CAPE TOWN // Off to one side, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing base camp has a full-on view of Table Mountain.
Straight out front, skipper Ian Walker pointed out a seal swimming home next to a busy V&A Waterfront.
Still, the best sight was expected to arrive near dawn this morning, aboard a 30,537-ton ship called Red Cedar.
Going by ship tracking, the yacht Azzam would reach port aboard Red Cedar while much of Cape Town still slept.
Seeing as how Azzam travelled from Portugal surrounded by a "den" of cargo containers to protect the precious Volvo Ocean Race entry, next would come hours of container removal.
After that would come the always-gnarly process of unloading the sailboat, then a five-day process for curing the material for Azzam's mast and rigging system in a makeshift workshop.
Five or six representatives of the Spanish mast manufacturer will spearhead that.
"A lot of things have to go right for us in the next five days," Walker said. "I've got every confidence that it will, but we're not out of the woods yet."
Certainty could come "in a week's time". Azzam, of course, went into the woods on the opening night of the race, November 5, when its mast broke into three portions.
After four extra days in Alicante, Spain, installing a replacement mast, Azzam entered the Mediterranean Sea again on November 9 only to make the painstaking decision to retire from Leg 1 of the nine-leg round-the-world race.
In that misery it had company as only three of six entries sailed to Cape Town. In fact, an update yesterday wound up justifying the retirement decision.
The French entry, Groupama 4, which initially plied a solo strategy of hugging the west African coast, finally edged toward last night's arrival.
It had spent Monday night in a windless zone so unhelpful that sailor Brad Marsh, on the race website, said it had been "like being on parole for some horrible crime none of us can remember committing".
If Azzam had sailed the leg rather than going on a ship, it would have remained (more or less) a week behind Groupama, and Walker said an arrival of next midweek would have hurt badly.
The boats need preparation time ahead of the Cape Town in-port race on December 10 and departure on December 11 for the 4,600-nautical-mile Leg 2 to Abu Dhabi.
Groupama's arrival placed it behind the Leg 1 winner Telefonica and the runner-up Camper with Emirates Team New Zealand.
And while Telefonica leads the race with 31 points and Camper trails just behind with 29 (with Groupama at 22, Abu Dhabi at six, Puma at five and Team Sanya at three), Camper's plight extended the duress.
Not only did its rigging break late in Leg 1 to bring the number of boats with mast-and-rigging issues to three (counting Abu Dhabi and Puma), but its bowman and boat captain, Mike Pammenter, had suffered a broken tooth and cut face a week earlier when the rigging slammed into him.
Among others, Butti Al Muhairi, the Abu Dhabi reserve sailor, had gone to check on Pammenter in the generally friendly air of the event.
"I think everybody's all right," Walker said. "We had a meeting and I tried encouraging everybody. We spent three weeks evaluating what went wrong, trying to digest it all. We're in no worse state than two other boats in the race. Hopefully it's the last thing."
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