Dubai: Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has ceased racing in the latest leg of the Volvo Ocean Race and will ship their boat from Puerto Montt in Chile to Itajaí in Brazil to ensure they are ready for the in-port race on April 21.
Ian Walker's crew were forced to carry out a mid-sea repair to Azzam after discovering structural problems with the boat's hull on March 30. At the time, they were around 1,700 nautical miles from land. Slowing the boat to stop further damage, Abu Dhabi changed course and headed for land, and on Wednesday were just over 80 nautical miles from Puerto Montt.
With gales and 10-metre high seas forecast in the vicinity of Cape Horn for the next four days, skipper Walker said their decision was the only logical option.
"As skipper, my overriding responsibility is the safety of Azzam and her crew and this is always at the forefront of my mind," Walker said.
"The Southern Ocean is one part of the world you do not want to head out into with a yacht that is not 100 per cent [fit]. We have carefully reviewed all our options, spoken with our build teams and weather experts and this was the only logical choice available to us."
Abu Dhabi first discovered the damage to the mid-section of the port side of Azzam's hull on March 29 while sailing in typical Southern Ocean conditions. The crew carried out a mid-sea repair in 35 knots and four-metre seas, drilling 30 bolts through the hull to reinforce the damaged section.
Despite the team's efforts, it was decided the repair was not strong enough to take on the remaining 3,000 nautical miles of the leg. Walker said the delivery of Azzam to Itajaí would allow them to return to racing at full strength for the in-port racing on April 21.
Abu Dhabi were also forced to return to Auckland a few hours into leg five after landing heavily off a huge wave and damaging a bulkhead in the bow of the boat. A monumental round-the-clock effort from their shore team saw them back out of the racetrack around 12 hours later.
Meanwhile, Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad issued a statement on Wednesday expressing his concern at the continuing instances of boats suffering serious damage in the 2011-12 edition.
Frostad said it was not acceptable and that race organisers would continue to do everything possible to get the boats not currently sailing back in the race as soon as possible.