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VOR- Walker wins Leg Seven—Sailing News from the U.S. and Beyond

by David Schmidt, Sail-World USA Editor on 1 Jun 2012
Broken through the high-pressure and headed for Lisbon. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing during leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Miami, USA to Lisbon, Portugal. (Credit: Nick Dana/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race) Nick Dana/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing /Volvo Ocean Race http://www.volvooceanrace.org
One of the hard truths about the fully crewed, around-the-world Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) is that teams operate in relative bubbles for roughly two years prior to the race’s start, designing adn building their boats and teams. The Litmus test usually arrives the first night of Leg One, from Europe to Cape Town. Only then do crews have the chance to open their throttles in an offshore environment with their other 'classmates' all around. This year was no exception, nor was it odd that designer Juan Kouyoumdjian likely went to bed happy that night—his three Volvo Open 70s were performing flawlessly and were quickly occupying the entire podium.

The principals at Farr Yacht Design, however, likely had a very different experience, both on Leg One and on each sub-sequential offshore leg as Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam, the only modern-generation Farr-designed boat in the race, struggled.

Until today.


You see, dear reader, Azzam just won Leg Seven, which took the six-strong fleet from Miami, Florida to Lisbon, Portugal. 'It’s a massive relief it was such a tough race,' said Walker upon finishing. 'Everyone knows we’re not as quick as some of the other boats, so we just had to make up for it in other ways. It’s one of the most amazing experiences of my sailing career, that’s for sure. We paced ourselves pretty well, we were even sleeping today.'

Groupama 4 finished less than six minutes astern of Azzam, followed by Puma Ocean Racing’s Mar Mostro. Overall leader Telefonica finished in fourth place, which could have some long-term ramifications for the 2011-2012 VOR’s final results. Get the latest VOR news, as well as the multimedia reports, inside this issue.


Meanwhile, Alan Thébault’s newest version of his 'flying' trimaran, l’Hydroptère, has been loaded onto a ship bound for Los Angles. The team plans to wait for a perfect weather window to attempt a new LA-to-Honolulu record. Interestingly, this will be the first major offshore record attempted with the use of hydrofoils. The current record—a mere 4 days, 19 hours and 31 minutes—is held by Olivier de Kersauson’s maxi trimaran Geronimo and will be a serious challenge to beat. 'We still have work to do on the control system but globally, we can speak of a speed increase of about 10% downwind with a much more stable behavior in rough seas,' says Thébault. Get the full scoop in this issue.

Also in offshore news, there have been some great post-race reports from the Atlantic Cup 2012, most notably from Joe Harris (Gryphon Solo II), Emma Creighton (Initiatives) and from the event itself. This year, 15 teams of sailors, racing doublehanded, participated in this three-stage Class 40 event, bolstering shorthanded sailing’s Stateside profile and providing a great opportunity for American sailors to match up against the Europeans. Impressively, three out of the top five boats were American (including both Harris and Creighton). More, inside.

And in One Design circles, US Sailing Team Sperry Top Sider sailors are now in Weymouth, England—site of the 2012 Olympics later this summer—for the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta (June 4-9). This prestigious event is the team’s last chance to make some important pre-Games decisions.

'We’re closing in on 50 days until the start of the Games,' said Dean Brenner, Chairman of the Olympic Sailing Committee Chairman. 'In addition to this being our last chance at competition on the Olympic course area, this regatta will also serve as a dry run for the Games in a number of ways. Our athletes and coaches will continue to keep ticking things off the to-do list. For example, Olympic equipment has been chosen, final sail selections have been made, and with our support staff and performance enhancement team on site we are making sure everyone stays focused and healthy.'

Get the full report inside, and stand by for updates and field reports from the Skandia Sail for Gold Regatta, as they unfurl.


And finally, get the latest news from the World Match Racing Tour’s Korea Match Cup, the Finn World Masters and the storm-pounded Global Ocean Race, whose fleet of Class 40s is getting thoroughly trounced by a serious North Atlantic blow. Suddenly, an armchair and a cup of tea don’t sound so bad…



May the four winds blow you safely home,

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