Abu Dhabi shrugged off seven months of frustration to seal their first offshore victory in a nerve-jarring transatlantic leg from Miami to Lisbon, while Groupama’s second place finish — five and a half minutes behind after more than 3,500 nautical miles racing — was enough to take them top of the leaderboard in place of long-term leaders Telefonica.
Groupama spent days snapping at the heels of the Emirati team and were within a mile of their rivals as they headed up the River Tagus towards the finish line.
Ian Walker’s team defended resolutely, however, matching their rivals gybe for gybe to ensure their first podium finish on an offshore leg would also be their first win, and spark wild celebrations lit up by a booming firework display.
For Groupama, the consolation prize came soon enough, as Telefónica’s finish in fourth place — behind PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG in the third podium slot and just ahead of CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand — meant the French team climb above them.
Abu Dhabi, who finished at 21:23:54 UTC, received 30 points for victory, with Groupama netting 25 after their finish at 21:29:21. PUMA took 20 points, Telefonica 15 and CAMPER 10.
Team Sanya finished sixth to pick up five points.
Groupama, skippered by Franck Cammas, now lead Telefónica by three points overall, with the Spanish team dropping off the lead for the first time since their victory on Leg 1 from Alicante to Cape Town back in November.
Four teams remain separated by just 21 points, making it the closest contest in the 39-year history of the Volvo Ocean Race with just two offshore legs and three in-port races still to come.
The arrival in Lisbon represented a homecoming for Abu Dhabi, who had a training base in nearby Cascais during the build-up to the race.
“It’s incredible — what a welcome,” said Walker, before he and Emirati crew member Adil Khalid were chucked into the water by their team mates.
“Do you think you can make the last 10 miles of a race any harder than that?
“It’s one of the most amazing experiences of my sailing career, that’s for sure. Mentally, certainly I’m exhausted. It’s just such a relief.”
Abu Dhabi also visited Lisbon in much less happy circumstances during Leg 1, after a dismasting within the first few hours ultimately forced them to ship the boat from Lisbon to Cape Town.
While they have notched up three victories in in-port races, and have a strong chance of winning the series, this is the first time they have really been able to shine in an offshore leg.
First Groupama and then Telefónica enjoyed the lead for long spells on a leg that started out looking like a fast, direct sprint across the Atlantic before the effects of Tropical Storm Alberto altered things drastically.
One by one, the boats were forced to head ever further north towards the ice exclusion zone.
Abu Dhabi moved into the lead on Day 6 and after briefly surrendering it to CAMPER they were back ahead the following day.
Two days later they were clear, though skipper Ian Walker warned repeatedly that a light-air zone inside the final 300 nautical miles would see the fleet compress.
That’s exactly how it turned out, with Abu Dhabi forced to scrap every step of the way to an emotional victory at the team’s second home.
“It came down to the wire, and we certainly had our ups and downs, but we are very happy,” said Groupama skipper Franck Cammas. “it was a good operation for us!”
Third place for PUMA kept them in contention for the overall lead, 12 points behind new leaders Groupama.
“This is a great result,” said the team’s American skipper Ken Read. “There’s still a lot of points on the board and to be on the podium is a big deal for us.”
The battle between Telefónica and CAMPER for fourth and fifth came down to a slow-motion tussle over an excruciating final few miles, with no breeze and the current against them.
Telefónica eventually finished with an advantage of 102 seconds and less than a boat length for a five-point boost that could yet prove crucial.
The action resumes with the In-Port Race on June 9, followed by the start of Leg 8 to Lorient the following day.
Leg 7 results:
1. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing – 11d, 04h, 23m, 54s
2. Groupama sailing team – 11d, 04h, 29m, 21s
3. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG – 11d, 06h, 26m, 52s
4. Team Telefónica – 11d, 08h, 28m, 27s
5. CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand – 11d, 08h, 30m, 09s
6. Team Sanya – 11d, 08h, 44m, 25s
Overall Leg 7 Total
1 Groupama sailing team 25 183
2 Team Telefónica 15 180
3 PUMA Ocean Racing by BERG 20 171
4 CAMPER with Emirates Team NZ 10 162
5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 30 104
6 Team Sanya 5 32
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing launched an 11th hour comeback in the PORTMIAMI In-Port Race to take their tally of in-shore successes to three, while Groupama scored a strong second to pile the pressure on overall race leaders Telefónica.
