Volvo Ocean Race Leg 7 underway as leaders Abu Dhabi aim to ‘arrive safely in Lisbon’

Mapfre led the Volvo Ocean Race fleet out of Newport and into the most challenging of the remaining three legs through the North Atlantic.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew navigate their way out of Newport at the start of Leg 7. Dominick Reuter / AFP
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Spanish boat Mapfre led the Volvo Ocean Race fleet out of Newport, Rhode Island, on Sunday and into the most challenging of the remaining three legs through the North Atlantic.

For the tight-knit professional offshore racing community, the stage will always be remembered for the 2005-06 race when a Dutch sailor, Hans Horrevoets, drowned after being washed overboard at night.

Later on the same leg, his crew of ABN AMRO TWO, rescued the sailors of rivals Movistar shortly before the Spanish team’s boat sank mid-Atlantic.

The skipper of that Movistar crew, Bouwe Bekking, 51, is now heading the 2014-15 campaign of third-placed Team Brunel.


Preview: Ian Walker warns of 'nasty' Leg 7 conditions as Abu Dhabi looks to build on Volvo Ocean Race lead

In-port: Abu Dhabi finish third at Newport to reclaim top spot of Volvo Ocean Race in-port standings

He is more aware than most of the potential dangers of a nine-day, 2,800-nautical mile 4,815km) seventh leg from Newport to Lisbon, Portugal, that will involve whales, ocean debris, busy shipping lanes and wildly fluctuating weather.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, skippered by Ian Walker, lead the race by six points from Chinese surprise challengers, Dongfeng Race Team. When asked what his priority was from leg seven, however, Walker replied simply: “Easy — to arrive safely in Lisbon.”

The in-form Mapfre, headed by 2004 Athens Olympic gold medallist Iker Martinez, are 13 points off the lead in fifth place and unlikely to threaten Abu Dhabi or Dongfeng for the overall prize in the 41-year-old competition.

But on Saturday, they dominated the Newport in-port race and they followed up on Sunday by giving a masterclass of inshore racing to the fleet before exiting Newport first into the open seas.

The forecast is for light winds over the next 24 hours before stronger gusts and the Gulf Stream are expected to give the fleet a very bumpy ride.

After reaching Lisbon, the boats will have a short stopover before tackling the final two legs of the nine-month marathon which ends in Gothenburg, Sweden, on June 27 after 38,739 nautical miles (71,745km).

Volvo Ocean Race standings:

1. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (UAE) 11 pts

2. Dongfeng Race Team (CHN) 17

3. Team Brunel (NED) 21

4. Team Alvimedica (TUR/USA) 24

5. MAPFRE (ESP) 24

6. Team SCA (SWE) 35

7. Team Vestas (DEN) 44