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Abu Dhabi to hold off, avoid boat-breaking conditions

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, skippered by Ian Walker from the UK take down their headsail after sustaining damage to the J4 bulkhead ©Paul Todd/Volvo Ocean Racing
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, skippered by Ian Walker from the UK take down their headsail after sustaining damage to the J4 bulkhead ©Paul Todd/Volvo Ocean Racing

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing are to delay their restart of Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race to avoid potentially boat-breaking conditions in the South Pacific.

“The conditions the team are facing at the moment are fearsome with winds as high as 60 knots, and it would be unsafe to sail into them" - Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing spokesman


Ian Walker’s team set sail again from Auckland at midday local time (2300 UTC), just 12 hours after returning to the port to repair structural damage to their yacht Azzam.

But on returning to the point inside of Great Barrier Island where they suspended racing six hours into Leg 5, Walker and his crew made the call to seek shelter and wait for the horrendous weather conditions waiting for them in the South Pacific to ease.

A spokesman for Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing said: “The conditions the team are facing at the moment are fearsome with winds as high as 60 knots, and it would be unsafe to sail into them.

“The team plan to hold off from heading out into the open ocean until the conditions ease and become safe to race in. This is a decision of seamanship, and the right one to make.”

Abu Dhabi headed back to Auckland after Azzam suffered structural damage to the bulkhead that holds down the heavy-weather J4 sail around 50 nautical miles into Leg 5 to Itajaí in Brazil.

As soon as the boat arrived back into port at around midnight local time, the shore team jumped into action, working through the night to complete the repair around 12 hours earlier than expected.

“The shore crew have done a great job,” Walker said as his crew prepared to slip lines around midday local time on Monday.

“Not just the boat builders but everyone from the girls in the office to the riggers, the sailmakers.

“Everyone’s been at it all night and it’s not much fun down below at the moment.

“It’s 60 degrees inside the boat curing the bulkhead and they’re still at it.

“They did a great job and that’s enabled us to get out of here quicker and that keeps us closer to the fleet.”

The repair job put Abu Dhabi around 24 hours behind the rest of the fleet which could prove crucial as the boats head towards the Southern Ocean.

“Nobody wants to cross the Southern Ocean a day behind the other boats, so there’s no doubt that’s on people’s minds,” Walker added.

“On the other hand we’ve turned this around quickly and we’re very grateful to the shore crew for that.

“Once we get sailing everyone will get back into the routine and start crossing off the miles and hopefully we’ll get a break.”


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