Ian Walker’s crew were rewarded for sailing a near-perfect race on Saturday when they snatched the lead from Groupama on the penultimate leg and went on to seal a dramatic victory.
Although they were pipped at the post, Groupama’s result moves them to within just seven points of Telefónica, who had yet more in-port disappointment when a penalty for touching one of the turning marks relegated them to last place.
In a thrilling finale, PUMA came from behind to rocket past CAMPER into third just metres from the finish line.
It was a fourth successive podium finish in the in-shore series for Ken Read’s PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG crew, and it brought them to within a point of third-placed CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand on the overall scoreboard.
Team Sanya, the only team not racing in a new generation boat, were unlucky not to finish higher up the leaderboard, having to settle for fifth after a brave battle with their rivals.
“It feels great,” said a jubilant Abu Dhabi skipper Walker moments after crossing the finish line.
“We’ve had a tough time of it. We had no time at all to prepare for the last in-port race and we made a special point of having two full days’ training here. We wanted to show the world that Abu Dhabi hasn’t given up. We’re a good team, we’re determined, and it feels great to win a race.”
With the Volvo Ocean Race entering a critical stage with just three offshore legs and three in-port races left, just 14 points split the top four boats.
Telefónica still lead with 165 points but snapping at their heels are Groupama on 158, while CAMPER and PUMA are dangerously close on 152 and 151 respectively, bolstered by the results of the PORTMIAMI In-Port Race.
In a nail-biting contest peppered with position changes, Abu Dhabi capitalised on a strong start along with Sanya but it was Telefónica who led round the first mark, showing off their blistering speed on Leg 1.
The action couldn’t have been any more intense with Abu Dhabi and Groupama overhauling Telefónica on Leg 2. Meanwhile, after paying the price for heading offshore, CAMPER and PUMA were left desperately chasing the frontrunners.
While the front two stretched their lead, a fierce battle for third developed, climaxing on Leg 6 with Telefónica hitting the mark and the rest of the fleet piling in behind.
Telefónica were penalised by the on-the-water umpires, adding to their in-port misery and ending their hopes of consolidating their overall lead.
Sniffing a chance to pick up crucial points, PUMA, CAMPER and Sanya put pedal to metal and launched an extraordinary comeback that brought them back in touch with then leaders Groupama and second-placed Abu Dhabi with just a few legs left.
Abu Dhabi’s defining moment came when they hoisted a bigger sail than their French rivals, making the most of the smallest of speed advantages to pass Groupama despite having to dodge a spectator boat.
With the breeze fading, race officials chose to shorten the course and Abu Dhabi hung on to claim the win, all the more sweet due to the fact that just a few weeks ago their stricken boat Azzam was on a container ship en route to Brazil.
The sailors and shore crews are now turning their sights on the final preparations for 3,580 nautical mile Leg 7 from Miami to Lisbon, Portugal, starting on Sunday at 1700 UTC (1300 local time).
PORTMIAMI In-Port Race results:
1. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, 74:09
2. Groupama sailing team, +00:33
3. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG, +02:02
4. CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, +02:11
5. Team Sanya, +2:35
6. Team Telefónica, +6:28
Ken Read and The PUMA Ocean Racing Powered By BERG team win Leg 6,American skipper Ken Read led his PUMA team to a second consecutive leg win on Wednesday, arriving on home soil in Miami triumphant following an epic 17-day match race with closest rivals CAMPER to confirm they are back in contention for overall victory.
Since the heartbreak of the first leg, in which their yacht Mar Mostro dismasted, PUMA have been on the up – and after scoring their first offshore success in Leg 5 from Auckland to Itajaí, Brazil, they made it two in two with glory in Leg 6.
