x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Stricken Azzam 'not out of it yet'

Skipper Ian Walker says crew will not 'lie down and die' after demasting setback and are in for the long haul.

The team aboard Azzam are determined but will have to sail 6,500 miles on their own.
The team aboard Azzam are determined but will have to sail 6,500 miles on their own.

ALICANTE, Spain // Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing anticipate a hard, lonely sail toward a tardy arrival in South Africa, but hopeful precedent does shout from recent Volvo Ocean Race history.

As Ian Walker, the skipper, noted yesterday morning, the American entry Pirates of the Caribbean had to fly its yacht to Cape Town and forgo any race points for the first leg of the 2005/06 race, then rebounded to finish second overall behind ABN Amro I.

"I can tell you what you don't do," a red-eyed Walker said by the waterside. "What you don't do is lie down and die."

Because the Volvo Ocean Race operates on a points system pertaining to place of finish rather than time, the wrecked mast that struck Azzam proves crushing but not necessarily ruinous.

In November 2005 on the first day of Leg 1 from Vigo, Spain, Pirates of the Caribbean nearly sank from storm-ravaged damage to the leading edge of its keel, its daggerboard and its rudder tips.

It, like Azzam, needed lifting out of the water, and it, like Azzam, needed incoming parts, in Pirates' case from England. Pirates' issues were so profound that Paul Cayard, the skipper, wondered aloud about the seaworthiness of the Volvo 70s, which debuted that year. Gauging the trip to Cape Town unwise given risk-reward considerations, Cayard had it placed upon a freight aircraft in Portugal and delivered by air, where he tested it before resuming.

Had ABN Amro I suffered major problems, Walker said, Pirates might well have won.

If Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing proceed as planned and embark on their voyage again in several days, they will face an issue Walker broached yesterday: the lack of the usual motivating proximity of the rival boats.

"This isn't going to be an easy trip," Walker said, soon adding, "Just think for a minute what it's going to be like, [sailing] 6,500 miles on our own."

He said he would query the crew but that he did not expect any quitters. "We're still desperate to do well. The race isn't lost. Sometimes a thing like this can galvanise a team," he said.

"The crew is living up to the yacht's name by demonstrating incredible determination," Mubarak Al Muhairi, the director general of Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, said.