Abu Dhabi Azzam leaving Alicante
Abu Dhabi Azzam leaving Alicante © Tim Stonton / Volvo Ocean Race

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing were preparing to begin their massive game of catch-up as the restored Azzam departed Alicante tonight, sailing cautiously to the location of her dismasting where she will resume racing.

The Volvo Ocean Race fleet could remain in reach for the Emirati team, some 750 nautical miles ahead in the Atlantic, where Team Telefónica continues to lead in unusually light conditions.

Azzam’s replacement mast and rig were stepped up only this morning following an around the clock repair effort to fix the catastrophic damage caused by a massive wave just hours after the start of Leg 1 on Saturday.

While the shore team conducted a final ultrasound test to ensure the mast was safe before departure skipper Ian Walker said he was confident the new 31.5m carbon tube and its supporting rig was good to go.

“I’ve got 100 per cent confidence in the mast, and this rigging, we’ve done 6000 miles on, so I’m reasonably happy with that,’’ he said.

However, having watched his first mast shred and splinter into three pieces in the violent conditions on Saturday, Walker admitted there was still a mental hurdle to overcome.

“At the same time I just have a nagging doubt, and we will have that, that’s something we have to live with,’’ he said. “But I’m not a rigging expert, I will take advice from the guys who are on what we should do, and marry that up with our professional instincts.”

Walker admits that the going could get tough, with the 6,500 nautical mile gauntlet to Cape Town already being run by his competitors. But he said his team were professionals, and they were made of tough stuff.

“Three weeks sailing with no one to race against is a long way and just trying to find that balance where you are racing, but with the nearest boat 1000 miles away, is hard,’’ he said.

“I imagine there will be times when it will be hard to maintain the intensity. But as long as the weather is kind and we’re crossing off the miles and achieving something we’ll be fine. It’s when things don’t go so well, if we got a particularly bad weather pattern, that will be a real test.”

Abu Dhabi has a chance to close the gap as the fleet is sailing in unusually light winds since entering the Atlantic. With Team Sanya out of Leg 1 the Emirati team would score 10 points just by finishing, giving them a total of 16 at the end of the leg when coupled with their six points from their win in the first in-port race.

Under the rules, Abu Dhabi will be able to motor to the spot where they suspended racing, but Walker said they were hopeful of being able to do some testing of their new mast on the way.

Source official web site Volvo Ocean Race
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