x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Take two as Walker's men wave bye to South Africa

The Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team are determined to get it right this time after the disappointment of the first leg.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing set off for Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race yesterday in joint-fourth place.
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing set off for Leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race yesterday in joint-fourth place.

CAPE TOWN // "All right, take two, except we're going to bloody get there this time," Ian Walker, the skipper, barked to the crew, and with that Azzam edged out yesterday from the gentle dockside of the V&A Waterfront with its Ferris wheel, toward the untamed gruel of Leg 2 with its unknowns.

Within an hour with Table Mountain as the backdrop and the sun as company, the second of nine legs of the Volvo Ocean Race had begun, and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing had begun it with a whoosh.

As the official clock counted down and the watch leader Rob Greenhalgh called out increments, the six entries suddenly found a starting area shorn of breeze.

Walker noticed the fluttering flags on the Race Committee Boat in the distance, and made the call to start at that end of the line. He cautioned the crew not to "telegraph" it.

After some edgy time spent on the wrong side of the line moving in the wrong direction, then a second 180-degree turn, Abu Dhabi surged off.

It soon caught the wind Walker had suspected and left the fleet trailing by a yawning distance. The positive start in the 11-mile in-shore course set Azzam off on the 5,430-nautical-mile leg toward Abu Dhabi.

That leg is expected to end in early January, after its detour into an undisclosed port for the loading of the boats onto a ship because of pirate concerns.

If it ends well for Abu Dhabi, it will carry added gratefulness, after the nascent team's first leg from Spain died of a broken mast.

After 10 days of rig-curing for the back-up mast at base camp here, Mike Danks, the shore team technical manager, felt "apprehensive, but confident".

He said: "I wouldn't say brimming with confidence, but I'm happy where we are with the boat and the rig.

"After our incident, I think we've made the changes required. You can't do it the same way. You have to change something."

Of a cramped stopover with all the work and only one day between the in-port race and the leg start, he said: "I think it went pretty well. The team's probably tighter than ever. It hasn't broken the team, that's for sure. It's made us a better team."

As the crews said goodbyes to wives on the decks yesterday afternoon, the Spanish entry Telefonica led on 37 points, with Camper in second with 34 and three of the boats resuming after retiring from Leg 1.

One of those three skippers, Puma's Ken Read, pointedly walked alongside Azzam's Emirati sailor Adil Khalid on the docks and said to the 23 year old: "This is your moment."

Abu Dhabi, Puma and Team Sanya all carried curiosity about new parts.

The first two broke masts, with Puma getting the rare turn of learning the cause (a rigging section made of improper material) and Abu Dhabi perhaps forever unsure of the breakage sequence.

With the first night weather tamer than it reserves the right to be, Gonzalo Infante, the race meteorologist, noted the 25 to 30-knots couple with a three to four-metres," and called it "a good test for the new rigs and bow".

cculpepper@thenational.ae