James Boyd Photography / www.thedailysail.com

Disaster for Abu Dhabi

VO70 dismasted on first night of the Volvo Ocean Race

Saturday November 5th 2011, Author: James Boyd, Location: Spain

Following today's start of leg one of the Volvo Ocean Race from Alicante to Cape Town, so this evening at 1915 UTC the Ian Walker-skippered Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing VO70 Azzam suffered a broken mast.

Navigator Jules Salter told Volvo Ocean Race control that all the crew were unhurt and were attempting to recover what they could. "There is no panic on board and we're planning to motor back during the night before effecting repairs," he said.

The boat was 30 nautical miles south of Cartagena on the Spanish coast. The wind was blowing 30 knots and the waves were around 3.5 metres.

The Cartagena search and rescue authorities have been informed and are on standby to assist if necessary. Volvo Ocean Race control is in constant contact with the team while establishing the full extent of the damage so that the crew are given full support to enable them to deal with the situation.

The Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew has suspended racing on the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race as the team put a major repair operation into effect. A spare mast is being rushed to Alicante.

Skipper Ian Walker confirmed at 2053 UTC that the crew was unhurt and they were motoring back towards Alicante: “Our situation is now stable. We are motoring towards flatter water at Cabo de Palos where we hope to lift the top section of the mast aboard.

“We have no injuries and have retrieved or secured all equipment. Our mast broke into three pieces when landing off a big wave in 30+ knots of wind. We were sailing under a J4 and two reefs. We do not as yet know the cause.

“Our intention is to return to Alicante under motor to repair any damage and step our spare mast.”

Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad said he felt “desperately sorry” for twice-Olympic silver medallist Walker and his team. “The team are extremely professional and I know they will do all they can to get Azzam back in the race as quickly and safely as possible."

Team media crew member Nick Dana told how crew member Wade Morgan had made a courageous attempt in waves of up to 3.5 metres to rescue the rig.

“The boat's mainsail and J4 were retrieved successfully along with various other parts that we will hope to re-use.

“We put a man in the water (Morgan) to cut away the top of the mainsail at the headboard car. Wade was able to make several attempts at cutting. However, a very violent sea state made it extremely dangerous for him to remain in the water.

“The crew retrieved him promptly and were able to get the mainsail off the lock - allowing it to slide down the rig and be pulled from the water.

“The mast from the first spreader up is now secured to the port side of the boat. About three or four metres protrude from behind the boat. A spider web of lines is keeping the operation intact. The crew are deeply disappointed.”

Azzam was one of two VO70s in the Volvo Ocean Race fitted with a new carbon fibre mast from Future Fibres, built by Persico in Italy. We wait to hear the cause of the failure and if they plan to continue with their spare.

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