Winds slow Azzam’s progress to Abu Dhabi in Leg 2 of Volvo Ocean Race

But Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew believe Emirati member Adil Khalid used his knowledge of local conditions to move them within sight of leaders Team Brunel and Dongfeng on Friday.
Leg 2 leaders Team Brunel approaching the final stages as they head to Abu Dhabi. Stefan Coppers / VOR
Leg 2 leaders Team Brunel approaching the final stages as they head to Abu Dhabi. Stefan Coppers / VOR

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing called on their “onboard wizard”. Team Brunel could smell mutton cooking onshore at Musandam. Team Alvimedica rued that “it doesn’t seem fair to be so close yet so far”.

Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) turned from a sprint to a desperate crawl on Friday night, with Abu Dhabi’s Azzam among three boats hoping for a puff of wind to carry them the final 150 or so nautical miles down the west coast of the country and to the finish line at the capital, where thousands awaited a winner.

The VOR website on Friday night predicted the first three boats would complete the 6,100nm Leg 2 between 9am and 1pm on Saturday, but light winds could push back their arrival.

Azzam’s crew believes Emirati crewman Adil Khalid used his knowledge of local conditions to move them within sight of leaders Dongfeng and Brunel on Friday.

“It was as if Adil had called up the local wind machine,” wrote Matt Knighton, Azzam’s onboard reporter. “He predicted that at 0900 we would get the sea breeze as we drew closer to shore. Sure enough, we could’ve set our watches to it.”

A breeze of nine knots held for 11 hours, leaving Azzam, winner of Leg 1, from Alicante to Cape Town, only a few miles behind, late on Friday night.

The three leaders are searching for small puffs of wind, a frustrating exercise but a vital one.

“The flat sea shows wrinkles here and there,” wrote Stefan Coppers, Brunel’s reporter.

“Who grabs the most wrinkles will be the winner of this exciting leg,” Brunel crewman Johnny Poortman said. “I would get so sick if we lost it now because of missing one small shift.”

Alvimedica are far behind the leaders, but reporter Amory Ross summed up the predicament of the fleet when he wrote: “This is two legs now that the final 1,000 miles have been dominated by unbearably light air.”

The leaders rounded the northern tip of Oman last night, and were running parallel to Ras Al Khaimah as they travelled south.

This part of the race is new to the VOR. Three years ago, piracy fears led to the fleet being picked up by container ship at Mauritius and set down at Sharjah to make a sprint to Abu Dhabi.

Winds have been fluky since the fleet entered the Strait of Hormuz earlier this week.

One consolation, reported from the ships, were spectacular views either side of the water line, the mountains of Oman and Fujairah above and bright sea life below.

“What a unique stretch of water,” Ross said. “Last night was one of the most visually impressive I have spent on a boat. I mean that. From the sunset to the sunrise. Slicing through the sea’s surface the bioluminescence were on fire. It was like the water was plugged in – it was that electric. A Halogen wake.”

The fleet will gladly trade the view for garlands on the podium, and three weeks of fresh food and plenty of sleep in Abu Dhabi.

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter at SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 13, 2014 04:00 AM

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