GOTHENBURG, Sweden, June 26 – Ian Walker and his victorious Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew have the chance of a rare double tomorrow when they attempt to win the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series Trophy.
They are hot favourites to do so, taking a six-point advantage into the Inmarsat In-Port Race Gothenburg, the final race in a 10-part series.
Only a victory for their nearest competitors, Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED), and a last place finish or a failure to complete the course, can deny Walker’s men from collecting another piece of handsome silverware.
They have already sealed the overall offshore trophy with five points to spare, again from the Dutch crew of Bouwe Bekking, after finishing fifth in the ninth and final leg from Lorient, France, to Gothenburg, Sweden, on Monday.
The offshore and in-port double is not unique in Volvo Ocean Race history – Mike Sanderson’s ABN AMRO ONE achieved it in 2005-06 – but victory would be another major feather in the cap for a region, which only entered the 41-year-old event for the first time in 2011-12 under the Abu Dhabi flag.
Walker, 45, typically, was taking nothing for granted in the final press conference for the nine-month race today.
“We try to win everything we do,” he said. “Basically, we just have to make sure we don’t finish last.
“But it’s a pretty tight race course and there’s plenty of trouble out there if you’re not careful.”
Bekking, 52, could be forgiven for being sick of the sight of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s stern after trying to catch it over 38,739 nautical miles and nine offshore legs since the race started back in October last year from Alicante, Spain.
However, he has not totally given up hope of an upset result that will rely on his opponents slipping up uncharacteristically badly.
“We will fight for it and we still have a slight chance,” he told reporters. “It would certainly be nice to win that trophy.”
The in-port race, which concludes the triennial event, will also resolve some unfinished business in the overall competition as a tie-breaker.
Team Alvimedica’s (Charlie Enright/USA) Leg 9 win in Gothenburg from Lorient, via a manic pit-stop in The Hague last week, drew them level with MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP) on 34 points, in joint fourth place overall.
The Turkish/American team currently stand two points ahead of the Spanish crew , but that advantage could easily be swept away on a tight, challenging Gothenburg course.
MAPFRE were boosted by an eve-of-race visit to the boat in Gothenburg from His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain today. He will be an onboard spectator with the Spanish flag-bearers in tomorrow’s race – if the weather is good.
«I haven’t sailed for four years and I’m really looking forward to it,» he told reporters.
Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR), presently fourth behind Team Alvimedica, and, less likely, sixth-placed Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA), also have outside chances of a top-three podium place in the in-port series if results go their way.
Team Vestas Wind (Chris Nicholson/AUS) will largely be racing for pride having missed all but the Alicante, Cape Town, Lisbon and Lorient in-port races because of their grounding in the Indian Ocean during Leg 2.
The action will start at 1300 local time/1100 UTC and so far the forecasters are predicting strong enough winds to offer the prospect of a fitting finale to a memorable and extraordinarily close-run event all round.