x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Time for Azzam to test the water again in Volvo Ocean Race

'We've still got some hurdles to overcome,' Ian Walker, the skipper, said, but added that if all goes well, 'We'll get in a few days of sailing before the in-port race.'

Ian Walker says he does not regret his decision to stop sailing after a broken mast ended Azzam's Leg 1.
Ian Walker says he does not regret his decision to stop sailing after a broken mast ended Azzam's Leg 1.

CAPE TOWN // The ship carrying Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's Azzam to South Africa is on course to dock in Cape Town next Wednesday giving the crew just a couple of days to get reacquainted with the yacht before the next in-port race.

Once Azzam arrives it will undergo six days of surgery on its complex rigging system, the bulk from representatives of the Valencia-based mast manufacturer.

Cape Town will hold its in-port race on December 12, with departure for Abu Dhabi on December 13.

"We've still got some hurdles to overcome," Ian Walker, the skipper, said, but added that if all goes well, "We'll get in a few days of sailing before the in-port race."

Walker and Jamie Boag, the team director, are currently back in Abu Dhabi, their home base of 2010 and early 2011, and plan to join the other Volvo Ocean Race contestants in Cape Town at the weekend with Azzam due to join the a few days later.

"The plan at the moment is that the ship will arrive in the small hours on the 30th," Boag said.

If all had gone to plan, of course, Walker and his crew would have spent this week in the Atlantic themselves, learning the personality of the five-month-old boat that was designed in the United States and built in Italy.

Six hours into Leg 1 of the race, on November 5, the mast broke into three pieces in the Mediterranean Sea near Cartagena, Spain.

From there, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing motored back to the starting point of Alicante in Spain, installed a back-up mast and rejoined the race on November 10.

After careful consideration on that Mediterranean trip, Walker and the crew opted to retire from Leg 1. They took it on a "rough trip" - Walker's words - back around to its pre-race preparation area of Lisbon, Portugal, and after much toil announced on Monday that it had left for Cape Town.

"I think I had a good break," Walker said. "I tried to stay off my computer and not think of sailing and boats for a while. I guess the most important thing is I haven't looked back and regretting our decision to stop sailing." The more he has reflected, he said, the more prudent it has seemed.

As workers finish the temporary structures at the V&A Waterfront here for Cape Town's turn as a stopover, and with the Leg 1 winner due to arrive on Friday, the Abu Dhabi team should arrive through the weekend, Boag said.

"Many of the guys hadn't been home for a while," he said of their unplanned trips. "We're scattered a bit, but we'll be coming back together at the weekend."

They will travel with some fresh perspective as Puma steered its stricken boat toward the remotest inhabited island on Earth, Tristan da Cunha, after breaking its mast on Monday. That shipping challenge will be far steeper than Abu Dhabi's, Walker said, recalling how even just motoring back to Alicante through that Saturday night "felt like forever".

cculpepper@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE