Light conditions for the start, but this weekend’s racing has seen a further shake up in the overall points
After the beating that the fleet took over the last couple of months when the drama of broken boats and rigs dominated the news, the six boat fleet was finally back together once again for the start of the 1,940 nautical mile leg 7 from Miami to Lisbon.
The in-port race held on the previous day (Saturday) had seen the overall race leaders Telefonica lose yet more points after a disastrous race when they hit a mark and finished last. This was the second time in a row that the previously dominant team had delivered a shock result having come last in the in-port race in Brazil a month earlier. This surprise result has now their lead further reduced to just seven points over second placed Groupama.
Further down the leaderboard the points had also closed up with Camper just six points off second and Puma just one point behind them in fourth. For all the demolition and drama of the previous months it was easy to see why many were taking the view that this transatlantic leg from Miami to Lisbon could become a deal breaker rather than the more familiar boat breaker.
The start to Leg 7 got under way in very light conditions with the breeze down to 5 knots, or less at, times and while such conditions didn’t make for dramatic images, there was one team that shone.
Abu Dhabi, who have struggled in the offshore legs, have frequently excelled inshore and this weekend was further proof as Walker’s team won their third in port race. In the opening stages of Leg 7, where the fleet raced around the buoys before heading offshore, Walker’s team demonstrated once again how potent this boat is in light weather and flat water as they rounded the first mark in the lead with Telefonica a close second.
Meanwhile, Puma who had enjoyed a resounding leg win coming into Miami were faced with the opposite end of the fleet in the opening stages of this leg as they rounded the first mark in last place.
At the second mark Abu Dhabi extended her lead as she managed to connect with what little extra breeze wafted across the course. Minutes later the narrow advantage was converted into a bigger one as Walker’s team slipped into the Gulf stream first, taking the additional breeze that the effect of the current offered. For a while the news just got better and better for Abu Dhabi as they stretched further ahead of the fleet. But their early jump was not to last as the breeze decayed allowing Groupama to close in to within a few boat lengths of Walker’s team.
So while Leg 7 could prove to be a big turning point in this race, the opening stages were very slow going.