Volvo Ocean Race: A drag race to Lisbon - but will Azzam last?

Kelvin Harrap drives into the night. Onboard Puma Ocean Racing during leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Miami, USA to Lisbon, Portugal.

Abu Dhabi rocketed across the Atlantic overnight at speeds more than three knots quicker than their nearest rivals, notching up 338 nautical miles in 24 hours, while Team Sanya have shown a similar turn of pace and jumped to fourth.

But speaking live from the Atlantic Ocean via Livestream, Walker said they were expecting the other boats to slowly trim their lead - and particularly so when they sailed through a patch of light airs before finishing at Lisbon.

Walker said his read of the placing at present were that they fleet were with an hour of each other in terms of finishing times. A view confirmed by finish time projections from www.predictwind.com!Predictwind.

Walker attributed their lead to some good tactical moves, plus Abu Dhabi had been able to avoid a lot of upwind sailing - which they perceived as their weak point of relative to the rest of the fleet.

At the time of the interview Azzam was sailing in 20kt plus SW winds with flattish seas and was making over 20kts, with very little water comning over the deck.

The Volvo fleet has climbed north before turning east to head for Lisbon on leg 7 from Miami to Lisbon.
At 0400 UTC Volvo Ocean race reported that Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing held the largest lead of the leg so far, 87.9 nm, after averaging an impressive 14.1 knots in 24 hours.

In second place were Puma Ocean Racing who averaged just 11.7 knots in 24 hours, followed by Camper who dropped 20 nm in three hours to sit 104 nm behind.

The biggest movers overnight were Team Sanya, whose bold move north to within 50 nm of the ice exclusion zone paid dividends to move the crew to within four nm of Camper and 108 nm of the leaders in fourth place.

Team Telefónica were bumped to fifth and Groupama sailing team are in last place.

Sanya Media Crew Member Andrés Soriano said every effort was being made to help keep the team near the front of the pack.

Abu Dhabi has a good lead, with the rest of the fleet in a line abreast in the Atlantic Ocean with 1500nm left to sail to Lisbon and the finish of leg 7 of the Volvo Ocean Race
'The gear below is aft, the heavies, or the so called 'power watch' of Martin and Dave, have been relegated to the two most aft bunks in the boat, and the sails are as far back as they could be,’’ he said.

'We are in downwind fast mode, making 20 knots and heading straight for Lisbon. One can be sure, the boys on board are rested and ready to push the last few days. Go the mighty Sanya!'

Meanwhile, the crew on board Camper were left feeling broken hearted, likening the lack of promised breeze to being stood up on a date.

'The wind we had been expecting all day didn’t arrive, well, until much later in the afternoon,’’ MCM Hamish Hooper said.

'But what’s worse, it was like the date ran off with another man -- Abu Dhabi! The breeze arrived for Abu Dhabi alright, and they have been clocking up the miles.'

Since then, the crew have found breeze and about two knots of current to help their progress. But with the wind working against the current the crew is facing 'washing machine conditions' with short, sharp, messy waves, co-skipper Stu Bannatyne said.