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20 April 2024

Abu Dhabi's Walker captures thrilling double

England cricketers Graeme Swann (second right) and Alastair Cook (right) prepare to jump from Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, skippered by Ian Walker during the start of leg three of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 from Abu Dhabi to Sanya, China on Saturday. (GETTY)


Ian Walker clinched a Volvo Ocean Race thriller on Saturday when he pipped American boat Puma right at the line to give his Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew their second win in two days.

The Briton trailed the early leaders as Abu Dhabi departed their home port on Saturday but little by little he hauled in his rivals before outpacing Ken Read's boat in the final few metres of a 106-nautical mile sprint to Sharjah for the first stage of leg 3.

The double victory - Walker also triumphed in his home in-port race on Friday - marked an extraordinary turnaround in fortunes for the region's first campaign in the 38-year-old round-the-world race.

Abu Dhabi broke their mast in three places within six hours of the start of leg 1 in November in Spain and then were a distant fifth in leg 2 sailing from Cape Town to their Emirati home earlier this month.

"We made a terrible start but we managed to get back into it," said Walker, who collected six points for the victory and now have 31 for fifth overall.

"Our goal was always to stay close enough to the leaders to be able to challenge on the final leg, where we knew were going to be fast."

Groupama of France were not far behind in third ahead of long-time stage leaders Telefonica. Camper (Spain/New Zealand) had to settle for fifth spot.

The Spanish team still lead overall on 71 points but the result will give skipper Iker Martinez plenty to think about after being denied in the final mile having led the race virtually from the start.

The boats will now be transported by armed ship to a secret location in the Indian Ocean in an unprecedented step by organisers to avoid pirates.
From there they will sail again to Sanya, China, arriving in early February.

Overall standings: 1 Telefonica (Spain) 71, 2 Camper (Spain/New Zealand) 64, 3 Groupama (France) 51, Puma (U.S.) 36, 5 Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 31, 6 Team Sanya (China) 4.