After coming off best in an intense battle for first place with CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, who at one point closed the gap to less than a mile, Read said his team were back in the fight for the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 trophy.
“That was about as stressful as it can get, believe me,” Read said. “It was touch and go, and the guys on CAMPER sailed very well, but I couldn’t be more proud of our team — they did an unbelievably great job.”
PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG crossed the finish line at 18:14:00 UTC, 17 days after leaving from Itajaí, Brazil, with CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand around an hour behind PUMA and on course to take second.
PUMA dominated the 4,800 nautical mile leg from the start, only surrendering the lead on two occasion to CAMPER and for no more than 48 hours.
A fast start to the leg in fresh conditions saw PUMA lead out of Itajaí and into several days of fast sailing up the Brazilian coast.
As winds eased the fleet split into three groups, with CAMPER and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing closest to the shore enjoying two days at the head of the pack, while Team Telefónica and Groupama sailing team opted to head east in search of better breeze. PUMA split the difference and it paid as they got a jump on their rivals that would lay the foundations for their eventual win.
With the south-east trade winds providing near-perfect conditions for the Volvo Open 70s, a drag race began up to the Equator and through the Doldrums, which presented little problem for the fleet. But 10 days into racing, PUMA were nearly undone by storm clouds which stalled the leaders, allowing CAMPER and Telefónica to reel them in to just six miles.
Into the Caribbean Sea they enjoyed fast sailing once more until they hit tricky weather systems that once again saw the leading boats compress. Despite coming under fire from CAMPER right up until the very last minute, faultless sailing saw PUMA defend their lead to claim the win.
It’s the fourth time in six legs that PUMA have finished on the podium, and they pick up an invaluable 30 points for the leg win to take their overall tally to 147.
CAMPER will be awarded 25 points for second place, their best result in the offshore series since Leg 2 from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi when they finished second behind Team Telefónica.
“It’s been a long leg and PUMA have sailed very nicely, they have defended very well, but I think we have attacked well too,” CAMPER skipper Chris Nicholson said as his team closed in on the finish line. “I’m pretty happy with how it’s gone. We’re in better shape now for the next leg.”
Both teams will close the gap on overall leaders Telefónica, who were still scrapping it out for the final podium position with Groupama sailing team.
The current ETA for the arrival of Groupama and Telefónica is 0300 UTC, with fifth-placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing expected to arrive at 0800 UTC.
In the end, smaller production yachts topped the podium. Two of the new Farr-designed Beneteau First 40s, Two True (Andrew Saies) and Wicked (Mike Welsh) placed first and second.
Third and fourth were two of the Murray, Burns & Dovell Sydney 38 one-designs, Next (Ian Mason/Jay Krehbiel), and Swish (Steven Proud).
These first four boats followed a similar strategy; heading well out to sea from the start, staying mainly east of the rhumb line and chasing the current eddies. And they pushed each other hard, racing one-design.
The two Sydney 38s ended their 628nm match race with a gybing duel over the last 11 miles in the River Derwent. Next crossed half a boat length in front to win the Sydney 38 One Design division ahead of Swish, but placed fourth behind Swish on IRC overall because she has a slightly higher IRC overall handicap for carrying a masthead spinnaker.
Next’s skipper Ian Mason said: “It was a very tough race. It was just match-racing for nearly 400 miles with Swish. We were never more than about 800 metres apart and then she beat us by five seconds.”
Two True also won the ORCi division, introduced into the race for the first time this year in response to a growing push among Australian owners for a more measurement-based, transparent rule than IRC.
Ragamuffin’s veteran skipper Syd Fischer, strongly behind the move towards ORCi was surprised and gratified that 33 boats in the 100-boat fleet, raced under ORCi as well as IRC. “I think it will be a great rule because it’s fully measured, transparent and we don’t have anyone’s input into it other than the measurements,” he said.
“It’s fair. I can’t stand anything that isn’t fair because people spend a lot of money on these boats. If you look around the world there’s billions of dollars spent on them and they’ve come into what’s a club rule.”
