x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Ian Walker makes the 'hardest decision' as Azzam pulls out of first leg

The British skipper was concerned about the rigging on the yacht and the safety of the crew.

Ian Walker, right, the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper had to make the difficult decision to retire from the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race to Cape Town.
Ian Walker, right, the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper had to make the difficult decision to retire from the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race to Cape Town.

MADRID // Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing pulled out of the opening stage of the Volvo Ocean Race yesterday, leaving only four of the six boats contesting the leg between Alicante and Cape Town.

British skipper Ian Walker decided to head for Lisbon as concerns remained about their boat Azzam's rigging after it lost its mast on the first night of the leg last Saturday, organisers said.

The team would work to get the 70ft vessel back in shape for the remaining eight legs of the eight-month, 45,000-nautical mile event, they added.

"We need time to make modifications to our rigging system in Cape Town and the only way we can gain that time is to travel there by ship," Walker said on the race website.

"This has been one of the hardest decisions of my life to make but I have to consider not only the safety of the crew but the long term interests of the project," he said.

"This is only the first leg of a long race and with this decision and a lot of hard work we can be race ready for leg two."

Sanya, the first Chinese entry in the race, lasted less than 24 hours before its bow was holed in stormy conditions.

The two teams need to complete repairs by December 10, when they are due to compete in an in-port race in Cape Town before leaving for Abu Dhabi.