Volvo Ocean Race: Running repairs on Azzam's keel made in Galway

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing make repairs to their damaged keel fairing in the Volvo Ocean Race village, in Galway, Ireland, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12.

Abu Dhabi’s yacht Azzam is expected to be back to 100 per cent racing fitness after the shore team spent all day working to fix their damaged keel that reduced their performance by as much as 10 per cent during Leg 9, of the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s general manager Phil Allen said it was still unclear exactly what caused the damage, but it was likely that hitting a lobster pot in the early stages of the final leg damaged a vital fairing.

Allen explained that the fairing is located at the top edge of the keel, where the keel joins the hull, an area that must be smooth to ensure an aerodynamic flow of water and optimum performance.

'We don’t know exactly what caused the impact, but it’s certainly impacted the boat’s performance,’’ Allen said.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing make repairs to their damaged keel fairing in the Volvo Ocean Race village, in Galway, Ireland, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. (Credit: IAN ROMAN/Volvo Ocean Race)

'It’s very critical to have the flow very smooth. This fairing is tucked right up in there and has a major impact on how the water flows around the keel when it’s canted.

'I can’t tell you exactly how much that impacts the performance, but obviously it’s significant and the performance on the water proved that.'

The shore crew first worked to identify the issue before drafting drawings of a replacement fairing that was put in place during a delicate on-water operation that created quite a spectacle for the Galway crowds on Wednesday.

The yacht was levered on to its side in the Galway dock using halyards and ropes attached to the mast and the team worked from a dinghy for more than eight hours to repair the damage.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing make repairs to their damaged keel fairing in the Volvo Ocean Race village, in Galway, Ireland, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. (Credit: IAN ROMAN/Volvo Ocean Race)

Allen said the Azzam should be fixed by the day’s end in time for the team to race in Thursday’s practice race and gain valuable training ahead of Saturday’s Discover Ireland In-Port Race, the final scoring opportunity of the 2011-12 race.

'If everything goes as planned we’ll go out sailing tomorrow,’’ Allen said. 'We have some practice to do and some corporate guests to take out. We want to get as high up the in-port table on Saturday as we can, so it would be nice to finish with a bang rather than struggling.'

Abu Dhabi have won three in-port races and are fourth in the in-port race series just four points behind current leaders Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand.