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Storm damage delays Abu Dhabi and Sanya

Hull of Chinese team's vessel breaks in gruelling race

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s yacht Azzam, skippered by Britain’s Ian Walker, in action after
Image Credit: AP
Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s yacht Azzam, skippered by Britain’s Ian Walker, in action
Gulf News

Alicante, Spain: Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team will likely be stuck three days back in port hurrying to replace their mast which snapped in a gale at the start of the Volvo Ocean Race, their skipper said yesterday.

Separately organisers said yesterday that team Sanya, the race's first ever entry from China under veteran New Zealand skipper Mike Sanderson, had sustained hull damage and was heading to shore at Motril on the south coast of Spain.

After a swift start to the 39,000-mile race, the world's toughest and most dangerous yachting adventure, the Abu Dhabi yacht sat in the Spanish port of Alicante with its mast trailing astern after motoring back overnight.

All crew on both damaged yachts were declared safe.

Abu Dhabi's British skipper Ian Walker said the mast would have to be replaced with a spare which had been headed by truck to storage in The Netherlands but was called back urgently after the setback on Saturday night.

Strong will

"I'd be surprised if we could do it within three days," a weary Walker told reporters in Alicante. "But it's amazing what you can do with a strong will. I say three days, hopefully it's two... but maybe four."

Sanya became the second of the six teams to fall victim to the rough seas yesterday.

It suspended racing after its hull was damaged in winds of 43 knots and waves 10 metres (33 feet) high, the race's website said.

"The situation is very much under control, everyone is obviously disappointed but in good spirits as all are safe on board," organisers quoted Sanderson as telling race control.

Walker, meanwhile, described the dramatic snapping of the mast at 7.15pm (1815 GMT) on Saturday as his yacht crashed through 3.5-metre waves south of Cartagena with winds blowing 30 knots.

But he said it was too soon to know what caused it.

"We just came off the back of a big wave. I know it's a big wave when my feet leave the ground," said Walker, who was steering at the time at the start of the race's first 6,500-mile leg to Cape Town, South Africa.

Too early

"We're going to work towards getting the new mast ready to go, turning the crew round and getting to Cape Town as soon as we can," Walker said.

"It's too early to start making judgments" on the team's chances of winning the race after the setback, he added.

"But certainly we believe we can."