A three-way tie at the top of the Volvo Ocean Race overall standings means that the Abu Dhabi in-port race today, before the start of the leg tomorrow, assumes greater significance.
The in-port races at each leg offer no points and will only come into play should there be a tie in the overall result at the end of the race next June.
As the race has progressed the prospect of the in-port race results being used as a decider next June seems less fanciful.
Certainly, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam, Team Brunel and Racing Team Dongfeng will be treating it seriously. The three are tied on four points after two legs but Azzam, on past form at least, probably start as favourites for this race.
They finished as runners-up to Team Alvimedica in the Alicante in-port race and won the Cape Town edition, putting them on top of the in-port series.
Ian Walker and his crew will also want to please a home crowd and might even be able to draw out a kind of home advantage from the familiarity of racing in these waters.
The race will also be an opportunity for the tight-knit crew to bid adieu, temporarily at least, to their injured crewman Phil Harmer.
Harmer has a broken hand, as well as an illness that has not been diagnosed yet, but that has left him with severe weight loss.
He will not be sailing the race leg to Sanya and is to be replaced by the team performance manager and VOR veteran Neal McDonald, but Harmer will take his place in the in-port race.
Dongfeng will be seeking to correct their poor form in the in-port series as a boost ahead of their homecoming leg.
Charles Caudrelier and crew have finished fifth and fourth and Brunel were runners-up in Cape Town.
In a departure from the first two legs, the leg begins tomorrow with no break after the in-port race finishes.
In Alicante, teams had a week between the in-port race and leg start and four days in Cape Town.
It will remain this way until the beginning of the last leg from Lorient to Gothenburg in June.
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