x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Adil Khalid: Broken mast in Volvo Ocean Race was scary

Emirati hails the inspiration and determination of the team after Azzam's mast broke in three places at sea.

Adil Khalid onboard Azzam in heavy weather.
Adil Khalid onboard Azzam in heavy weather.

Alicante // Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's Adil Khalid, the first Gulf national to compete in the gruelling, 39,000 nautical mile Volvo Ocean Race, says when the mast on the team's Azzam yacht broke in a howling gale with winds gusting 30 knots and waves swelling 15 feet, it was "the scariest moment" of his life.

Having started well in the opening 6,500 nautical mile opening leg to Cape Town, which began Saturday, Azzam soon ran into heavy weather off the Spanish coast.

In complete darkness, Azzam's mast broke after coming off a steep wave. Having checked that no one was hurt, the team undertook a salvage mission through the night to recover the mast and attached sails.

Australian bowman, Wade Morgan, put on safety gear to enter the water to cut away rigging, and help get the main sail back aboard so the team could successfully motor back to Alicante to begin immediate repair works.

"It was scary for sure. Being out at sea, in the dead of night, and having that happen," Khalid, 23, said. "We were well drilled for the situation and behaved so calm and professionally. However, your heart is beating really fast and you thank god everyone is safe."

"Everyone was really inspirational, especially Wade. Getting in the water to cut away the rigging was very brave; I have a lot of respect for him. When you are faced with a situation like this, you really see what you are made of. We handled it very well and I think that says a lot about the crew that has been put together."

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is currently implementing a full recovery plan as it looks to rejoin the race as quickly as possible. The team's spare mast has been delivered from Valencia and the shore team is conducting an assessment of all repairs.

Khalid, the youngest member of the team, believes the incident will only make them stronger.

"Our yacht Azzam means determination, and that is what we all feel right now. We want to get back out on the water and give it 110 percent. Of course, it is scary to think about it, so I try not to. What will happen, will happen and we still want to win this race," added Khalid.

"It was hard to return to the race start in Alicante, but in some ways it was the best thing, as the base and the shore team were still up and running, so we should be able to make the repairs quicker. We'll be working 24 hours a day until we are back out on the water. We have received a flood of messages of support and people are really getting behind us - I hope they continue the support, the guys really deserve it."

sports@thenational.ae