from Cape Town and to be in the hunt and in one piece and on the podium, you have to have a reasonable smile on your face.”
An enthusiastic crowd awaited the sailors at the free-to-enter village, marking the start of a three-week stopover in Abu Dhabi packed with a number of sports, entertainment and leisure activities.
“It’s great to be back,” the race chief executive Knut Frostad said. “I’m going to be here over Christmas and we’re going to spend a longer time here than last time. That’s great for us and the sailors and we look forward to having lots of people down to the race village.
“It is a fantastic race village and I hope we have a lot of people visiting over the next three weeks.”
There is enough reason to visit, not least the unique 440-meter floating Skyline Stage that has been set up and has already played host to the acclaimed BBC production Blue Planet in Concert.
The stage will also play host to performances by Lebanese singer Myriam Fares, Argentinian guitarist Dominic Miller and Grammy Award nominee Kamal Massalam, among others.
The 35,000-square-meter village, considerably bigger than the village for the last stopover in December 2011, has a number of themed culture and heritage zones as well as five international pavilions. There is also a cinema screening films from the race.
The village is open daily from noon to 9pm Sunday-Wednesday and 11am to midnight Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The boats depart for the third leg to Sanya, China, on January 3, with an in-port race scheduled for the day before.
Published: December 13, 2014 04:00 AM