Volvo Ocean Race: Abu Dhabi forced to withdraw from Leg 1

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, skippered by Ian Walker from the UK at the start of leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean race 2011-12 from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, South Africa


Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has retired from Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race on Friday having returned to racing early on Thursday following a dismasting on the first night.


The decision leaves four of the fleet of six still racing the first stage, the 6,500-nautical mile leg from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town. Team Sanya also pulled out after suffering substantial damage to the boat's hull on Sunday.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper Ian Walker from the UK at the press conference after Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's yacht Azzam, returns to Alicante, Spain after the mast broke in rough weather on the first day of racing on leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. (Credit: TIM STONTON/Volvo Ocean Race)
Tim Stonton/Volvo Ocean Race
An Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing spokesperson said: 'Despite the heroics performed by the shore crew in getting our yacht Azzam re-masted after it was damaged last week in high seas and strong winds, the team believes that the estimated arrival time in Cape Town would be counter-productive for its preparations for Leg 2, especially given the almost windless prevailing weather conditions in the Mediterranean.

'Azzam's mast and rigging system have not been compromised and the decision is purely one of time management.'

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing will now sail to Lisbon, Portugal with an expected arrival time of Saturday evening. Azzam will then be shipped to Cape Town to arrive around November 28.

The decision will give the team suitable time to ensure the boat and the team are 100 percent ready for the Cape Town In-Port Race on December 10.

'Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is steadfast in its commitment to return to the race from Cape Town,' the spokesperson said.

Abu Dhabi's shore crew worked around the clock to replace a mast broken in three places on Saturday night, around six hours after the leg start, when the boat crashed into a huge wave while sailing in the Mediterranean towards Gibraltar.

Skipper Ian Walker explained: 'Since dismasting shortly after the start on Saturday our team and Future Masts have worked tirelessly to fit our spare mast and examine the cause of the original mast failure.

'We need time to make modifications to our rigging system in Cape Town and the only way we can gain that time is to travel to Cape Town by ship. This has been one of the hardest decisions of my life to make but I have to consider not only the safety of the crew but the long term interests of the project.'

The British double Olympic silver medallist continued: 'This is only the first leg of a long race and with this decision and a lot of hard work we can be race ready for Leg 2.

'I am particularly sad as this is my favourite leg of the race and the whole crew had been looking forward so much to it. I wish all the teams left in the leg fair winds and we will be there to greet them in Cape Town.'