Volvo Ocean Race: Second competitor withdraws from Leg 5

Abu Dhabi heads along the Bays soon after the start of the Volvo Ocean Race Auckland - Start March 18,2012

Before reaching the Chilean port of Puerto Montt, the Emirati entry in the Volvo Ocean Race has withdrawn from Leg 5.

An announcement from the team tonight said they have officially retired from the Volvo Ocean Race’s gruelling Southern Ocean Leg 5 today to carry out urgent repairs to its yacht Azzam and ensure full competitiveness for the final four legs of the global sailing event.  

Having first noticed hull delamination Thursday, March 29, when Azzam was sailing against 35 knot winds and four metre swells in the Southern Ocean, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing affected at-sea remedial repairs on the port side mid-ship of its yacht Azzam to minimise delamination spread. Despite the team’s heroics, these repairs were deemed insufficient to tackle the forecasted hurricane conditions off Cape Horn.  

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is now heading to Puerto Montt on the West Coast of Chile. A major repair and shipping operation is being put into effect to ensure that the team and race yacht will be ready to compete in the Volvo Ocean Race In-Port Race in Itajai, Brazil on 21st April 2012.  

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's repaired hull, which was fixed by the racing crew, at sea in the Southern Ocean during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil. (Credit: Nick Dana/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race)

'As team principal, we are naturally disappointed, because we had anticipated being competitive in this leg, but ultimately it was not to be… Safety of our crew is always the overriding prerogative in such circumstances and having explored all options, this was the optimal decision to make. In spite of this setback, our ambition for Azzam to complete this arduous event on her maiden voyage remains undeterred. Rest assured we will nurse Azzam back to full competitiveness for the Itajai In-Port Race and the remaining legs,' said Dayne Lim, Product Development Director, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.  

With weather forecasts continuing to predict 50 knot winds and 10 metre sea swells for the next four days around South America’s notorious Cape Horn, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper Ian Walker said that having conferred with the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, retiring from the leg was a difficult decision but the only reasonable option to ensure the safety of all onboard.

'As skipper my overriding responsibility is the safety of Azzam and her crew and this is always at the forefront of my mind. The Southern Ocean is one part of the world you do not want to head out into with a yacht that is not 100%. We have carefully reviewed all our options, spoken with our build teams and weather experts and this was the only sensible choice available to us,' said Walker.  

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's Justin Slattery and Craig Satterthwaite marking out the area where the crew need to make repairs, after sustaining delamination damage during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil. (Credit: Nick Dana/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race)

'Of course we are devastated. However the team is fully motivated and will once again show a fighting spirit to get Azzam back sailing competitively as soon as possible'.  

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is the second team to withdraw from Leg 5. Team Sanya retired in the opening stages due to structural damage. Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand and Team Telefonica have also both experienced structural damage and have suspended racing at different points this leg to undertake repairs.

Abu Dhabi elected to return to Auckland soon after the start of leg 5, to effect repairs to a bulkhead damaged in the Colville Channel 40nm from Auckland. She returned to the Viaduct Harbour, repaired the displaced bulkhead and restarted, getting a bad run from the weather and dropping 700nm behind the fleet, before being on and off the pace set by the rest of the fleet, due to being out of phase with weather systems in the Southern Ocean.

Justin Slattery is lowered over the side of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing to fix delamination damage, sustained during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil. (Credit: Nick Dana/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race)

She had the misfortune to break her mast on the opening night of the Volvo Ocean Race, out of Alicante, and the trip to Itajai, Brazil as deck cargo will be her second leg on a ship.

There is no comment on what will be required to effect repairs, however if she passed an ultrasound test on the remainder of her hull, and the damage was restricted to just one hull section, then typically a new section would be laid up in a female mould, freighted to Puerto Montt or Ijatai, and then cut into Abu Dhabi's hull body.

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. (Credit: Marc Bow)