Putting the wheels back on
To be honest, the first few months of the Volvo Ocean Race have been hard to take. The dismast out of Alicante was a terrible start and the poor results in Leg 2 was difficult to swallow. However, the team has dug deep and been very positive about how to put things right. The whole team has put in a tremendous amount of effort and thought and scoring maximum points for the inshore race in Abu Dhabi and the sprint to Sharjah were tremendously satisfying and we feel that although we are effectively a leg behind the lead, the wheels are back on.
The pressure was on for the in port race, especially with a downwind light airs start. We had made a decision to go left away from the shore and when we saw that there were a lot of VIP boats to the right of the course causing a few potential problems, we committed to the left and made it to the top mark first. We didn’t sail a perfect race, far from it and there is much room for improvement but it was great to win inshore in our homeport and give the locals something to cheer about.
23,000 people turned out at the prize giving in the event village and the racing got huge exposure on TV and newspapers. Our sponsors want to put Abu Dhabi on the world map and hopefully last week we did just that. It is fascinating for me to see sailing develop in Abu Dhabi. The country have all the raw ingredients; great sailing conditions, super facilities and the means and determination to stage world events.
The start of Leg 3 was a 100-mile sprint to Sharjah and we knew the start would be crucial. After the initial course around the buoys there would be little opportunity for passing lanes on the reach up to the finish. The start looked good but with just a few boats lengths to the line, the decision was taken that we would scrub speed as we were too early. Telefonica came in with speed and were in a dominant position. But we fought back and managed to claw our way up to second, making good gains on mark roundings with slick work and intelligent lines and as we headed off for the sprint, we were right on the heels of Telefonica with the rest of the boats some distance behind. The northwesterly kicked in and the fast running conditions suited us more than Telefonica and we managed to pass them and hold the lead for the win.
We are not kidding ourselves, we are still way behind the leaders and we need to improve our performance for the race to Sanya. We have won a couple of battles that is all but I have to say that we were delighted to give Abu Dhabi something to cheer about. There is plenty more racing before we get to Galway in July.
All the best