Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has taken Leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race as the fleet exit an area of light winds and now head straight for Lisbon.
She crossed the line in light winds, followed by Groupama, with Puma third.
The next group to finish were Camper, Telefonica and Sanya.
Camper and Telefonica have drifted across the finish line together, with Telefonica just squeezing in to take fourth place, with Camper fifth over the line, and Sanya soon to finish.
Our apologies for not being able to provide the live coverage we hoped of the race finish, however there were some very basic shortcomings in the coverage from Volvo Ocean Race, which is extremely disappointing for an event of this magnitude and status.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing shrugged off seven months of frustration to secure their first leg victory on Thursday, narrowly crossing the Lisbon finish line ahead of Groupama sailing team who are on the verge of claiming the overall race lead.
Ian Walker’s crew crossed the finish line at 21:23:54 UTC, just six minutes ahead of Groupama, after 12 days racing more than 3,500 nautical miles from Miami, across the Atlantic to Portugal.
Just minutes before crossing the finish Abu Dhabi Media Crew Member Nick Dana said the wind was variable from 15 knots to 22 knots, adding to the tension of trying to fend off challenges from Groupama who were visible on their stern.
'Everybody is really giving it their all, it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster coming in,’’ Dana said. 'There’s a lot on the line at the moment. We’ve needed this for a while, so we’re pretty psyched to be in this position.'
After brief celebrations a visibly emotional Walker spoke to volvooceanrace.com, saying that clinching victory in the leg, which they have led since May 26, was one of the greatest moments of his sailing career.
'Do you think you can make the last 10 miles of a race any harder than that,’’ he said.
'It’s a massive relief it was such a tough race. 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.
'We were preparing ourselves for a while night in the river if we have to, mentally, certainly I’m exhausted, it's just such a relief.'
Abu Dhabi score 30 points for victory taking their total to 104 points in fifth place overall, while Groupama score 25 taking their score to 183.
Should Groupama finish two places ahead of Telefónica the French team will clinch the overall race lead, which has been held by the Spanish team since the first leg finish in November.
Meanwhile, the battle for the remaining podium spot continues as one of the closest fought legs of the 2011-12 race heats up.
PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG leading the charge, ahead of CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, Team Telefónica and Team Sanya.
Earlier Sail-World reported: Third boat home is expected to be Puma about an hour behind Groupama/Abu Dhabi.
There is another close battle for fourth place between Camper and Telefonica, with one of the two feeds used to by Predictwind to calculate optimum course and finish times giving the call to Camper and the other to Telefonica. The margin either way is similar being about seven minutes. Sail-World is using the localised weather feed from Predictwind, which gives a resolution of 1-8km and is adjusted to allow for the effects of local topography, but not cloud cover. Trans-oceanic feeds are to a resolution of 100km, and are much less accurate for close coastal routes.
Positions at 2000UTC as the Volvo Ocean racers neared Lisbon about two hours from the finish. The track marked is for Team Sanya - PredictWind.com
The predictions are made to a point off Cascais, Portugal from where the boats will turn and straight line to the finish in Lisbon.
Previous reports posted on Volvo Ocean Race read:
In one of the closest ever finishes to a Volvo Ocean Race leg, all six teams are jostling for position in the final stretch of the transatlantic sprint to Lisbon.
With podium positions hanging in the balance, follow the action throughout the day with our hourly updates. Don't forget you can track the boats live on our 2D tracker (just hit the LIVE button in the top left) or hourly on the 3D tracker HERE.
1900 UTC: Just 1.4 miles in it now! Could this race be any more exciting? To highlight just how close this finish is going to be, here's Abu Dhabi MCM Nick Dana:
'Groupama just spotted off our starboard beam. Two+ miles behind. Everyone is extremely fired up right now. Similar wind angle and wind speed... time to turn and burn! Looks like it will be a straight dog fight to the finish.'
And over on Groupama, things are equally intense. Here's their MCM Yann Riou:
'Abu Dhabi is just three or four milles ahead of us. The mess has started two hours ago. No wind, rotations, no wind again, gybes. And then we have caught up again in some wind for 10 minutes. Now Abu Dhabi is just in front of us. The evening is going to be pretty intense.'
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1800 UTC: The compression continues with every boat gaining on Abu Dhabi as they gybe to cover Groupama, now within nine miles. Could that be the move that keeps them in first? Hitting the top speed was Team Sanya, averaging more than 18 knots over the past hour.
Positions at 1200UTC on May 31,2012 as the Volvo Ocean racers near Lisbon. The blue lines border areas covered by the 1-8km resolution of the Predictwind weather feeds - PredictWind.com
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1700 UTC: Speeds are down below 10 knots as the fleet hit a low pressure trough around 70 miles off Lisbon forcing the teams off their direct course to the finish. The Volvo Ocean Race's weather guru Gonzalo Infante explains:
'An area of unstable weather is blocking the fleet's path. They are back in steady breeze again now but the wind has backed to NNW, preventing them from laying the finish.'
