x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Azzam crew is braced for 'angry' ocean around Cape Horn

Azzam and the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew prepare to round Cape Horn, where some of the world's most inhospitable conditions await, and Emirati sailor Adil Khalid 'can't wait'.

Adel Khalid signals for more slack for the sail as Azzam and crew speed towards the dangerous waters that surround Cape Horn on their journey to complete Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race at Itajai, Brazil.
Adel Khalid signals for more slack for the sail as Azzam and crew speed towards the dangerous waters that surround Cape Horn on their journey to complete Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race at Itajai, Brazil.

The UAE's Adil Khalid is "praying he gets lucky" as the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team prepare for another storm to lash the boat over the next 48 hours.

The five-strong Volvo Ocean Race fleet, minus Sanya, who arrived in New Zealand on Wednesday with a broken rudder, are set to head back into the 10-metre waves and 40-knot winds that saw four boats suffer serious damage earlier in the leg.

Abu Dhabi's Azzam suffered structural damage just 50 nautical miles into the leg when the bulkhead in the bow, which secures a crucial heavy weather headsail, ripped clean out.

The team remain 1,000 miles off the pace but Camper are heading towards Chile with serious structural damage, and overall leaders Telefonica are bleeding miles as they limp on towards Cape Horn.

In fifth position, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is set to take on the Southern Ocean without the safety net of the other teams being nearby. And as the home to the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties, the names given to strong westerly winds found in the Southern Hemisphere, the route is fraught with peril.

"I know we haven't even begun to see how angry the Southern Ocean can get," Khalid said. "Some of the fleet has taken a battering so far and we still have a long way to go. For me, I am just getting my head down, doing the jobs in front of me, and praying that I get lucky."

Camper are in the most precarious position as they try to keep their patched up boat out of the worst of the conditions in the seven or eight days it will take them to get to their unscheduled pit stop in Puerto Mont in Chile.

"Weather-wise this is a hostile part of the world," said Chris Nicholson, the team's Australian skipper. "Hopefully everything all just goes to plan."

The two leading boats are due to arrive in Itajai, Brazil, around April 4 or 5, with Azzam planning to reach the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago of southern Chile on Sunday. The rounding of Cape Horn, on the centuries old clipper trading route, is one of the most respected and notorious sailing milestones in history.

"This is it, my Mount Everest," said Khalid, 23. "When I look back at all the work that we have done to be here, it is amazing. More than 15 months ago, I was standing in Abu Dhabi waiting to find out if I had been chosen to be a part of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing; now I am on the deck of one of the world's most sophisticated race yachts with the world's best sailors, thousands of miles from civilisation, in one of the world's most inhospitable environments, and I can't wait."

During this leg, the fleet will be farther from safety than ever before, including passing Point Nemo, the world's most remote spot, more than 2,000 nautical miles from land in every direction. Leg 5 is the longest passage but the rare high-pressure system and resulting light winds are hindering Azzam's bid to catch up on the 6,700 nautical mile Southern Ocean race leg from New Zealand to Brazil.

"We have the spinnaker up and are heading east along the ice wayline in about 10 knots of wind," said Ian Walker, the skipper.

"So far, with the exception of the first day out of Auckland, we couldn't have experienced a more different leg to the leaders. We have been praying for wind whilst I suspect they have been praying for the wind to drop much of the time.

"As any coaching manual will tell you the only thing we can do is 'control the controllable'. We cannot control how the other teams perform or what happens to them. For us we need to make it to the eastern ice waypoint before the next front passes over us, then the hammer will be down all the way to Cape Horn. Hopefully we will soon stop losing miles and the fight back can begin."

* Compiled by The National staff with agency