A fourth yacht in the Volvo Ocean Race has significant issues in the Southern Ocean, and has had to make a significant course deviation, to effect repairs.
Earlier today (1600 UTC) Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) reported that Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing had slowed down to give themselves an opportunity to make a damage assessment after the team's racing yacht Azzam suffered some delamination to the hull.
On checking with the official race tracker her speed was displayed at 4.5kts and her average speed just over 5kts - being for the previously three hour period. Winds at the time were around 28kts, and it transpired that she was hove to with her keel canted to leeward to allow a crew member to be suspended over the side to secure bols being inserted through her hull to stop the skins moving.
Abu Dhabi’s course and track (yellow) relative to Camper (white) - Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 - PredictWind.com
VOR reported that the all her crew are safe and well, and initially said that that the team would 'make a decision on what action to take once they have had enough time in daylight to assess the situation.'
That assessment was made and the decision taken to attempt the mid-ocean repair. She was headed on a course away from Cape Horn, and at a similar speed to Camper, which is the nearest boat.
Abu Dhabi’s course and track in zoom view, the wind through most of this phase has been blowing st 25-30kts - PredictWind.com
Camper is headed for the Chilean port of Puerto Montt, to effect repairs to her port and starboard longitudinal stringers, while overall race leader, Telefonica is headed for Tierra del Fuego to repair some de-lamination.
Abu Dhabi were forced to return to Auckland within hours of the start of Leg 5 to repair a damaged bulkhead and consequently trailed the fleet across the Southern Ocean.
After several days of drifting in windless conditions the team finally found decent breeze three days ago and had been making gains on the leaders.
VOR announced at 1122UTC that Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing had pulled off a heroic repair operation in the depths of the Southern Ocean after discovering delamination in their hull.
'The message is we’re in good shape. We’re making good progress towards the Chilean coast at the moment, north east away from the worst of the incoming weather' - Ian Walker
Skipper Ian Walker supervised an incredible five-hour job that saw 30 bolts screwed through the hull of Abu Dhabi’s boat Azzam (which means 'determination' in Arabic) to prevent further damage.
In order to carry out the repair, the crew had to slow the boat to a standstill and tilt it onto its side in heavy weather so bowman Justin Slattery, lowered overboard secured to a rope and in full safety gear, could tighten the bolts on the outside of the hull.
Inside the hull, boat captain Wade Morgan and watch leader Craig Satterthwaite braced the damaged section with parts ripped from the boats bunks, stacking system and lockers.
'We’ve basically joined the skins back together with a mechanical fixing,' Walker said.
'At the moment it’s been much improved, we’ve got much less noise and it seems fairly strong.
'We’re still taking it quite easy right now.'
The damage was discovered in darkness, so the crew waited for daylight to effect repairs.
Telefonica have confirmed that their stop will be a minimal one, and will effect repairs using only materials that they have onboard, in contrast to Camper, who have had significant parts built in New Zealand which will be freighted to Puerto Montt and fitted by a team of six builders from the Cookson yard.
'Our plan is to use more than the materials we've got available to us on board to reinforce the bow,' said Telefonica skipper Iker Marrtinez.
'Once it’s done we will able to forget about the problems we might have if we have a particularly violent crash with a wave, and it would mean we'd be sailing a lot more at ease for the rest of this leg.
'Once we're in Brazil the shore guys will be able to repair the boat suitably and get her race ready for the next leg.'
Camper is looking to effect a permanent repair in Puerto Montt, and will not have an additional repair period in Brazil. Her repairs are expected to take three days, and she is expected in Puerto Montt around 2 April.