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Abu Dhabi crew in fifth place in Atlantic crossing.

Abu Dhabi: Overall Volvo Ocean Race leaders Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (ADOR) on Friday slipped back to fifth place in the latest leg from Newport, US, to Lisbon, but skipper Ian Walker's crew were still only 5.9 nautical miles behind front-runners Dongfeng Race Team.

Dongfeng held a narrow 0.9nm lead over MAPFRE in the 2,800nm Leg 7 across the Atlantic, while Team Brunel, Team Alvimedica, ADOR and Team SCA were all right on their heels.

Later on Friday, the fleet faced a key decision on how to deal with the Azores High. Most of the weather models showed that a northern course would pay in terms of more wind, but the southern route was more direct to Lisbon.

Team Brunel's Bouwe Bekking, meanwhile, was embroiled in the battle for the lead nine years to the day when he was at the centre of one of the most dramatic episodes the race has ever seen.

The ongoing tussle to reach Lisbon first must seem a million years away from the torrid night nine years ago when his boat began to take on water in the mid-Atlantic.

Safety first

With the weather closing in, skipper Bekking was left with the agonising decision of whether to abandon ship or attempt to save his stricken vessel. With ABN AMRO TWO's crew standing by, he opted to put the safety of his sailors first and movistar eventually sank, never to be recovered.

Bekking was asked about that dramatic night in the pre-departure press conference before the fleet left Newport, Rhode Island.

He said that the episode had served as a vivid reminder of the dangers of the Atlantic, although he had confidence that the more robust, one-design Volvo Ocean 65s were now better prepared for the challenges of the leg.

The subject also came up in the latest episode of the Race's Inside Track, daily digital programme, on Wednesday evening. The big Dutchman insisted he had moved on.

"I haven't thought about it at all. At that time, it was a shame because we'd been working for two years on a project, but I haven't laid awake one night [thinking about it] and I never will in my life," he said.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:4EUPR
Date:May 23, 2015
Words:384
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