The next 24 hours could well be the longest of Ian Walker’s 44-year-old life.
The British skipper of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and his crew have led for the majority of the 6,847 nautical mile (nm) first leg from Alicante to Cape Town since the fleet raced through the Cape Verde Islands before the halfway stage.
But there’s been literally no time to relax ever since, and even with the leading pack just over 24 hours from completing the opening leg, Walker has two boats breathing down his neck.
The tension on board Azzam is high and will not let up until they cross the finish under 500nm ahead. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s onboard reporter Matt Knighton (USA), describes Walker’s current mood:
“Wearing his stress and nervousness onboard, Ian hasn’t been able to sleep. His eyes are bloodshot, he’s jumpy for each perceived decrease in boat speed, and his familiar humour is subdued under a quieter exterior.
“Exhausted, and with the saltwater continuing to flood the cockpit, the bearded faces up on deck continue to steadily take the race one mile at a time. The war of attrition wages on.”
At 0800 on Tuesday, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing led by just 6.2nm from Dongfeng Race Team (Charles Caudrelier/FRA) with Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) another 33nm behind.
The fleet is now estimated to arrive just after lunchtime in an expectant Cape Town. THAT IS TODAY – WEDNESDAY 5 NOVEMBER.
Caudrelier tried an early morning tactical move on Tuesday, crossing Walker’s line on the Abu Dhabi boat, Azzam, at 0640 UTC.
In this cat-and-mouse game of manoeuvre and counter manoeuvre, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing gybed in front of and to windward of Dongfeng.
Navigator Simon Fisher (GBR) spoke about his relief when receiving the scheduled position report, which confirmed that Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing had held their slim advantage.
Stronger breeze is making this a sprint finish to a city which has been voted No. 1 on the New York Times’ prestigious list of 52 places to visit in 2014.
Team Brunel are currently in third but are still pushing hard to grab any opportunity to make a gain.
The chasing pack of four will fall the other side of a weak high pressure ridge that will see wind speeds drop and push their arrival back a day.