Walker’s Abu Dhabi team leave Alicante to re-join the race with their new mast while Team Sanya play a different game of catch up
The Volvo Ocean Race fleet could remain in reach for the Emirati team, some 750 nautical miles ahead in the Atlantic, where Team Telefónica continues to lead in unusually light conditions.
Azzam’s replacement mast and rig were stepped up only this morning following an around the clock repair effort to fix the catastrophic damage caused by a massive wave just hours after the start of Leg 1 on Saturday.
While the shore team conducted a final ultrasound test to ensure the mast was safe before departure skipper Ian Walker said he was confident the new 31.5m carbon tube and its supporting rig was good to go.
“I’ve got 100 per cent confidence in the mast, and this rigging, we’ve done 6000 miles on, so I’m reasonably happy with that,” he said.
However, having watched his first mast shred and splinter into three pieces in the violent conditions on Saturday, Walker admitted there was still a mental hurdle to overcome.
“At the same time I just have a nagging doubt, and we will have that, that’s something we have to live with,” he said. “But I’m not a rigging expert, I will take advice from the guys who are on what we should do, and marry that up with our professional instincts.”
Walker admits that the going could get tough, with the 6,500 nautical mile gauntlet to Cape Town already being run by his competitors. But he said his team were professionals, and they were made of tough stuff.
“Three weeks sailing with no one to race against is a long way and just trying to find that balance where you are racing, but with the nearest boat 1000 miles away, is hard,” he said.
“I imagine there will be times when it will be hard to maintain the intensity. But as long as the weather is kind and we’re crossing off the miles and achieving something we’ll be fine. It’s when things don’t go so well, if we got a particularly bad weather pattern, that will be a real test.”
Abu Dhabi has a chance to close the gap as the fleet is sailing in unusually light winds since entering the Atlantic. With Team Sanya out of Leg 1 the Emirati team would score 10 points just by finishing, giving them a total of 16 at the end of the leg when coupled with their six points from their win in the first in-port race.
Under the rules, Abu Dhabi will be able to motor to the spot where they suspended racing, but Walker said they were hopeful of being able to do some testing of their new mast on the way.
Meanwhile Team Sanya are playing a different game of catch up as they are being pushed to the limit to do a month’s worth of repairs to their damaged boat in just one week.
This comes after they suffered severe structural damage to the hull of their Volvo Open 70. Just six hours into the 6,500 nautical mile first-leg from Alicante to Cape Town the bow section began to flood.
Having abandoned any hopes of competing in the first leg, the two time winner admits his team face a real race against time to rejoin the race in Cape Town.
He said: “It looks like we are going to have to chop out possibly a six metre by three metre by one metre section of boat and replace it. And that’s no small task.
“That’s the same size as a reasonable sized powerboat that you could chuck a 100 horsepower outboard on and go out for a day’s fishing.”
Sanya plan to ship their damaged boat over to Cape Town in time for the in-port competitions as well as the next leg of the competition, but with a month’s worth of repairs needing to be done, it will be touch and go as to whether they make it in time.
And Sanderson knows it will be no easy task, especially as they are expecting to get the boat over by the very earliest of November 28th.
He also admitted that it was a physical challenge as well due to that heavy workload required to get back on track, confirming it would be a 24- hours a day, seven days a week procedure to get the boat ready in time for the next leg.
Although things are looking grim for Team Sanya; the first- ever Chinese entry, there are still positives which the New Zealand skipper is more than happy to take comfort with.
He said: “None of the timings add up right now, but the moons are starting to align for us a little bit.”
He is however not getting too far ahead of himself, explaining that they would have to work hard to make this a success. ‘This is the Volvo Ocean Race and it simply isn’t an option to head out without the boat being 100 per cent’