Azzam looks set to be first to Equator in Volvo Ocean Race

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing had a fair lead on second-placed Team Brunel and a lead of at least 100 miles on everyone else by mid-Thursday as they sailed toward the eastern tip of Brazil.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper Ian Walker steers Azzam out of the doldrums with his boat in the lead during the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. Matt Knighton / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing / Volvo Ocean Race
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Agence France-Presse

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's Azzam looked set to win the race to the Equator on the opening leg of the Volvo Ocean Race on Thursday after escaping the dreaded doldrums.

The seven-strong fleet were trapped in the windless zone of the Doldrums in mid-Atlantic before British skipper Ian Walker and his team found a rare area of breeze and edged clear of their rivals on the 4,847-nautical mile first stage between Alicante and Cape Town.

The Dutch entry, Team Brunel, soon followed them along with Denmark’s Team Vestas Wind but the rest of the fleet were still struggling by midday on Thursday as a gap of 150 nautical miles opened between the leaders and chasing pack.

Abu Dhabi were just ahead of Brunel at that stage, with an advantage of some 10 nautical miles. Vestas trailed by around 100 miles.

The next major landmark for the 66 sailors will be crossing the Equator. That will be around midnight on Thursday for Azzam and Brunel.

Traditionally, it is a time when seamen and women offer a “sacrifice” to the sea gods in exchange for safe passage to their destination port, tossing a cherished item into the waters.

For newcomers passing the Equator, it will be a rite of passage ceremony that may include dressing up in fancy clothes or being scalped by their crew mates.

The boats are nearly half way through the opening leg which started on October 11 from the race’s home port of Alicante.

In all they will cover 38,739 miles in the offshore race, visiting 11 ports and finishing in Gothenburg, Sweden on June 27, 2015.

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