x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Azzam shore crew ready for Volvo Ocean Race repair job

The shore team will be 'just itching to get their hands on Azzam' in Brazil.

Azzam is currently on a ship on its way to Brazil.
Azzam is currently on a ship on its way to Brazil.

Azzam could reach Itajai, Brazil, by Thursday, but for now the boat occupies a different kind of nerve-racking race.

Broken from the turbulent hardship of Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing yacht rests upon a cargo ship carrying it from Chile through the Strait of Magellan in South America to Brazil, an anticipated nine-day passage that suffered departure delay from both weather and Chilean local regulations.

Upon its arrival in Brazil, it will undergo considerable repairs from the Abu Dhabi shore crew, with a goal of competing not only in Leg 6 of the nine-month Volvo Ocean Race beginning Sunday from Itajai to Miami, but in the in-port race on Saturday.

The shore team will be "just itching to get their hands on Azzam," wrote Sam Bourne, a shore-crew specialist in winches and deck gear.

From aboard the ship carrying Azzam, Bourne and Tim Collen are going through what Bourne called "a big job list", repairing as much as possible to lessen the post-arrival strain.

On Sunday, Bourne and Collen rebuilt a stacking bay which the 11 sailing crew members had sacrificed "to shore up the damaged hull" at sea, where Azzam's hull suffered delamination on March 29, causing retirement from Leg 5, the second leg from which the team have retired.

At Itajai, three teams wait, with the American Leg 5 winner Puma and the Spanish overall leader Telefonica having arrived on April 7, with the French entry Groupama coming on April 11 after replacing a broken mast.

Race officials expected arrival today for the Spanish/New Zealand entry Camper which, like Azzam, suffered hull damage and, like Azzam, docked unexpectedly in Puerto Montt, Chile. Camper managed to repair its yacht in Chile, an option Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing lacked, and by last evening had spent the past week sailing around Cape Horn to within a day of Itajai.

The sixth entry, Team Sanya, plan to rejoin the race in Miami after significant damage in Leg 5. With the only boat not built newly for this 2011-12 race, Sanya sit on 25 points and sixth place.

Abu Dhabi have 55 points and fifth place, far below a tightening chase which sees Telefonica at 147, Groupama at 127, Puma at 113 and Camper at 104, but primed to snare 15 fresh points by finishing Leg 5 in fourth place. Camper media crew member Hamish Hooper reported on the race website that the crew fears a windless zone 20 miles from Itajai, which would be "a cruel and painful way to end the leg," which by tomorrow will have lasted 30 days.

The cargo ship carrying Azzam had faced some harsh weather as it streamed into more southern latitudes and through the subcontinent. "What is remarkable," Bourne wrote, "is that since leaving Puerto Montt, we have seen only a handful of boats and almost no sign of human life other than the light beacons guarding the way through this utterly unforgiving landscape of ice-carved barren rock."

cculpepper@thenational.ae

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