Team Alvimedica takes first blood in Volvo Ocean Race
Published on October 4th, 2014
Alicante, Spain (October 4, 2014) – Team Alvimedica has taken first blood in the Volvo Ocean Race, winning today’s 7.8 nm In-Port Race, passing Ian Walker’s Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing mid way through the six-leg windward leeward course to win by 6 seconds.
While pleased with the result, Skipper Charlie Enright knows that this is only the beginning of their nine month journey. “We haven’t done anything that counts for the overall trophy yet,” admits Enright. “But it’s a confidence builder, it gives us the feeling that we can do well again.”
Double Olympic silver medallist Walker was typically forthright about his team’s performance. “I’m happy enough with the result,” he said. “But normally when we get ahead like that during a race I would expect us to go on and win. We had an issue with furling the headsail at the end of the first lap and that meant we were slow the next time we used it and that let Alvimedica to close us right down.”
The seven teams will compete in 10 In-Port races at each stopover for a separate competition – the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series. The main prize, however, remains the Volvo Ocean Race trophy, which goes to the team with the best overall score on all 9 offshore legs.
But Saturday gave everyone a taste of what lies ahead, which with the new one design Volvo Ocean 65, looks to offer close, aggressive racing. Enright and his crew made a good but unspectacular start that placed them in the top half of the seven-boat fleet while a daring port-tack start by Dongfeng Race Team rewarded the Chinese with an early lead.
Enright was happier to take a more conservative approach. “Try to stay out of trouble, that was the aim. We didn’t have the greatest start but we wanted to give ourselves options. The pin end was really favored and we just tried to avoid the clump and give ourselves a chance. We took our times on the maneuvers, tried to keep it simple, and kept on chipping away.”
At the top mark the Chinese held a marginal advantage over Team Vestas Wind and managed to roll over the top of Vestas, forcing Chris Nicholson to jibe away. However Nicholson failed to spot the fast-approaching Team Alvimedica who forced another jibe on the Danish boat.
Meanwhile down the other side of the course Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing had avoided all the traffic and ploughed a lonely but successful path down the right-hand side of the track. This put Ian Walker’s team in front by a healthy margin with Alvimedica avoiding the logjam at the leeward gate marks. “You’ve got to commit to these laylines, and we owned our side of the gate, which gave us a clean exit on the second upwind leg,“ said Enright.
The early leaders from China and Denmark saw their advantage completely slip away as they got caught up in the jam at the bottom of the course, while Abu Dhabi surged away to a nice lead, with Alvimedica just ahead of the marauding pack. At the top of the course on the second lap, Walker again chose the right-hand side of the course to bring him back downwind while in second place, Alvimedica’s tactician Alberto Bolzan opted for the left.
Speaking on the TV commentary, Volvo Ocean Race CEO and former skipper Knut Frostad observed: “The guys on Alvimedica have probably been the most consistent on the race course so far today, sailing the boat really well. They’re just in their 20s or early 30s, but they’re showing real potential for doing well in the Volvo Ocean Race.”
Meanwhile, Bolzan’s tactical choice had proven correct as by the bottom of the course, Alvimedica arrived at the leeward gate neck and neck with Abu Dhabi, Walker’s lead entirely eroded. After splitting up different sides of the course, when they came back together at the final top marks, Alvimedica was ahead of Abu Dhabi. But on the final few hundred meters to the finish, Abu Dhabi went on the assault as they tried to roll over the top of Alvimedica just as they were completing their jibe.
For some heart-stopping moments it looked like Walker and his crew would steal Alvimedica’s wind but the crew wound the handles hard to get the gennaker fully set and pulling again. “We were at risk of being rolled by Abu Dhabi, but we couldn’t have played it much differently,” Enright said. “The boys ripped that sail around real fast, but he had a shot at rolling us, and luckily we got going again just in time. We were kind of lucky that the Spanish weren’t too far away, so Abu Dhabi had someone else to think about too.”
Charlie Enright and crew kept their rivals at bay and charged across the finish line in first place, by six seconds. A stunning victory delighted the crew and surprised some of the more experienced teams in the race. But was Enright surprised? “Surprised that we’re able to do well? Not that much. We’ve had some good practice, the guys have been working really hard on maneuvers, and we’re happy with the win. We haven’t done anything that counts for the overall trophy yet, but it’s a confidence builder, it gives us the feeling that we can do well again.”
The seven teams will begin the 6487nm Leg 1 from Alicante to Cape Town on October 11.
Source: Team Alvimedia, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
Background: The 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race takes the 7 teams to 11 cities in 11 countries, beginning October 4, 2014 in Alicante, Spain and finishing June 27, 2015 in Gothenburg, Sweden. Racing the new one design Volvo Ocean 65, teams will be scoring points in 9 offshore legs to determine the overall Volvo Ocean Race winner. Additionally, the teams will compete in 10 In-Port races at each stopover for a separate competition – the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Series. Race website: http://www.volvooceanrace.com/en/home.html