Abu Dhabi: The Spanish boat Telefonica were denied their third consecutive success when French challengers Groupama edged them out in a thrilling finish in the second stage of leg two, which brought the Volvo Ocean Race fleet to Abu Dhabi.
Groupama finished 52 seconds ahead of Telefonica after they caught and overtook the 2011-12 race leaders with about 20 nautical miles left for the finish, just outside the Breakwaters here in the Corniche.
Telefonica were bidding for another success after consecutive victories in leg one, the Cape Town in-port race and the first stage of Leg 2 and despite losing yesterday's sprint they are still firmed perched at the top.
The win in the 98-nautical mile drag race from Sharjah to Abu Dhabi, the second part of the Second Leg which saw the fleet start in Capetown, fetched the French boat Groupama six points while Team Telefonica's five points in addition to the 24 points that they earned for the first part of this leg, leaves the Spanish boat in the overall lead with 66 points. Camper finished third to gain four points (overall second with 58 points), Puma Ocean Racing earned three (28 pts, fourth overall) and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's ‘Azzam' two (19 pts, fifth overall) to bring the curtains down on the second leg of the 39,000-nautical mile race.
Yann Riou, Media Crew Member of the Groupama sailing team said, "We didn't know until the last minute if we won or not, because we were busy finding the finish line and looking for the comity boat. Then after the line, we were busy avoiding the pier! "
Neal McDonald, watch captain, Team Telefonica said, "It was great sailing — good breeze, sunny day. Some of the nicest sailing I've done for a long time. Groupama did a great job in the reach and caught up with us. We managed to put a few blocking manoeuvres on them but then once we got round the last mark they slipped by, they made it look very easy."
The evening's loudest cheers were reserved for Azzam, the Abu Dhabi team, whose skipper Ian Walker said, "This obviously wasn't the result we wanted but we had a very tough time to get here. We broke the mast and at that point it didn't look we would get to Abu Dhabi. To arrive to this amazing reception is just fantastic."
"This is a historic day for Abu Dhabi," said Shaikh Sultan Bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan, Chairman, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), which is behind bringing the Volvo Ocean race stopover to the emirate, as well as principal backers of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing — the first-ever Middle East entry.
The five boats which arrived yesterday along with Team Sanya boat will be in Abu Dhabi until January 14 before it sails for Sanya in China.
Wednesday's Leg 2 Stage 2 results:
1. Groupama sailing team 6 points
2. Team Telefónica 5
3. CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 4
4. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 3
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 2
Overall Leg 2 (Cape Town to Abu Dhabi) results:
1. Team Telefónica 29 points
2. CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 24
3. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 19
4. Groupama sailing team 18
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 10
1. Team Telefónica 66 points
2. CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand 58
3. Groupama sailing team 42
4. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG 28
5. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing 19
6. Team Sanya 4*
* Team Sanya will pick up the following points if they complete Leg 2, Stage 1 under race rules: 4 points for Leg 2 Stage 1; 1 point for Leg 2 Stage 2