Volvo Ocean Race - Skippers say minor tweaks key to success

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, skippered by Ian Walker from the UK during the start of leg 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 from Abu Dhab,i UAE to Sanya, China
In the Volvo Ocean Race, even the smallest of advantages can spell success on the race course. Having an opportunity to work on their boats in port gave Abu Dhabi and Puma just the edge that they needed for glory in the Leg 3 Stage 1 sprint, according to their skippers.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing scored their second win in two days as they snatched victory from Team Telefónica in the dying moments of Saturday’s 106 nautical mile race from Abu Dhabi to Sharjah, while Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg staged a spectacular comeback from fifth place to cross the line in second.

After both teams dismasted in Leg 1, they were robbed of any opportunity to make modifications to their boats in Cape Town, instead racing against time just to make it to the next start line.

But ten golden days in Abu Dhabi, the race’s first ever Middle Eastern stopover, allowed the two crews precious time to study their boats’ performance and fully prepare for the conditions that lie ahead on the next leg.

'We tweaked the sails, the boat, a little bit of everything,' said Puma skipper Ken Read.

Casey Smith removing the radar protector onboard PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG's Mar Mostro during leg 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Abu Dhabi, UAE to Sanya, China

'That’s the key to these races, you have to keep getting faster at each stopover, and this really is the first time we’ve had a chance to work on boat speed.

'Obviously in Cape Town we just frantically had to get ourselves back in the water and get racing again.'

'It seems like we’re a little bit better. For sure we were going faster in the reaching conditions, the tweaks that we’ve done appear to have helped in those conditions, so we’re very pleased about that.'

Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker put their success down to the small modifications they made to Azzam while in their home port.

'We’ve made a couple of changes, nothing major,' he said. 'We’ve talked a lot about how we sail the boat, looked at all the data and talked with the designer.

'I think one of the things we’re all seeing is that you can get big differences in speed with minor changes to the boat so we’re just trying to educate ourselves really.'

Both Walker’s and Read’s men are now looking to take their newfound speed into Leg 3 Stage 2, which will commence once the boats reach the safe haven port, around January 23.

The overall leaderboard sees Puma lying in fourth on 36 points with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing five points behind in fifth place.

Just 20 points separate Abu Dhabi from third placed Groupama sailing team, with 80 per cent of the total leg points up for grabs in Leg 3 Stage 2.

Volvo Ocean Race website