Abu Dhabi ahead of schedule to rejoin Volvo Ocean Race

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing prepare their new mast and rigging in Alicante.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is ahead of schedule in a race against time to replace its broken mast and start a major mission to catch up to the four yachts still racing Leg 1 of the 2011-12 Volvo Ocean Race.

The Rolex Fastnet Race record holder, broke her mast five hours after the start of the first leg on Saturday evening, and was forced to motor back to Alicante where her spare rig was fitted.

Azzam's hull was also punctured by a spreader from the fallen rig, and that too has been repaired by shore crews.

Eating an egg roll on the dockside today - - about the only bonus of being on dry land - - skipper Ian Walker said he was hopeful his team would be back on the water and back in the race tomorrow.

Walker said his team expected two custom made parts to arrive from Valencia today that would complete the assembly of the new mast and ensure Azzam was racing-fit.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's spare mast is delivered to Alicante during leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. (Photo Credit Must Read: PAUL TODD/Volvo Ocean Race)

'This is our last mast so the last thing we want to do is anything unseaman-like, go out to sea and then find we have the same problem again or another problem that would put us out of the race. The stakes are high.'

The tenacious two-time Olympic medallist said he was not ruling out the first Emirati team’s chance of getting back in the mix with the fleet, which is less than 500 nautical miles from where Abu Dhabi suspended and will recommence racing.

'To be honest, I want to get back in the race in the next 24 hours if I can because the fleet aren’t getting away that fast and it wouldn’t be impossible to catch them up,’’ he said.

Chief meteorologist Gonzalo Infante said the two-day weather lull experienced by the fleet could boost Abu Dhabi's catch up.

Infante said the Emirati team could pick up propulsion from a low-pressure system once they make it through Gibraltar Strait - - if they leave tomorrow.

'The fleet still has two obstacles before they might reach a good breeze on Friday, one cold front and one depression, so it will be tricky conditions,’’ he said.

Infante said an eight to 10-knot south-westerly was expected in the Mediterranean tomorrow, with a lull ahead in the Alboran Sea. However, conditions will increase near the Strait of Gibraltar where a low-pressure system is expected to loom.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's yacht Azzam, skippered by Britain's Ian Walker, returns to Alicante, Spain after the mast broke in rough weather on the first day of racing on leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12. (Photo Credit must read: Paul Todd/Volvo Ocean Race)

Media Crew Member Nick Dana said the sailing team had joined the shore crew in working around the clock to ensure Azzam could be back in the race as soon as possible.

'The reality of it is, we can’t sit still! It’s as if there is an adrenaline void that is eating away at us. Every guy, both sailing and shore team, is pouring himself into turning this leg around, refusing to believe that a last place finish is the only option.''

'Sometimes we forget how easy it is to get caught up in the moment, but it’s a long race and Leg 1 is far from over.'

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. The team could still score 10 points for fifth following Team Sanya’s forfeit from Leg 1 with hull damage.