November 05, 2014

British skipper Ian Walker steered Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing to a first-leg victory in the nine-month Volvo Ocean Race on Wednesday after foregoing sleep for two days.

Walker's yacht was chased all the way through the South Atlantic by Chinese entry Dongfeng Race Team, which closed to within three miles near the end before reaching their destination, Cape Town, after 25 days.

The fleet of seven set out from Alicante, Spain on Oct. 11.

With Dongfeng whittling away at Abu Dhabi's lead, Walker stayed at the helm, declining to go into the cabin to look at satellite data or sleep in the closing 48 hours.

Victory was all the sweeter for Walker, who was in charge of another Abu Dhabi entry in 2011-12, only to see his first-leg hopes scuppered on the opening night when the mast snapped in a Mediterranean storm.

Dongfeng's second placing surprised. The eight-man crew includes two Chinese sailors, Jin Hao Chen and Jiru Yang, who have never sailed around the world before. However, the skipper, Frenchman Charles Caudrelier, was part of the winning crew in 2011-12.

Of the rest of the fleet, Team Brunel of the Netherlands should be the next to finish late Wednesday.

The all-women crew of Team SCA is expected to arrive on Friday.

The second leg to Abu Dhabi starts on Nov. 19. The race ends in June.

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