Despite ‘torture’ of Leg 7, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s lead largely intact

As Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing finished fifth in Leg 7 on Wednesday, by far their worst yet in the Volvo Ocean Race, the impact was blunted by challengers Dongfeng coming fourth.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's Azzam shown as it finished leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race on Wednesday in Lisbon, Portugal. Ricardo Pinto / Volvo Ocean Race / May 27, 2015
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Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's Azzam struggled home fifth in the "torture" that was Leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race on Wednesday, but their overall lead in the nine-month, round-the-world race was cut by only one point.

Dongfeng, the Chinese team who are second overall to Azzam, finished one slot ahead of the Abu Dhabi boat in the Newport to Lisbon leg after losing a duel for third place by 55 seconds to Alvimedica.

With two legs remaining in the “Everest of sailing”, Azzam are on 16 points, following their first finish off the podium, five points ahead of Dongfeng and six ahead of Brunel, the Dutch team who won the race ahead of the Spanish boat Mapfre.

“That was a tough leg for us,” Azzam skipper Ian Walker told Volvo media officials moments after reaching the dock.

“The last five days has been torture, really. But we stuck at it, a lesson to never give up.”

The Abu Dhabi boat seemed headed for a fourth-place finish, but Alvimedica blew past them in the final miles, and losing that spot in the race rankled.

“It’s really hard to get over Alvimedica passing us, but the Bay of Biscay didn’t do us any favours,” Walker said. “Disappointing, but well-sailed, Alvimedica.”

He was aware Alvimedica also had overhauled Dongfeng, which eased the damage in the table. “We are leading overall by five points, and we have crossed off the last ocean crossing and it feels great to be here,” he said.

Walker conceded he is concerned by Azzam’s lack of downwind speed during Leg 7, but refused to cite sickness among the crew as a factor in finishing fifth after results of first, third, second, second, first and second in the first six legs.

“It didn’t impact performance; it impacted enjoyment. The guys dug in and worked as hard as they normally do,” he said.

The VOR fleet, now augmented by Team Vestas Wind, who rejoin after major repairs to their boat, will spend 10 days in Portugal before departing on June 7 for Lorient, France. The final leg is from Lorient to Gothenburg, Sweden.

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