Walker guides Abu Dhabi to verge of title

British skipper Ian Walker and his Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew all but clinched the 12th edition of the Volvo Ocean Race on Thursday after taking third place in the eighth leg from Lisbon to Lorient, France.
Only a freak result in the final leg to Gothenburg in which if they finish last of the seven-strong fleet and then are docked at least two penalty points for a serious infringement of sailing rules could now stop them from lifting the trophy in Sweden at the end of the month. The Emirati crew began the 647-nautical mile leg from Portugal on Sunday needing to finish in front of their closest pursuers in the triennial, nine-month marathon offshore event, which was launched as the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1973. In the event, Abu Dhabi took third and then watched Team Brunel (Netherlands) and Dongfeng Race Team (China) finish fifth and seven respectively. The results left Walkerand’s crew eight points clear at the top of the standings and only a serious breach of the rules could stop them now in what should be a 960nm lap of honor to Gothenburg via a 24-hour pit stop in The Hague. For Walker, 45, it was the realization of a career ambition to become the first British skipper to win the race.