Yachting: Abu Dhabi patched up and on way again

The crew of the Abu Dhabi set sail from Viaduct Harbour again after deciding to return to Auckland to repair a bulkhead which got damaged in heavy seas last night.  Photo / Natalie Slade
The crew of the Abu Dhabi set sail from Viaduct Harbour again after deciding to return to Auckland to repair a bulkhead which got damaged in heavy seas last night. Photo / Natalie Slade

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing has today left Auckland 12 hours ahead of schedule after its shore team worked through the night to repair the structural damage to its bow.

Ian Walker's crew must now play catch-up to rejoin their five rivals in the Volvo Ocean Race, who at the latest position report were around 200 nautical miles into the 6700 nautical mile leg to Itajai in Brazil.

"It puts us in a different weather situation to the rest of the fleet and so we need a bit of luck,'' Walker said as his crew prepared to leave Auckland.

"Twenty four hours could turn into 48 hours or 72 hours or alternatively we could sail up behind them if the weather goes our way.

"We're not just going to sail up behind them by being faster and smarter _ we're going to need a break from the weather.''

Walker and his team made the call to head back to port after the VO70 suffered structural damage to the bulkhead that holds down the heavy-weather J4 sail around six hours after yesterday's leg five start.

As soon as the boat arrived back into port, the shore team jumped into action, working through the night to complete the repair around 12 hours earlier than expected.

"The shore crew have done a great job,'' Walker said. "Not just the boat builders but everyone from the girls in the office to the riggers, the sailmakers.

"Everyone's been at it all night and it's not much fun down below at the moment.

"It's 60 degrees inside the boat curing the bulkhead and they're still at it.

"They've done a great job and that's enabled us to get out of here quicker and that keeps us closer to the fleet.''

The repair job puts Abu Dhabi around 24 hours behind the rest of the fleet which could prove crucial as the boats head towards the Southern Ocean.

"Nobody wants to cross the Southern Ocean a day behind the other boats, so there's no doubt that's on people's minds,'' Walker added.

- APNZ

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