Ian Walker on the dismasting

Photo: Nick Dana/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
Conditions were not extreme but why Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's mast fell down is uncertain
With Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing moored off team base in Alicante this morning, so skipper Ian Walker spoke about what happened when their mast came tumbling down at 19:15 on the first night of the race. It was dark at the time and according to Walker conditions were windy but not extreme. In fact the wind had been averaging about 30 knots with gusts of 35, but had dropped to 26. This had caused them to change up from their J2 to their J4. That all had gone perfectly: they had squared away the J2 and cracked off to 55deg TWA, the boat speed back up to 13 knots (Walker says upwind they typically go 12-12.5 knot) and they were bashing directly into a seaway. “The conditions weren’t too extreme, there was perhaps a 1-2m chop,” explained Walker. “These boats are always worse close to land - when you are in the ocean the waves are longer. What these boats don’t like doing is jumping off waves in short chop. It was a pretty dark night so it was hard to see what was coming your way. There were five other boats that sailed through there at exactly the same speed. We expected to back off after the Cape. We were expecting bigger conditions. I suspect the guys that are out there are facing bigger conditions [now] and are backing off. We had fully discussed that, that was always our plan – ‘let’s just get through this and get out’ - we felt we were still in perfectly suitable conditions for racing.” But then all of a sudden Abu Dhabi Ocean Race fell off a particularly large wave. Walker was on the helm when the mast came down. “I know it is a big wave when my feet leave the ground. We were