After more than 65,000 nautical miles from Cape Town, the Volvo Ocean Race teams came to Abu Dhabi port. «This is an incredible place," says Abu Dhabi skipper Ian Walker. - Every time you come back here, you see a new building or a new cultural event. Everything here is developing so fast!»
Close to the Abu Dhabi Yacht Club, there is an impressive racing village which will be open until January 3rd when the yachts are set sailing again. Even a family with little interest in sailing will easily spend the weekend in these many pavilions. For example, it is possible to walk around the yacht in section, see the conditions of the athletes for more than 20 days, lie on net beds, drive a virtual yacht on a simulator or watch a film about the competition and its participants in the 4G cinema.
There are plenty of beach and water activities available in the village: yoga and volleyball in the morning, canoeing, kayak, paddle board, diving and rock climbing all day. In the evenings there are classical music concerts for music and visual show lovers. One of the most spectacular is the «Blue Planet»show, where the live music of an orchestra broadcasts BBC World movies about the underwater world on a huge screen. It gives you the creeps.
And yet the main event in the life of the racing village is the appearance of Volvo Ocean Race yachtsmen. Nobody knows the exact arrival of the yachts. You can only predict the corridor at 2-3 days and follow the GPS. But during the transition from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi, teams only sent their coordinates every 6 hours. The teams were not hiding from fans, but from pirates.
There are enough of them on this section, and a boat with foreign yachtsmen and expensive equipment is a welcome catch.
Obviously, the teams were hiding successfully and no one was captured by pirates. But the drama was not without it anyway.
During the second stage Team Vestas Wind crashed near the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. What, how and why nobody knows for sure. The report on what happened will be presented to the public on January 31, 2015. A team of top specialists are working on the analysis of the crash. Everybody will have to learn from this incident. «These were errors in navigation, - says a member of the technical team of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing Diego Torrado. - The monitor showing the seafloor did not have enough zoom to see this part of the reef, so the boat literally ran aground».
Luckily, the Alvimedica crew, who provided first aid to Vestas, was nearby. The crew spent a few days on a damaged boat stranded in the Indian Ocean and then 40 hours on a fishing boat to Mauritius.
«What happened to the Vestas crew was horrible of course, but most importantly no one was injured. The ocean is a dangerous place, and the Volvo Ocean Race is a very difficult race. Anything can happen. They're working on rebuilding the boat day and night, but it's not clear if they can come back. There's not much»time for repairs," says Volvo Ocean Race general manager «Knut Frostad».
Judging by the photos, the boat is in a deplorable condition. Both helm and the leak in the nose.
«Fix it? Come on! All the Vestas team has to do is cut the yacht into pieces and sell it for parts and souvenirs," says Diego Torrado, a member of the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing technical team. But we still hope that the impossible is possible and we will wait for the blue monotype at one of the stages of the round-the-world ocean race».
Another surprise of the stage was the third place Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. They were in the lead throughout the stage and passed the positions just a couple of days before the finish.
«Of course we wanted to come to Abu Dhabi first," said Ian Walker. - But it's not always possible to be winners. In Cape Town, we were leaders and will be on the podium again!»
«It was a joy to go into our native waters," said Azzam team trimmer Adil Khalid. This is my land, and I am glad to be here. There were a lot of people in my team's shirts on the beach. It's a pleasure to get straight home»from the water.
All previous races of the «Volvo» yachts were built with different technologies, so their speed and maneuverability was different. The boats went with a great variation in distance. (Note itBoat: this season the teams ride on strict monotypes.) Now for 24 hours the teams had literally a match voyage. It's exhausting and keeps it in tone. «I practically caught the scent of the opponents," said Ian Walker, "I saw their tracks on the water and tried to guess which route»they've taken now.
«The three teams now have the same number of points in the overall standings," Knut Frostad said. - This has never happened in the history of the Volvo Ocean Flight competition. The race is very intense. The leader has changed three times in the last 24 hours before the finish. It's the right thing for us! We love a tough fight». Until the last moment, it wasn't clear who the winner was. The outcome of the race lasting 23 days was decided a few hours before the finish.
The Dutch Team Brunel took the lead, overtaking their closest rival for 16 minutes.
«This time it's a busy race," said Brunel skipper Bowie Becking. - The three leading teams were very close to each other. Our team worked hard all the way from Cape Town. Just before the finish, we saw each other and took the lead and won under the same conditions on the same boats with the same sails incredibly pleasing. "The bus was driven by one of our young yachtsmen. There was a good windfall that picked us up and brought us to victory».
Red flags with stars waved in the wind - the second entered the port was the Chinese boat Dongfeng Race Team. Young Chinese yachtsman Jin Hao Chen said he used to be afraid of everything, but now he can take responsibility and go through any difficulties.
The second three teams finished the next day. Not surprisingly, the women's SCA crew got the most attention. The girls came to the port after midnight under the spotlights and the applause of the fans. Despite the late hour, they were greeted by an impressive crowd with pink balls and personally the race manager Knut Frostad.
«I hope we get a good rest during the break between races," said SCA team navigator Liddy Greenhan. - We have time to think and get back into the fight and show the world what we can do. It's already stage two, we're getting a good start and we're not finishing»very well.
«We are not here to follow, but to be ahead," the team says. - We are paving the way to the future for all women who dare to dream».
Next time we'll see Volvo Ocean yachts on the water in the new year. The crews are letting go to celebrate Christmas and New Year's Eve with their families and gain strength. On the second of January there will be a coastal race. And the third crew will not return to the port, but will follow the next destination - the Chinese city of Sanya.
This section of the route will take about 20 days and will be the shortest of all the competitions. Last season, the raging elements drove the teams to take cover in the bays and wait for the storm. We'll keep an eye on what surprises await the participants this time.
You can read the brief Volvo Ocean Race lyrics here.