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Abu Dhabi safely back in Auckland to carry out repairs

Wade Morgan holding Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's J4 bulkhead ©Nick Dana/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
Wade Morgan holding Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's J4 bulkhead ©Nick Dana/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing arrived safely back in Auckland on Sunday after suspending racing early on Leg 5 due to damage to the J4 bulkhead on their racing yacht Azzam.

Abu Dhabi were vying with CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand for the lead on Leg 5 when the bulkhead that holds the crucial J4 sail came out completely.

Walker took the decision to suspend racing at 0630 GMT on Sunday, six hours after the start of Leg 5 to Itajaí, and the team made it back to Auckland by 1030 GMT, with the shore crew poised to start work on the repair immediately.

"Had we been a week into the leg we could have carried on," Walker explained. "I don’t think it was a structural threat to the boat, but it would have been a big repair to get the bulkhead back in and take the load of the J4 which is a sail we’re probably going to use 80 per cent of the time in the Southern Ocean.

"We discussed it and took the decision that we’re only 40 miles from Auckland, let’s come back and we’ll probably repair it quicker and better, and then we can get back out and try to catch everyone up."

Walker said the tough weather conditions facing the fleet gave them a better chance of catching up with their rivals quickly.

“The fleet aren’t getting away that fast," the British skipper said. "They’re heading upwind and they’re going to get a bit of a pounding tonight. It’s not disastrous.

"Looking 36 hours ahead there are probably faster conditions for getting out of here. It all depends on the movement of the high pressure. They might have to sail a longer distance round it than us."

It is the second major difficulty faced by Walker and his team after their broke their mast on the frist night out of Alicante back on Leg 1 in November.

"A bit like when we broke our mast, I’m glad this happened 40 miles from being able to come back and get help and get it fixed, rather than being 400 miles out to sea," Walker said.

"If we’d have soldiered on without coming back I think we would have been so much slower just using a storm jib that we’d have been a few days behind anyway.”


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