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Volvo Ocean Race: Bahamas feel pressure to put Miami party on hold

How long can city fathers maintain their 'welcoming committee' smiles for incoming race boats? It's a question which was uppermost in Miami earlier this week, as the great and the good awaited the arrival of the leaders in the Volvo Ocean Race.

In this case, the answer had to be three days. A week ago, Kenny Read and his team on Puma were hanging onto a slender lead from Chris Nicholson with Camper, after racing more than 4,000 miles from Itajai in Brazil. At usual Volvo 70 speeds, a Sunday finish in Miami was a possibility -- just the job in a festive city ready to party.

However, the Bahamas decided otherwise. An ordinary high pressure area over the islands found even higher pressure within itself to become an extremely high pressure system, and an almost complete calm reigned over a wide area, right across the racers' track.

For sure it was sunny, and through the vividly moonlit nights there was no chill. But for shoreside crowds and frustrated crews, this was small consolation.

Just to add to the pain, the boats far astern were still tearing along in the full trade winds, with Franck Cammas, Damian Foxall and their team on Groupama staging a real Lazarus job to get through overall points leader Telefonica and sail within nibbling distance of Puma and Camper.

However, in conditions in which Puma is supposedly not at her best, Read kept his cool and crawled along the last 200 miles with all the intensity of an Olympic race. Finally, they were shaping up to finish late Wednesday afternoon. But the weather hadn't finished.

While things were serene at sea, a massive thunderstorm built up over Miami and winds of 40 knots started to blow away bits of the tented Volvo Race Village. It had to be closed to the public for safety reasons. You couldn't make it up.

Luckily by the time Puma came sweeping into the harbour to clinch her win, the thunderstorm was moving inland, the village was re-opening, the bands were back playing and the welcoming committee had grins from ear to ear.

Racing resumes in a week's time with the In Port event in Miami, and then they're on their way the next day transatlantic to Lisbon, then to Lorient and finally to the finish in Galway. Chinese-Irish entry Sanya rejoins the fleet in a week's time. Meanwhile the leaderboard is: Telefonica 164 pts, Groupama 153, Camper 149, Puma 147, Abu Dhabi 68 and Sanya 25.

When Wednesday, May 9, was set as the day for the presentation of the Mitsubishi Motors/Irish Independent 'Club of the Year 2012' award to the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire after they'd been adjudicated the winners back in January, everyone had visions of a perfect summer's evening garden party sort of celebration.

No way, as it turned out this week. There was better weather in March. But the National's superb clubhouse maintains a very pleasant warmth and the place was packed out with a convivial crowd, so it was summer in every other way as Commodore Paul Barrington accepted the veteran ship's wheel trophy from Billy Riordan of Mitsubishi Motors.

It's the fifth time the National have won the trophy in its 33 years, and Irish Sailing Association president Niamh McCutcheon praised the club and its members for their sailing enthusiasm and exemplary level of voluntary effort afloat and ashore.

As the National is already well represented in the forthcoming sailing Olympics with Annalise Murphy a top contender in the women's Lasers and Jack Roy one of the 16-strong international racing administration team, everyone was delighted with the news that Ireland's sailing squad has been increased with the qualification of James Espey for the men's Lasers, while Peter O'Leary and David Burrows were in the top three in the current Star Worlds.

Irish Independent