Meanwhile, Sanya navigator Aksel Magdahl said they are locked in a duel with overall race leaders Telefónica:
'They have slightly less pressure but are sailing a much hotter angle. We are expecting it to get real light about eight miles from the finish, and there could be opportunities there. We positioned ourselves in the hope that the weather might go our way, and it just didn’t pan out that way as of now, but who knows what tonight might bring.'
Less than 12 miles between the front pair now.
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1600 UTC: Everything remains in the balance with Groupama moving a lot faster than Abu Dhabi but the miles running out to get past the leaders. MCM Nick Dana reports:
'Just got the latest sched in...Lost four miles to Groupama, but gained four degrees of bearing. At this rate we should end up just a few miles ahead at the corner. Unfortunately for us the breeze seems to be dying at the moment. We have all hands on deck doing everything short of blowing air on the sails to keep her going.'
The Abu Dhabi lead is down to 13.4 nm according to the latest position report, with PUMA now 30.4 nm back in third and CAMPER still fourth.
Over to CAMPER MCM Hamish Hooper:
'We continue to speed along in excess of 20 knots, keeping eyes peeled to the horizon for the faint outline of some of the other yachts to start appearing as we rapidly converge towards Lisbon. It’s a little bit old school on CAMPER right now with all of the guys lined up along the rail, the older fellows telling a few grand tales of the good old days living on the rail… I think they quite enjoy it. It is the default position for everyone on board no until we cross the finish line. Win at all costs!
'There is a massive sinister storm cloud growing exponentially ahead of us, which has the potential to cause some more drama - good drama for us hopefully - bad drama for the rest of the fleet would be appreciated.'
Telefónica are still last on the leaderboard for this leg but MCM Diego Fructuoso has found reason for hope:
'Things haven't been easy but we were fastest on the last sched and I hope that carries on all the way to Lisbon.'
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1500 UTC: Abu Dhabi still lead but Groupama continue to take bites out of that advantage at every report. At 1500, the two teams were 14.1 nm apart travelling at similar speeds. Here's Nick Dana, Abu Dhabi MCM:
'Azzam is running at full noise right now. Just peeled from A3 to masthead zero. 18 minute change from ‘ripping to ripping’. Conditions are lightening as we speak. Last sched Groupama took two miles out of us, but we gained three degrees bearing to the point off Cascais, Portugal. Ian ran the router a few minutes ago and it said we should finish within three minutes of Groupama in Lisbon. Nutso!'
Intereastingly, the fastest boats in the fleet were CAMPER and PUMA with Telefónica still in sixth but also going quick.
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1400 UTC: We'll hand this update straight over to Hamish Hooper, MCM on CAMPER. He sums it up perfectly:
'Now that we are all in breeze the boats are all blasting their way back towards Europe at very similar speeds. The prediction is by the time we get to the corner to Lisbon there could easily be a fleet of Volvo Open 70s bunched together -- and guess what… potential for another slow, next-to-no-breeze battle against the river current to the finish line.'
As for the race situation, Abu Dhabi are clinging on to a lead that is down to under 16 nautical miles. Groupama are doing 22 knots to their 18.5 knots. This is going to be close.
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1300 UTC: Groupama took two miles off Abu Dhabi but the biggest difference was their speed - at 22 knots they were four knots quicker than the frontrunners with less than 130 miles to go.
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1200 UTC: Fourth-placed CAMPER have got arch rivals PUMA in their sights as they clamour for a podium position. 'At the moment we’re on a good angle and hopefully that will allow us to close up on them,' CAMPER navigator Will Oxley said. 'Groupama’s in a good position so we’re going to need the breeze to drop to catch them. Abu Dhabi has some lead to burn up but for sure by the corner, with things the way they are now, we could run down PUMA. There’s a few more twists and turns to play out in this leg yet.'
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1100 UTC: Abu Dhabi's speed was up to 21 knots as they powered towards Lisbon with a 20-mile lead. Groupama were still solid in second, 15 miles ahead of PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG. Things weren't looking so good for overall race leaders Telefónica however, back in sixth trailing by around 60 miles.
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1000 UTC: Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing are still on track for their first offshore leg win of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 with a 19.9-nautical mile lead over second-placed Groupama. The two leaders posted identical average speeds at the 1100 position report -- 19.3 knots, well in excess of the rest of the bunch.
The fleet is in two very distinct groups -- one to the north, one to the south. Which option will pay? There's still close to 200 miles left to sail and anything can happen - this is yacht racing after all.
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0900 UTC: After emerging from a band of light winds that hampered progress to Lisbon, Abu Dhabi were back with a 20-mile buffer over Groupama, although the French team were then going faster than anyone else, avergaing 16 knots.
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0700 UTC: Abu Dhabi broke free from the light wind area first, accelerating to 12 knots and pulling out a 15-nautical mile advantage over second placed Groupama.
PUMA were down to third, four nm behind the French and 12 nm ahead of fourth placed Telefónica who had yet to pick up the new breeze.
CAMPER were also still in the grips of the light airs, making just six knots as they fought to elevate themselves from fifth place. Sixth placed Team Sanya meanwhile had picked up to eight knots, with 261 nm to run.
Stay tuned to see how this incredible battle plays out.
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7:33 PM Thu 31 May 2012GMT
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