At the presentation, Matt Allen, Commodore of the race organizer, Cruising Yacht Club of Australia, who sailed his first Hobart race in 1976 and the 21st this year on his own modified Volvo 70 Ichi Ban, said: “The race to Hobart has certainly captured my imagination. Now it has never been in better health and I’m convinced that the best years are ahead.”
Matteo Mazzanti from Rolex SA presented overall winning skipper Andrew Saies from Two True with a Rolex Yacht-Master timepiece, and the Tatersall’s Cup for the overall handicap winner in IRC.
Sailes, sailing in his fifth Rolex Sydney Hobart, but on a brand-new boat this year, was clearly touched and said, “You can’t win without a great boat, a great team and an ounce of Hobart luck..This is an iconic race, if you’re a yachtie in Australia, you want to win this race.”
Alfa Romeo, Neville Crichton, (NZ), Reichel Pugh 100
1. Two True, Andrew Saies (AUS), Beneteau First 40
2. Wicked, Mark/Mike Welsh (AUS), Beneteau First 40
3. Next, Ian Mason (AUS), Sydney 38
IRC Div 0: Alfa Romeo, Neville Crichton, (NZ), Reichel Pugh 100
IRC Div 1: Ran, Niklas Zennstrom, (UK), Judel-Vrolijk 72
IRC Div 2: Tow Truck, Anthony Paterson (AUS), Ker 11.3
IRC Div 3: Next, Ian Mason (AUS), Sydney 38
IRC Div 4: Two True, Andrew Saies (AUS), Beneteau First 40
PHS Div 1: Wasabi, Bruce McKay, (AUS), Sayer 12
PHS Div 2: She, Peter Rodgers, (AUS), Olsen 40 MOD
Sydney 38: Swish, Steven Proud, (AUS), Sydney 38
ORCi: Two True, Andrew Saies (AUS), Beneteau First 40
Cruising: Holy Cow!, John Clinton (AUS), Oceanis 50
Andy Saies’ Two True survived a protest this afternoon to be confirmed as overall winner of the Tattersall’s Cup, the major prize in the 2009 Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race for the overall IRC handicap winner.
After a two-hour hearing, the International Jury dismissed the protest entered by the Inglis 39 She’s the Culprit (Todd Leary), the Hobart yacht damaged in a crush of boats approaching the first rounding mark after the race start on Sydney Harbour.
Two True, one of the first new Farr-designed Beneteau First 40 stock production racer/cruiser to be imported into Australia, won IRC overall by 42 minutes from another new First 40, (Mike Welsh) after a close race-long duel in which they followed a similar strategy – stay well east of the rhumbline.
Ian Mason’s Sydney 38 Next, in third place, another 1hr 19min behind, was similarly pushed by close competition in the six-boat Sydney 38 fleet racing one-design, as well as on IRC handicap. Another Sydney 38, Swish (Steven Proud) from the strong Sydney fleet, was fourth and Tony Kirby’s Jeppersen X-41 Patrice Six, fifth.
In sixth place was the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race winner Ran (Niklas Zennstrom), from the UK.
Two True, from the Cruising Yacht Club of South Australia, is the first yacht from South Australia to win the Tattersall’s Cup since Kevan Pearce’s win with SAP Ausmaid in 2000. The South Australians continue to be strongly committed to the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race, sailing 1000 nautical miles just to get to the start.
Owner-skipper Saies said he was absolutely elated at the win after being in the surreal situation of not knowing the outcome until after the protest hearing. “Obviously we are very happy with the jury’s decision. We believe we did everything in the circumstances to avoid significant damage to the other boat. We gave our intention to protest, we did a 720 (degree penalty turn), though the damage to the other boat was minor and superficial.”
“I respect the decision of the skipper of She’s the Culprit not to continue racing in those circumstances, but obviously we are very happy and delighted with the outcome.”
He thanked his crew, which raced the two prior Sydney Hobart Races on his previous boat True North, a Beneteau First 40. “The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race cannot be won without a great team, a great boat and an ounce of Sydney Hobart luck. Our team are fabulous guys. We have worked together for the past three years on my previous boat True North.” Saies particularly thanked Brett Young, his team and boat manager. “Energetic, tireless work ethic, great understanding of the rules.”
