Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing win Volvo Ocean Race in-port in Cape Town

Ahead of the second leg, a veritable homecoming for Azzam, it doubled as the perfect preparation and showed it can endure in a marathon and break free in a sprint with equal dexterity.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing in Cape Town. Ian Roman
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CAPE TOWN, South Africa // There is nothing quite like winning. Sportsmen talk of the thrill of participation, the learning from defeat, not worrying about losses in inconsequential events. But if you win, inconsequential or otherwise, it means something.

Yesterday, in stubborn conditions, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam set down another reminder: of the teams to beat in this Volvo Ocean Race (VOR), they are going to be the toughest.

Azzam took advantage of a near-perfect start in Cape Town’s in-port race – “a cracker of a start,” skipper Ian Walker called it later – and never relinquished control on the eight-nautical-mile course. Team Brunel and SCA pushed them towards the end, but they got home just over a minute ahead of Brunel.

Ahead of the second leg of the VOR to Abu Dhabi, which begins on Wednesday and is a veritable homecoming for Azzam, it doubled as the perfect bit of preparation and sent a message, too: this boat can endure in a marathon and break free in a sprint with equal dexterity.

Conditions were difficult in Table Bay, under Table Mountain, which stands over the city as a brooding presence and is forever responsible for moody shifts in weather. Winds shifted dramatically, dropping to 12 knots as quickly as they rose to above 20, and it rained.

The weather has been a theme throughout the week. In just one hour of the race, an observer from one of the teams said there were as many challenges to face because of the changes in conditions as there might be in entire legs of the VOR.

“The conditions were very difficult,” Walker said. “We had a little bit of luck at the start, which isn’t what we were planning at all, but there was a massive wind shift and we reacted to it first. We had a strong start but it was so shifty and the winds so variable that the race was never over.

“We made one big mistake, which was committing to the smaller spinnaker when the wind was up and then the wind dropped, and that left us a little vulnerable on the last run. So it was a little bit closer than we liked at the end but on a day like today people are going to catch you up, then you’re going to gain, it’s all over the place.”

The intensity of the finish to the first leg placed greater importance on the recovery period. That process continues with Azzam, but a return to the water, on competitive terms, and a win will help with that.

Once it became clear Walker and his men had the race in hand, attention fell to a thrilling battle between Teams Brunel and SCA for second place.

The all-female crew was in control of that battle for a while but Brunel benefited from a glitch when SCA unfurled the gennaker (a type of sail).

It was still a strong showing from Team SCA, among the most popular teams during the stopover.

“It was a good race,” the skipper Sam Davies said. “We’re happy with how it went. We didn’t do everything perfectly though. Lots of little things that we can do better. That’s why Brunel beat us. If we had done better we’d have been able to come second. We keep working, we keep learning, we learnt a lot today.”

Not everyone will have been as pleased. Team Alvimedica, who won the Alicante in-port race, tore their jib early on and came in second last, just ahead of Team Mapfre.

That rounded off a disappointing stopover generally; heavily fancied ahead of the race, Team Alvimedica finished the first leg well off the pace, ahead of Team SCA and Mapfre.

Skipper Charlie Enright said it was a tough race and that the tear will affect Team Alvimedica’s offshore programme.

“[The tear] is a big thing,” Enright said. “There aren’t a lot of sails and to be honest, we’re still learning how to use them. Everybody is continuing to improve as these legs go on.

“There are still a lot of points available later in the race.”


Final results for Cape Town In-Port Race:

1. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

2. Team Brunel

3. Team SCA

4. Dongfeng Race Team

5. Team Vestas Wind

6. Team Alvimedica

7. Mapfre