Date — 6 November, 2011
Ian Walker, skipper of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing – Arabia’s first entry in the gruelling, 39,000 nautical mile Volvo Ocean Race which started from Alicante in Spain yesterday – says he is still “desperate to do well” after suffering a setback with a mast breakage last night.
Battling 15 feet waves and 30 knot winds off the Spanish coast, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing alerted Volvo Ocean Race control at 18.45 GMT on Saturday that the mast on its state-of-the-art Volvo 70 yacht, Azzam, had broken after being hit by a massive wave. All crew were reported safe and Azzam motored back to Alicante for repair work.
Georges Kern CEO Of IWC Schaffhausen commented:
“The most important point is that no one was injured, which the team has confirmed. This is an unfortunate setback, as just one week ago, the crew stood on the podium after winning the first in-port race in Alicante. Nevertheless, this is part of high-level sports events such as the Volvo Ocean Race. These teams are operating at the extreme, in harsh conditions, and against all the elements. I know Ian Walker, and I am convinced that he and his team will manage this challenge. Of course, we at IWC Schaffhausen will continue to fully support the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing Team, and we wish them success for all upcoming races. Nothing is lost, and everything is still possible.”
Speaking at a press conference today, Walker – a double Olympic medallist – said a full recovery plan was being implemented to ensure the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA)-backed outfit got back into the race as soon as practically possible.
“It’s pretty hard to put into words you know. We have put so much work into this project and you just don’t want to let anyone down. When you have worked so hard every day for 18 months you are desperate to do well. We still are desperate to do well – the race isn’t lost and these things can galvanise a team. We had a bit of this last time with Green Dragon when we broke the ring frame in the bow. If I had to point at one thing in the whole race which galvanised our team, it was re-building our boat in the Philippines and enduring the conditions and getting to China,” said Walker.
“You have to look at it objectively. Nobody was hurt and we are all still here to tell the tale. We have a spare mast and our sponsors are hugely supportive. They phoned me up straight away and offered me all the support we needed. This race is not over for us, but on a personal level and for everyone on the team, we are just very, very disappointed. Not least because this is the best leg of the race and I couldn’t wait to do the downwind sailing which I think Azzam and some of our sails are more optimised towards. I was looking forward to the trade winds because that’s where I felt we were going to excel. That will have to wait for another three or four days maybe.”
When the mast broke, Walker and his 11-strong Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew mounted an urgent rescue operation to salvage all equipment on-board. Australian Wade Morgan, who is making his Volvo Ocean Race debut with Abu Dhabi, went into the rough seas and darkness of the night to successfully cut away all rigging and allow the team to motor back with all equipment intact.
A spare mast in stored in Valencia was immediately transported to Alicante. A full damage assessment is currently underway.
“I’d be surprised if we could do the re-fit in three days, but that is what we are aiming for. Yet, it’s amazing what you can do when you’ve got strong will. We’ve had a lot of offers of help and we’ll get people on it 24 hours a day and you’ll be surprised at what a team of people can achieve in a very short time. I say three days but hopefully it’s two and maybe it’s four but we’ll be up and running as soon as we can,” added Walker.
ADTA, which is Team Principal of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, was full of support for the crew.
“The crew is living up to the yacht’s name by demonstrating incredible determination,” said His Excellency Mubarak Al Muhairi, Director General, ADTA. “Our main concern was that all on board were safe. There is a long way to go yet and with the leadership Ian has shown throughout the build up to this campaign, we are confident Azzam and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing will be back in the reckoning before long.”
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing put in a solid display in the opening in-port race last week, taking full points. The team is now looking at rejoining the 6,500 nautical mile opening offshore leg to Cape Town once mast and rigging repair is complete. Further updates to the team progress will be released shortly.
The Volvo Ocean Race is the world’s longest professional sporting event. Sailing the fastest monohull race yachts ever built, the six teams start in Alicante and end in Galway, Ireland next summer. The race will make history this New Year when it arrives in Abu Dhabi – its first Arabian stopover.
ADTA, which is behind the fortnight-long hosting of the race in the UAE capital, is committed to making its stopover a race highlight.
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