Volvo Ocean Race: Abu Dhabi makes a cautious restart to 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 are back in the Volvo Ocean Race, resuming racing this morning five days after losing their mast in violent Mediterranean seas.

The team, led by British double Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker, radioed Race Control at 0216 UTC to notify that they had resumed racing as they passed close to the point where, just six hours and 85 nautical miles after Saturday’s Leg 1 start, disaster struck.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing left Alicante yesterday evening following a round-the-clock effort to rig and fit their spare mast to their bruised Volvo Open 70 Azzam.

Walker, who skippered the Irish/Chinese entry Green Dragon in the 2008-09 race, said his crew would take 'one step at a time' and would not be able to fully test the mast until daylight – but promised Azzam would 'soar again'.

'I wish I could say we were now racing with clear minds but we are not,' Walker wrote prior to resuming racing.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's yacht Azzam, skippered by Britain's Ian Walker, 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. (Photo Credit must read: Paul Todd/Volvo Ocean Race)

'It is not normal practice to step a new mast and set off in the dark and straight offshore – new masts can sometimes take days to tune up but we don’t have that time.

'We also don’t have the safety of a spare mast waiting for us if anything goes wrong. The stakes are now very high and we must sail accordingly.

'Right now we are taking it one step at a time. We will not sail fully loaded tonight until we can check everything in daylight.

'Just like falling off a horse it takes time to regain your confidence but you simply have to get back on it as soon as you can.

'For now I am going to enjoy sailing with a full moon and clear skies and we will start to find Azzam’s rhythm again.

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 (Credit must read: IAN ROMAN/Volvo Ocean Race)

'As somebody wrote on Facebook – Azzam may have lost a feather but she will soon grow it back and soar again.'

Walker said it was still not totally clear what had caused the mast to break.

At the 0700 UTC position report Abu Dhabi were due east of Almeria tacking along the Spanish coast doing around 8.5 knots of boat speed in six knots of wind.

The nearest boat to them, Chris Nicholson’s CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, was around 1,000 nautical miles away.

Meanwhile, Groupama sailing team’s bold call to split with the fleet and sail a more direct route close to the African shoreline appeared to be paying off as Franck Cammas’ crew extended their lead to 87 nautical miles.

Around 450 nm to the north west of Groupama, Team Telefónica were this morning in second place, with PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG in third. CAMPER, currently in fourth, had slipped to 173 nautical miles behind leader Groupama.

Zinedine Zidane onboard 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. (Credit must read: IAN ROMAN/Volvo Ocean Race)

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. (Photo Credit must read: Paul Todd/Volvo Ocean Race)