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Abu Dhabi retires from leg 5

A devastated crew on Azzam © Nick Dana/ Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
A devastated crew on Azzam © Nick Dana/ Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing will ship their boat to Brazil and return to strength for the Itajaí In-Port Race after damage forced them to retire from Leg 5.

The team made the tough call not to attempt to complete the 6,700 nautical mile leg from Auckland to preserve the safety of the crew and stop further damage to their yacht Azzam. Skipper Ian Walker notified race officials of his team's retirement at 1000 UTC on Wednesday.

Instead, they are heading to Puerto Montt in Chile where Azzam will be loaded on to a container ship, likely on Saturday April 7, before starting the nine day trip around Cape Horn to Itajaí.

With 50-knot winds and 10-metre seas forecast at Cape Horn for the next four days, skipper Ian Walker said their decision was “the only logical option”.

“As skipper my overriding responsibility is the safety of Azzam and her crew and this is always at the forefront of my mind,” Walker said.

“The Southern Ocean is one part of the world you do not want to head out into with a yacht that is not 100 per cent.

“We have carefully reviewed all our options, spoken with our build teams and weather experts and this was the only logical choice available to us.”

Abu Dhabi first discovered the damage to the mid section of the left side of Azzam’s hull on March 29 while battling horrendous Southern Ocean conditions.

The crew carried out a daring mid-sea repair in 35 knots and four-metre seas, drilling 30 bolts through the hull to reinforce the damaged section.

Despite the team’s heroics, it was decided the repair was not strong enough to take on the remaining 3,000 nm of the leg.

Walker said the delivery of Azzam to Itajaí would give the team a greater chance of racing at full strength for the in-port racing on April 21.

“Of course we are devastated,” he said. “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 were also forced to return to Auckland a few hours into Leg 5 after dropping off a huge wave and damaging a bulkhead in the bow of the boat.

A monumental round-the-clock effort from their shore team saw them back to racing around 12 hours later.

Dayne Lim, Product Development Director for Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s team principal Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, added: “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 Itajaí In-Port Race and the remaining legs.”


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