A young American-led team took the opening honours of the Volvo Ocean Race 2014-15 on Saturday when they claimed a surprise victory in the Alicante in-port race.
Team Alvimedica, skippered by Charlie Enright in his first appearance in offshore sailing's leading crewed competition, completed the 7.8-nautical mile course in 52min 05sec to snatch a six-second advantage over fast-finishing second-placed Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
The Spanish entrants MAPFRE were third a further 25 seconds adrift.
The result does not count for the offshore overall Volvo Ocean Race trophy which begins next week (October 11) with Leg 1 from Alicante to Cape Town. But it does give Enright's men an early lead in the separate in-port series event and a timely shot of confidence that they can compete with more experienced crews in the seven-strong fleet.
Enright of Rhode Island is the second youngest skipper at 30 ever to enter the 41-year-old Volvo Ocean Race, formerly the Whitbread Round the World Race. He had his ambition sparked to launch a campaign seven years ago as an actor on the set of the Disney sailing movie, Morning Light, when he was coached by veterans of the event.
The race will eventually cover 38,739 nautical miles, visiting 11 ports in all and lasting nine months.
It ends on June 27 in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Results: 1. Team Alvimedica (Turkey/U.S.) 52.05mins, 2. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing +0:06, 3. MAPFRE (Spain) +0.25, 4. Team Brunel (Neths) +0.46, 5. Dongfeng Race Team (China) +1.19, 6. Team SCA (Sweden) +1.50, 7. Team Vestas Wind (Denmark) +3.25.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR) – Abu Dhabi’s entry into the Volvo Ocean Race – is primed and ready for its first Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) competitive clash this weekend – the Alicante In-Port Race on Saturday, October 4.
The one-hour showdown will take place on a tight in-shore course adjacent to the Alicante Race Village, with ADOR, the reigning in-port opener champions, looking to lay down a marker against the other six teams, with Leg 1 of the main race only a week away.
ADOR is hoping to repeat its 2011-12 VOR in-port race performance in Alicante, when it skilfully out-manoeuvred the competition in light winds to claim first blood in the marathon contest.
And the team’s challenge for the in-port title this time will be witnessed up-close-and-personal by a pair of Olympic stars, after British triathlete brothers Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee – reigning champions of the annual Abu Dhabi International Triathlon – agreed to join ADOR on its sleek Azzam yacht as celebrity guests for the race.
"We train down in this area regularly so it seems fitting we're here for the start of the Volvo Ocean Race,” said Jonathan, who along with sharing the victory with his brother at the Abu Dhabi International Triathlon in March, also won the 2012 Triathlon World Championship and Olympic bronze at London 2012.
“I've never been on a boat as big as Azzam before so it'll be great to see how fast it can go!"
Alistair, the current Olympic, European and Commonwealth champion, was also standing ready to experience a resounding win for Azzam, but had one eye on maintaining his dominance over his younger brother.
“It's something I've always been interested in, I'm really looking forward to the experience and trying my hand at pulling some ropes!” he said. “I'm sure I'll be better than Jonny at grinding too!"
In each of the 10 VOR ports, including Abu Dhabi in January, the teams will race during the stopover festivities, with no points on the line for the main competition, but with results being deciding factors in the event of a points tie and with kudos and reputation in the balance.
ADOR skipper and double Olympic silver medalist Ian Walker, said the crew were focused on turning in a good performance for their fans in Abu Dhabi and around the world.
“We always look forward to lining up against the other teams,” Walker said. “With the leg start just a week away it’s important that we protect the boat and the sails, but we will be gunning for a good result to kick off the campaign in style and give the fans back in Abu Dhabi something to cheer about.
“All the teams are very competitive and will also be out to win, so I’m sure the race will be an exciting spectacle.”
Emirati crew member Adil Khalid said he was particularly looking forward to welcoming the Brownlee brothers aboard Azzam, after seeing them set a new triathlon course record in Abu Dhabi last March.
“Alistair and Jonathan are wonderful athletes and I really enjoyed watching them swim, cycle and run through Abu Dhabi,” Khalid said. “I’m looking forward to showing them around Azzam, and I’m eager to find out what they think of the experience of racing on board with us.”
Prior to the race start at 14:00 local time (16:00 UAE) the crews will take part in a parade through the Alicante Race Village. ADOR fans can watch the Alicante In-Port Race action and cheer on ADOR via a live online feed at: www.volvooceanrace.com.