The third leg of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race 2011–2012 has taken the six competing teams to Sanya in China. As Official Timekeeper, Swiss watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen awarded the prestigious trophy in its 24-hour Speed Record Challenge to the crew of Puma. Ian Walker, skipper of the IWC-sponsored Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team, used the stopover to visit the exclusive Flagship Boutique in Hong Kong.
After a demanding leg from Abu Dhabi, during which the organizers once again arranged for the yachts to be transported part of the way by freighter as security measure against pirates, all six teams reached their destination – for the first time since the start of the race. The Spanish yacht Telefónica continues to lead the field and was the first vessel to arrive at the Chinese tourist resort of Sanya, just under 2 hours ahead of Groupama. For skipper Iker Martínez and his crew, this was the third stage victory in succession. During the tactically challenging stretch from the Maldives to Sanya, the Groupama crew made a serious attempt to take the lead from the Spaniards but, after over 3,000 nautical miles, had to be satisfied with second place. Third team home was Camper, followed by Puma fourth, while Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Sanya completed the leg in fifth and sixth places.
Hundreds of fans flooded to the Sanya Race Village prior to Telefónica’s victorious arrival to celebrate the official opening ceremony. A colourful array of fireworks exploded overhead as several local dignitaries addressed the crowd. It is the second consecutive time that the Volvo Ocean Race has stopped in China, a country that is also very relevant to IWC Schaffhausen. The Swiss manufacturer’s high-quality watches are coveted luxury imports of one of the world’s most dynamic economies. “We are, of course, delighted that our products are the centre of such interest in Asia. China, in particular, is an important market for us,” commented IWC CEO Georges Kern. Accordingly, IWC is well represented in China with 8 boutiques, 39 authorized retailers and 2 customer service centres.