For once the dream script came true as Britain’s Ian Walker took the Abu Dhabi entry in the Volvo round the world race to victory in the inshore race of his new home port.
Walker, a double Olympic silver medallist, combined a bit of a gamble and some local knowledge gained over months of training to execute a perfect start and a lead which he never lost to give guest Prince Andrew a winning ride in front of rapturous local supporters with Sheikh Mubarak al Nahyan also at his shoulder.
The win compensated in part for the disaster of the first leg from Alicante to Cape Town, when his 70-foot, falcon-emblazoned black-hulled boat was dismasted and the disappointment of the second leg to the Emirate state, when tactical errors left him last of the five finishers going into his home port.
The improving French team, Groupama, skippered by Franck Cammas, was second with the Spanish entry, Camper, crewed largely by Team New Zealand, third. “We so wanted to win this race and we were prepared to take some risks so to win made this a very special day,” said Walker.
As insider comment says that Britain’s top Olympic sailor, Ben Ainslie, is likely to have seen disqualification from the world championship in Fremantle last month as the full extent of his punishment for leaping onto a television boat and remonstrating about being baulked, a deadline for payments to be made to the America’s Cup organisers may see one or two current would-be challengers “excused”.
The term was used by the New York Yacht Club when it was decided that a defence syndicate was to be “let go”, in other words told to go home. Sunday is the deadline for some of them to pay their bills for the 45-foot wing-powered catamarans that are being used in the warm-up world series of regattas and to confirm that they will be taking part in the America’s Cup to be staged in San Francisco next year.
There are always fudges in the America’s Cup – it now looks as though the Naples regatta in April will be moved to the via Caracciolo site – and the organisers want to give challengers as much chance as possible to swell the ranks.