Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's Volvo Ocean 65, Azzam, skippered by Ian Walker, crossed the finish line of the 2014 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race off the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes at 22.20.28 BST on Friday 15th August 2014 with an elapsed time of 4 days, 13 hours, 10 minutes, 28 seconds, smashing the previous fastest race time for a monohull by over 30 hours and setting a new course record (subject to WSSRC ratification.)
After four days of relentless, high speed racing pushing the crews and the boats to their limit, the strong downwind conditions abated just before dawn, as Azzam, the runaway Volvo Ocean 65 class leader approached The Lizard.
The wind began to fade and with close to just a zephyr of wind on the south side of the Isle of Wight, Azzam were confronted by a tactical decision - to go inshore at St.Catherine's Point or offshore looking for breeze. It is a tactical decision that many locals will know having competed in the Round the Island Race.
Azzam went inshore; Team Campos, now just 15 miles astern stayed offshore, doing something different - 'throwing the dice.' For several hours, Team Campos, skippered by Iker Martinez was closing the gap, coming within ten miles of Azzam with good boat speed. Still leading, but anxious about the situation, Azzam headed directly away from the finish, looking to find any sort of decent wind and the tactic paid off.
Azzam found a good line of breeze and entered the Solent, only to come to a grinding halt as the tide turned against them. It must have seemed like an eternity, but 10 minutes later, the brightly coloured hull with a falcon across her sails, made the finish line to become the first monohull home and set a new record for the race. Azzam was the first yacht to enter the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race and the first monohull to finish it.
'The finish couldn't be much different to the first three days,' commented Ian Walker, moments after crossing the finish line. 'The last 12 hours were so painful trying to get to the finish line, but we still beat the record by over a day, so fantastic. It was really tough. The first few days were really hard and we have been pushed very tightly by the Spanish. I think when we managed to get away down the Scottish coast; we made a big gain and we needed it.
I have a feeling there is going to be a lot more close racing over the next year. The Spanish team sailed really well and were a bit quicker than us on the run. Everybody was in it down the English Channel at the start. The beauty of this one design is that you make one little tiny mistake and you lose distance. We were really pleased to grind it out and get seven miles ahead by the top of the course.'
'We have good people and we have trained well and you have to 'big-up' the shore team as well, because we have had very little go wrong with the boat and when you are moving at such a speed in a race, even if a little thing goes wrong, you lose miles. The boat preparation was close to faultless.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's Volvo Ocean 65, Azzam at the finish of the 2014 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race - RORC/Louay Habib
The race crew have got a few bumps and bruises, sail changes were excellent and Si Fi (navigator Simon Fisher) didn't put a foot wrong all, race. The first 48 hours of the race was brutal, it has been really hard on the body and there is not much left of our hands.
A few guys need to get some x-rays in hospital, but nothing that won't get fixed before the start of the Volvo Ocean Race. However, mentally nothing has been as tough as the last 12 hours.
It's going to be a close battle in the big race to come and looking at the battle for third behind us in this race, everybody is going to have their day in the sun. This win is great for the team, it shows us that we are on the right track and really pleasing. This race has been a great test for our main event and it is always better to win than lose.'
Team Campos, skippered by Iker Martinez finished just over two hours behind Azzam to take second place. The Spanish team have only had the boat for a month and as they crossed the line, Iker Martinez spoke about their performance: 'Azzam has set the bench mark, so at least now we know where it is and we have seen where we need to get to.
Their boat handling is better than ours, but that is understandable as we have only had the boat for a short period of time. We did have some electrical problems which did not help us, especially with navigation, but congratulations to Azzam and thank you to the RORC and Sevenstar for helping us with our late entry.'
Team Campos' Volvo Ocean 65, skippered by Iker Martinez. Champagne celebration after completing the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race - RORC/CNN Mainsail
Team Dongfeng, skippered by Charles Caudrelier completed the podium, crossing the finish line in third place, four hours behind Team Campos. Alvimedica and Team SCA shared a tremendous battle for fourth which was won by Alvimedica by just 11 minutes.
Team SCA, skippered by Sam Davies, crossed the finish line of the 2014 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race off the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes at 06.10.39 BST on Saturday 16th August 2014 with an elapsed time of four days, 21 hours, 00 minutes and 39 seconds.
This breaks the previous course record for an all female crew on a monohull set by Aviva, an Open 60, in 2009, by one day, 14 hours, 30 minutes and 14 seconds. Team SCA's record is subject to ratification by the World Speed Sailing Record Council. Of the women onboard SCA in 2014, both Dee Caffari and Sam Davies were also onboard Aviva when the previous record was set in 2009.
This is the third course record broken during the 2014 Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club.
Alvimedica coming up to end of the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race - Hamo Thornycroft