Resurgent Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing made it two victories in two days on home waters on Saturday as they clinched first place in a thrilling Leg 3 Stage 1 sprint from Abu Dhabi up the coast of the United Arab Emirates that marked the start of Leg 3 that will see the boats sail from Abu Dhabi to Sanya, China.
Skipper Ian Walker's men made an 11th hour charge for the Sharjah finish line at the end of a 106 nautical mile sprint from their home town, overhauling long-term leaders Team Telefónica
and second-placed Groupama sailing team
with less than three nautical miles to go to claim a maximum six points.
Victory, by a margin of just one minute 16 seconds, followed hot on the heels of their resounding success in Friday's Etihad Airways In-Port Race and came in stark contrast to their disappointing fifth place arrival into their home port at the end of Leg 2.
PUMA Ocean Racing
also staged an impressive comeback rising through the fleet from fifth to second in the dying moments to claim five points. Skipper Ken Read said the result made up for the disappointing fourth-place finish in the in-port race.
Franck Cammas' Groupama
took the final podium position and four points while Telefónica
, led by Iker Martínez, had to settle for fourth place and three points after being reeled in on the home strait. Chris Nicholson's CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand
took fifth, scoring two points.
The buzz on the dock prior to the start was about the advantage of leading the fleet round the inshore course and out to sea. Telefónica appeared to have buried the demons that saw them relegated to the back of the fleet in yesterday's in-port race, leading from the moment the starting gun fired.
Cricketers Alistair Cook and Graeme Swann sampled life on board a Volvo Open 70 ahead of England's first Test against Pakistan in Dubai next week as they joined Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
for the race start, before diving into the Gulf from the speeding yacht.
Some slick sailing from Abu Dhabi saw them jump from fifth to second around the inshore course, while PUMA
skipper Ken Read locked horns with Franck Cammas on Groupama in an aggressive close-quarters combat.
After more than 100nm of racing it came down to the final 10-mile sprint to the finish line, with Telefónica
leading the fleet around the final turning mark. But in a replay of the Leg 2 Stage 2 sprint Team Telefónica couldn't defend their lead, and Martínez's team were helpless to the attack of the chasing pack.
As with Leg 2 of the race, Leg 3 is split into two parts to prevent the boats from sailing through dangerous waters off the coast of Africa. The fleet will be loaded onto a ship in Sharjah and transported to a safe haven port in the Indian Ocean. Once the boats are unloaded, racing will resume to Sanya around January 23, and the first boats could reach Sanya by February 4.
Team Sanya, forced to retire from Leg 2 with rig damage, will meet the fleet at the safe haven port and rejoin racing for Leg 3 Stage 2. They can still score points for Leg 2 and the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi In-Port Race if they complete Leg 2 Stage 1 under racing conditions.*
1. Team Telefónica 71 points
2. CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 64
3. Groupama sailing team 51
4. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 36
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 31
6. Team Sanya 4*
* If Team Sanya complete Leg 2 Stage 1 under racing conditions they will receive four points for that stage, plus 1 point for Leg 2 Stage 2, and 2 points for the Etihad Airways In-Port Race.