Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, side by side with Groupama Sailing Team, in the PORTMIAMI In-Port Race, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12.
Abu Dhabi claimed their third win of the in-port series on Saturday, while Groupama took a strong second to pile more pressure on overall race leaders Team Telefónica.
The event was sailed in Miami, stopover port after the end of Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Leg 7 to Lisbon, Portugal starts tomorrow. From there the fleet race to Lorient, France and then to the finish in Galway, Ireland. The results of the InPort race, in Miami, have further close the margins on an already tight points table.
While Ian Walker's Abu Dhabi cemented their reputation as formidable in-port contenders and took six points for the victory in the 10-leg In-Port Race, Miami. The French team Groupama scored a valuable five, taking them to 158 overall.
In an incredible finish Puma finished third by edging out Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand within metres of the finish line, to finish just nine seconds ahead. That move shortened the margin between the two on the overall points table to just a single point - and Puma did not complete the first leg of the 39,000nm race around the world.
Team Sanya finished fifth to score two points, while Team Telefónica scored just one point for sixth place, making them wide open to attacks from their opponents on the overall leaderboard with 165 points.
'That was a pretty strange race,' Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker said. 'I have to say our crew work got us back in the race. It feels great. we've had a tough time, the last in-port race we had no training time, this time we made an effort to have two training days and it paid off.
'We made a good start which is always a good help, and for sure our crew work was very good and that makes a big difference.'
Puma and Sanya led off the line at the pin end followed closely by Groupama and Abu Dhabi who opted for self-confident port-start with speed, leaving Camper struggling under a smaller jib, raising questions of a problem.
On the first beat parallel to Miami Beach it was Telefónica who stamped their intent early, picking a near perfect lay-line and leading around the top mark. Abu Dhabi rounded just six seconds behind, followed by Groupama, Sanya, Camper and Puma, who struggled on to hold course.
Groupama made their move under spinnaker, rolling Abu Dhabi by the second mark in the 10 to 15 knot breeze. The French team continued their charge on a short and sharp reach to take the lead, followed by Telefónica, Abu Dhabi, Sanya, Camper and Puma, just one minute and 20 seconds behind.
Telefónica continued to struggle and were overtaken by Abu Dhabi, who took second place on the third leg. In a desperate bid Telefónica and Camper made a bold split from the fleet, heading offshore as the breeze continued to moderate.
The move proved a major fail, costing Telefónica another position, with Sanya edging ahead into third place at the fifth mark. Meanwhile, Franck Cammas’ men continued their domination extending their lead over Ian Walker’s crew to almost one minute.
As spinnakers were again popped on leg 6 positions came under threat and intensified at the congested mark rounding, where Telefónica were forced to do a penalty turn for hitting the mark.
After a quick-fire short reach, Groupama solidified their lead, followed by Abu Dhabi, while the remainder of the fleet continued a messy scrap. But the race wasn’t over yet, as the breeze lightened a shortened course was called and Abu Dhabi took the lead and held it to the end.
The sailors and shore crews are now turning their sights on the final preparations for Sunday’s 3,500 nautical mile Leg 7 race from Miami to Lisbon, Portugal.