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Azzam crew hopeful of getting back on track

Team carrying out full repair to a bulkhead

Gulf News

Dubai: Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing are hopeful of resuming racing in leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race within the next 24 hours after arriving back in Auckland to repair damage to their yacht Azzam.

Ian Walker and his crew made the decision to return to the City of Sails five-and-a-half hours into the 12,408-kilometre leg to Itajaí in Brazil when a bulkhead in Azzam's bow, securing a crucial heavy weather headsail, ripped clean out.

Rather than risk continuing, they chose to turn around and carry out a full repair to the J4 bulkhead in Auckland.

"I don't think it was a structural threat to the boat, but it would have been a big repair to get the bulkhead back in and take the load of the J4, which is a sail we're probably going to use 80 per cent of the time in the Southern Ocean," Walker said.

"We discussed it and took the decision that we're only 40 miles [67km] from Auckland, let's come back and we'll probably repair it quicker and better, and then we can get back out and try to catch everyone up."

After suspending racing at 6.30am, Abu Dhabi were back on the dock by 10.30am and the boat was handed over to their waiting shore crew.

"It puts us behind the fleet but it's not disastrous," Walker said. "The fleet aren't getting away that fast, they're heading upwind and they're going to get a bit of a pounding tonight.

Not giving up

"Looking 36 hours ahead there are probably faster conditions for getting out of here. It all depends on the movement of the high pressure — they might have to sail a longer distance round it than us. We're not giving up hope."

Abu Dhabi team director Jamie Boag said the aim was now to get the team back out on the water as quickly as possible.

"We will try to get the boys turned round as quickly as we can and get them back in the race," he said. "We will try to get back out there by this time tomorrow night."