For a man whose boat a day earlier finished second to last in the transatlantic Leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper Ian Walker was sporting a surprisingly large smile on Thursday.
“Yes, it was a very difficult leg for us, very frustrating. In fact, the best bit of it was getting off the boat at the end,” he joked.
But thanks to Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA) who took the third podium slot after what their skipper described as a “knife fight with spoons” against Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA) in a slow-motion battle into port, Walker’s mood remained buoyant.
The Chinese-backed boat’s fourth place in a leg, which they had led for long periods, meant that Caudrelier and his crew only took one point away from Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s six-point overall lead and Walker continues to occupy a very strong position indeed with two ‘sprint’ legs remaining.
“At one point it looked like Dongfeng could have won the leg and we could have finished fifth or sixth, so in many ways we got out of jail and I don’t think we had a lot of unhappy faces at the end,” said Walker. “We’ve now got two legs to go and we’re five points ahead. I’d have bitten your arm off if somebody had offered me that in Newport at the beginning of the leg, let alone at the start of the race.”
Caudrelier, however, was trying to find some comfort after watching a vital point slip through his fingers.
“We are still second overall, and for sure, we will try to fight to keep this place and hopefully come back,” he said. “Right now, I’m trying to control my anger. But I will see my family and try to forget everything and be positive for my team.”
Meanwhile, Team Vestas Wind’s Australian skipper Chris Nicholson was excited at the prospect of seeing his totally rebuilt boat returning to sailing on Saturday (May 30), after their collision with a reef in the Indian Ocean on Leg 2 on November 29.
“We need to be out on the water and make sure we’re reliable for the race. At the moment, touch wood, everything looks on track for that,” he said.
Nicholson’s team has a week to prepare for the following Saturday’s Lisbon In-Port Race on June 6 before joining the rest of the fleet for the 647 nm Leg 8 departure to Lorient, France on June 7.
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