Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR) skipper Ian Walker says the Volvo Ocean Race champions-elect will not be taking it easy on the final leg starting today from Lorient, France.
The team’s unsurpassable points advantage of eight points means they will be crowned winners of the Volvo Ocean Race when in Gothenburg, Sweden irrespective of their finishing position on leg nine.
However, skipper Ian Walker maintained the Azzam crew was determined to finish its nine-month campaign in style with a final top three placing.
Walker – who will become the first British skipper in the race’s 40-year history to lift the Volvo Ocean Race trophy – said the crew were keen for a good finish in Gothenburg.
“We’re preparing for Leg 9 just like we have done for every other leg,” said Walker. “We owe that to all the other competitors.
“We always have so much support from Abu Dhabi and internationally. Every time we leave the dock, our social media sites are awash with messages from fans spurring us on.
“A podium place in Sweden would kick off the celebrations perfectly so there will be no holding back.”
Leg 9 is broken into two sections with the seven-boat fleet stopping for a short ‘pit stop’ in the Netherlands seaside resort Scheveningen in The Hague, where they are expected on Friday, June 19. Racing restarts at midday on Saturday, June 20 when the yachts will leave in a staggered start sequence at the same intervals as they arrived from Lorient.
No points will be awarded for The Hague stop and while the sailors are permitted to leave their yachts and effect repairs, they cannot receive help from their shore crews.
UAE Olympian Adil Khalid will rejoin the Azzam crew for the final leg after being forced out of leg eight by sickness.
Khalid, who will become the first Emirati sailor to win the Volvo Ocean Race, said the course along the north west coast of mainland Europe was a complex one.
“First we pass through the English Channel, one of the busiest and most tidal commercial shipping routes in the world,” said Khalid.
“Then we will have to deal with strong currents and steep choppy waves in the North Sea. Finally, the approach to Gothenburg through the Skagerrak strait between Norway and Denmark is strewn with small islands and rocks, so we will need to be fully alert.”
ADOR navigator Simon Fisher agreed the ninth leg would push the crew as hard as any of the previous eight but said the Azzam crew would be battling hard to be among the leaders coming into Gothenburg.
“We owe it to our backers TCA Abu Dhabi, our fans, the race organisers and to ourselves to treat this last leg like any other,” Fisher said. “We will be racing hard like always – it’s the only way we know how.”
Leg nine from Lorient, France to Gothenburg, Sweden via a pit stop in The Hague, Netherlands is scheduled to start on Tuesday at 7pm.
Fans can watch at volvooceanrace.com/live