Abu Dhabi Wins Volvo Ocean Race

Publish date:
Social count:
Ian Walker (left) and the rest of the Azzam crew celebrate their 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race win after stepping off the boat at the conclusion of Leg 9 in Gothenburg, Sweden

Ian Walker (left) and the rest of the Azzam crew celebrate their 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race win after arriving at the dock at the conclusion of Leg 9 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Photo courtesy of VOR/Ainhoa Sanchez

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam and skipper Ian Walker made it official today by clinching the overall win in the 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race following a fifth-place finish in the ninth and final offshore leg from Lorient, France, to Gothenburg, Sweden.

Azzam’s victory ends a decade-long quest for Walker, a two-time Olympic silver medalist from Great Britain, who has run three consecutive Volvo campaigns, including a disappointing 2011-12 race with Abu Dhabi in which his team trailed the rest of the fleet much of the way around the world.

From the outset, Walker said his goal was to finish well, ideally in the top three, in every leg, and in the end the team did just that: sailing the most consistent race of the fleet over the 40,000-mile course, finishing in the top three in seven of the nine legs and winning two legs, including Leg 5 around Cape Horn from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajai, Brazil.


"I said at the start of the race that I was confident, but there are a hundred ways to lose this race and only one way to win it. It just all came together for us perfectly," a jubilant Walker said afterward.

The crew of Alvimedica enjoys a hero’s welcomes as they sail toward the finish of Leg 9. Photo courtesy of VOR/Carlo Borlenghi

The crew of Alvimedica enjoys a hero’s welcomes as they sail toward the finish of Leg 9. Photo courtesy of VOR/Carlo Borlenghi

Taking second overall was Dutch-flagged Brunel followed by China’s Donfeng, and then Alvimedica and Spain’s Mapfre, which are tied for fourth. Saturday’s in-port race will decide the fate of the latter two, with the in-port series being the deciding factor in all ties.

Currently, Alvimedica and U.S. skipper Charlie Enright are ahead by just two points in the in-port series, which has proved to be just as competitive as the offshore portion of the event. As a testament to the team’s strength, Azzam is leading the in-port series as well.

“We built up a pretty nice lead coming into the Hague,” said Alvimedica watch captain Mark Towill of the team’s offshore win—its first in the 2014-2015 VOR, and a somewhat unique one given the 24-hour pit-stop the fleet made in the Netherlands halfway between France and Sweden. “But during the re-start the fleet compressed based on the weather…. Luckily the breeze filled in from the east a little quicker than we were expecting. We held on and protected our lead to the finish. It was a little bit crazy coming up the river but we are happy to be here with the win.”

It was a close race right up to the very end for Mapfre (foreground) and overall second-place finisher, Brunel. Photo courtesy of VOR/Marc Bow

It was a close race right up to the very end for Mapfre (foreground) and overall second-place finisher, Brunel. Photo courtesy of VOR/Marc Bow

Ironically, among the most disappointed sailors in the fleet are surely those comprising the crew of third-place finisher, Dongfeng. Despite having a mixed Sino-European team that included a number of relative newcomers to sailing, not to mention a number of setbacks—like a broken rudder in Leg 1—the team sailed remarkably well. Indeed, the greater the adversity, the better French skipper Charles Caudrelier and company seemed to sail. Coming off a heartbreaking dismasting in the heart of the Southern Ocean in Leg 5, for example, the team not only re-stepped its rig in record time, but won the following leg from Brazil to Newport.


Unfortunately, it was at this point that the wheels seemed to fall off, as Dongfeng blew what appeared to be a solid lead midway through Leg 6 across the Atlantic to not only finish fourth, but incur a one-point penalty for sailing into a shipping lane off the U.S. coast. The team then finished a disappointing fourth in Leg 7 from Lisbon, Portugal, to Lorient, France, bringing an end to any talk of a dramatic comeback and possible overall victory. After that a fourth-place finish in the final offshore leg to Gothenburg very nearly pushed the team off the podium altogether, with Alvimedica and Mapfre both being only a single point behind.

Obviously, a third-place finish in an event like the VOR is nothing to sneeze at, and it clearly signals that China is now a country to be reckoned with. Nonetheless, given Caudrelier’s competitive nature—not to mention drive that’s been exhibited over the last nine months by the rest of his crew—you can be sure that the “what ifs” will be playing through their minds for some time to come.


Landing Page Lead

The Volvo Returns to the Southern Ocean

Since the Volvo Ocean Race’s inception, the Southern Ocean has made it what it is. And no part of the race says “Southern Ocean” like Leg 7 from Auckland, New Zealand, to Itajaí, Brazil. The 7,600-mile leg, which starts this Sunday, is not only the longest of the event, but far ...read more


SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell.Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.comTeak deck paradise  I had a call recently from the man who replaced the deck on my Mason 44 five years ago. He was worried about the way people are wrecking their teak decks trying to get the green off. ...read more


Gear: ATN Multi Awning

THROW SOME SHADEAmong the many virtues of cruising cats is the large expanse of netting between their bows, which is the ideal place to hang out with a cold one after a hard day’s sailing and let the breeze blow your worries away. Only trouble is it can get a bit hot up there ...read more


How to Sail the Med

“After spending so many years sailing the Caribbean, I was frankly astounded at how much more I enjoy the Mediterranean,” says Scott Farquharson of charter brokers Proteus Yacht Charters. “The culture, the history, the food, the weather, friendly people, crystal-clear water—there ...read more


Know-How: Rigging Emergency Rudders

We were 1,100 miles from the nearest land when we received a text message on our Iridium GO: “Rudder gone. Water in bilge. Worried pumps can’t keep up. Please call!”We had been in contact with the owners of Rosinante, a 38ft Island Packet, since they had first announced over the ...read more


Experience: Hard Aground

This is a story of how mistakes are made and judgment is dulled to the point of catastrophe. It is also about how prudent planning, good equipment and a bit of luck can bring you back from the brink.We departed Norfolk, Virginia, on December 15 bound for Jacksonville, Florida, ...read more


Vestas Discusses Fatal Collision, Recovery

Vestas 11th Hour Racing co-captains Mark Towill and Charlie Enright discuss the collision near the end of Leg 4 as well as the efforts the team has made to get back into racing trimJust over a month after 11th Hour Racing’s fatal collision with a commercial fishing vessel shortly ...read more