He said the race was a physical endurance event over 628 miles. “The wind was in, the wind was out, we drifted, we went backwards, we lost internet access, we didn’t know what was going on until the last few minutes. It was a classic Rolex Sydney Hobart event and we were in it up to our back teeth and it came our way in the end.
“Great boat, this new Beneteau it just jumps out of the water, jumped a bit too hard in the last day or so in those big short waves. It’s a fast boat, we had belief that this boat was going to rate well and do okay in this event, if the weather conditions allowed a small boat event.
“We may be privileged enough to have a boat and a team that gets to this position as people have in the past. But in yacht racing to have everything going right in one event at the right time is probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“So it meant so much to get this right this time. So celebrations, back to normal, business as usual, great boat, great team looking forward to the next regatta in Melbourne, the next Sydney Hobart.”
The last boat to finish, Chris Dawe’s Polaris of Belmont (AUS/NSW) was due to cross the finish line at 0830pm tonight.
The 100-boat fleet that started the 65th Rolex Sydney Hobart had crews representing the USA, UK, New Zealand, Spain, the Netherlands, and New Caledonia, as well as every Australian state.
IRC overall: 1, Two True (Andy Saies, SA), Beneteau First 40, corrected time 04 days 07hr 57min 43sec; 2, Wicked (Mike Welsh, Vic), Beneteau First 40, 04:08:39:08; 3, Next (Ian Mason, NSW), MBD Sydney 38, 04:09:48:54.
IRC 0: 1, Alfa Romeo (Neville Crichton, NZ), Reichel Pugh 100, corrected time 04 days, 12hr, 11min, 51sec; 2, Evolution Racing (Ray Roberts, NSW), Farr Cookson 50, 04:14:32:46; 3, Ichi Ban (Matt Allen, NSW), Jones Volvo 70, 04:16:27:22.
IRC 1: 1, Ran (Niklas Zennstrom, UK), Judel/Vrolijk 72, 04:10:48:21; 2, Shogun (Rob Hanna, Vic), J/V 52, 04:13:09:50; 3, Ragamuffin (Syd Fischer, NSW), Farr TP52, 04:15:18:43.
IRC 2: 1, Tow Truck (Anthony Paterson, NSW), Ker 11.3, 04:11:16:18; 2, AFR Midnight Rambler (Ed Psaltis/Bob Thomas), modified Farr 40, 04:11:26:24; 3, Chutzpah (Bruce Taylor, Vic), Reichel/Pugh IRC 40, 04:14:06:32.
IRC 3: 1, Next Ian Mason, NSW), 04:09:48:54; 2, Swish (Steven Proud, NSW), 04:10:17:42; 3, Patrice Six (Tony Kirby) Jeppersen X-41, 04:10:24:32.
Sydney 38 One Design: 1, Swish, 04:00:16:54; 2, Next, 04:00:16:59; 3, Subzero Goat (Bruce Foye, NSW), 04:06:37:59.
ORCi (ORC International): 1, Two True (Andrew Saies, SA), Beneteau First 40, 04:07:57:43; 2, Wicked (Mike Welsh, Vic), Beneteau First 40, 04:08:39:08; 3, Zephyr Hamilton Elevators (James Connell/Alex Brandon, NSW), Farr 1020, 04:10:52:17.
PHS 1: 1, Wasabi (Bruce McKay, NSW), Sayer 12m, 04:19:02:33; 2, Sailors with disAbilities (David Pescud, NSW), Lyons 54, 04:21:26:15; 3, Mahligai (Murray Owen/Jenny Kings, New Zealand), Sydney 46, 04:21:26:15.
PHS 2: 1, She (Peter Rodgers, NSW), Olsen 40; 2, Flying Fish Arctos (A.Fairclough, NSW), McIntyre 55, 04:13:41:02; 3, Namadgi (Canberra Ocean Racing Club, ACT), Bavaria 44, 04:16:12:30.