Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam reported that she had suffered a broken mast and had suspended racing on the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, which began today in Alicante.
Navigator Jules Salter told Volvo Ocean Race control that all the crew were unhurt and were attempting to recover what they could.
“There is no panic on board and we’re planning to motor back during the night before effecting repairs,” he said.
The boat was 30 nautical miles south of Cartagena on the Spanish coast. The wind was blowing 30 knots and the waves were around 3.5 metres.
The Cartagena search and rescue organisation have been informed and are on standby to assist if necessary.
Abu Dhabi Media Crew Member Nick Dana explained the situation in an email from the boat:
“We have dropped our rig. Everyone is alright on board, and we are in the process of cutting the excess rigging away. The boat’s mainsail and J4 were retrieved successfully along with various other parts that we will hope to re-use.
“We put a man in the water (Wade Morgan) to cut away the top of the mainsail at the headboard car. Wade was able to make several attempts at cutting, however a very violent sea state made it extremely dangerous for him to remain in the water. The crew retrieved him promptly and were able to get the mainsail off the lock — allowing it to slide down the rig and be pulled from the water.”
Volvo Ocean Race control is in constant contact with the team while establishing the full extent of the damage so that the crew are given full support to enable them to deal with the situation.
Azzam’s shore team are working on a recovery plan to ensure the yacht can rejoin the Volvo Ocean Race as soon as practically possible.
UPDATE: Walker later reported:
“Our situation is now stable. We are motoring towards flatter water at Cabo de Palos where we hope to lift the top section of the mast aboard.
“We have no injuries and have retrieved or secured all equipment. Our mast broke into three pieces when landing off a big wave in 30+ knots of wind. We were sailing under a J4 and two reefs. We do not as yet know the cause.
“Our intention is to return to Alicante under motor to repair any damage and step our spare mast.”
Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad said he felt “desperately sorry” for twice-Olympic silver medallist Walker and his team.
“The team are extremely professional and I know they will do all they can to get Azzam back in the race as quickly and safely as possible,” he said.
Team media crew member Nick Dana told how crew member Wade Morgan had made a courageous attempt in waves of up to 3.5 metres to rescue the rig.
“The boat’s mainsail and J4 were retrieved successfully along with various other parts that we will hope to re-use.
“We put a man in the water (Morgan) to cut away the top of the mainsail at the headboard car. Wade was able to make several attempts at cutting. However, a very violent sea state made it extremely dangerous for him to remain in the water.
“The crew retrieved him promptly and were able to get the mainsail off the lock – allowing it to slide down the rig and be pulled from the water.
“The mast from the first spreader up is now secured to the port side of the boat. About three or four metres protrude from behind the boat. A spider web of lines is keeping the operation intact. The crew are deeply disappointed.”