Ian Walker assesses the Abu Dhabi VO70 breakages

Paul Todd / Volvo Ocean Race
Breakage occurred mid-ships at the chine, not in a slamming area
For British fans of the Volvo Ocean Race, the breakages on leg five of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam were disappointing, but not in a comparable way to that felt by her crew, led by double Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker. Having turning back to Auckland soon after the start of this last leg after the bulkhead supporting their J4 pulled out and then rejoining the race, so on 29 March, while in the depths of the Southern Ocean, an area of core failure was noticed in the hull of the Abu Dhabi boat, forcing them to slow down. Ultimately they followed Camper into Puerto Montt, Chile where due to the time constraints to get to Itajai for the start of leg six they had no choice other than to retire from leg five. These incidents followed their dismasting on the first night of leg one, when their boat ended up being shipped to Cape Town. According to Ian Walker the core shear was the first structural failure they experienced in this race. “If you’d asked me in Auckland I’d have said we were in pretty good shape structural, but then we had the two failures on this leg...” On their boat, the supporting structure for the J4 is a part bulkhead rather than a full bulkhead (which some other VO70s have) but in the heavy upwind conditions the boats experienced on the way out of Auckland it pulled cleanly out of the boat. When they returned to Auckland they tidied it up and refitted it, beefing up the bond between the bulkhead and the hull. Walker says they still don't know the reason why this breakage occurred and he reckons they never will. “I’m sure if we had sailed the boat harder in J4 conditions before the race, we would have found