Volvo Ocean Race- Abu Dhabi turns south towards Cape Horn
by Sail-World on 3 Apr 2012
Skipper Ian Walker at the navigation station onboard Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, heading to Chile during leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12, from Auckland, New Zealand to Itajai, Brazil. Nick Dana/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing /Volvo Ocean Race http://www.volvooceanrace.org
The Emirati Volvo Ocean race entry, Abu Dhabi has made a change of course, and is now headed south.
Previously the Ian Walker skippered Volvo 70, looked set to follow Camper into the Chilean port of Puerto Montt, however a few hours ago the course tracker showed a turn to starboard, and she would appear to be headed south and possibly to attempt to round Cape Horn.
The latest entry in the team blog reads:
It’s our third day, since the repair work was finished, of FRO (fractional zero) running. With an average speed of over 17 knots now and a continually worsening sea state, we have begun hearing some new funky sounds coming from the compromised panel. We can only speculate, but many of us believe it is the superfluous glue that is cracking when the panel flexes and others believe that the outer skin may be compressing on the core material more. Either way we remain confident that the repair is strong, but know that constant monitoring is still necessary.
Boredom has now reached what we can only hope is its peak. Over sleeping, over eating, over thinking and just over story telling has worn us out. Strange prolonged silences are all that is left between watch changes. Paul [Willcox] and I have started our own little favela gym in the back of the boat where we attempt to do push ups, sit ups and chin ups in hopes of tiring ourselves enough to go back to sleep. Often you will find several of us gathered in the nav station using the navigation software as if it were google earth.
Our next weather report should give us an idea as to what we could expect if we should decide to turn and burn towards the Horn. If it looks as heinous as it was forecasted a few days ago, it is likely that we will seek an alternative option to getting to Itajai. More to come once we find out…
Ian Walker writes on the 31 March:
It’s not every day you tip your boat over on its side 1,700 miles from land then drill 32 holes in the bottom to bolt the hull skin back together but this is what we have successfully done. We trusted the experts, followed their advice and thanks to a great team effort we are now far more confident of our situation and of getting Azzam safe. Since the repair we have managed to sail 300 miles east-north east and into more favourable weather.
We are not fully out of the woods yet and must remember that the outer carbon skin of Azzam is only 1.5mm thick and is now totally unsupported by the inner core. It is reliant on the bolts we have put through to hold it all together and if it started to peel, the whole area could disintegrate pretty quickly. This would be a big problem.
Most of the last day I have spent evaluating our options moving forward. Could we still carry on and sail to Itajai and complete the leg as we are? If not where do we head to? Could we make repairs and then still carry on to Itajai and make the start of the next leg? If not how do we get to Itajai in time for the start of leg 6?
These are the questions we have been bouncing back and forth all day with our shore team and logistics guys working overtime at home. We have several major problems. The first is the lack of safe ports of call and facilities on the west coast of Chile. Perhaps more worryingly is the very strong weather forecasts for the Cape Horn region over the next week to 10 days. This is one part of the world you do not want to head out into with a boat that is not 100%. As skipper my overriding responsibility is the safety of Azzam and her crew and this is always at the forefront of my mind. The most important thing right now is that we are in far better shape than we were 48 hours ago and we are moving nicely at 15 knots towards safety. It has been a great team effort over the last few days but we are not getting carried away. Slowly we will sail faster because quicker we sail the more time we buy ourselves to take the next steps. Onboard Azzam everyone remains as determined as ever.
[Sorry, this content could not be displayed] And on 30 March Ian Walker writes:
It’s amazing how quickly your priorities can change from racing to survival. One minute we were riding the back of a front making 500 miles a day towards Cape Horn getting a real taste of the Southern Ocean and with designs on a fourth or even third place, the next we were genuinely concerned for our own safety as we sat with a damaged hull in freezing conditions 1,700 miles from the nearest landfall.
When the drama started I was on deck with Adil [Khalid] and Si Fi [Simon Fisher] facing 35 knots of wind in the pitch black. We were sailing with three reefs in the main and the number 4 jib. Despite having little sail area we had still picked up some huge waves and were hitting speeds of over 30 knots. Suddenly the call came from below to slow down as they had heard some ‘worrying noises’. On further investigation we confirming the crunching sounds were coming from sheared core material in the hull’s port side.
This in itself was not a problem but more bad waves could rapidly propagate the damage and worse still the outer and inner skins could be breached. This has already happened to Groupama and Sanya in this race with near disastrous effects. The damaged hull shell was flexing like rubber and we needed to stop the impact of the waves on Azzam’s side and try to brace the hull from the inside to give it some support. Trying to stop waves hitting the hull is pretty hard in over 30 knots of wind and large seas but Rob [Greenhalgh] spent hours on deck helming and doing his best. The next job was to chop up some bunks and stacking bays to jam in between the hull and the deck to support the hull panel temporarily. The rest of the night was spent nursing the boat downwind and hoping things didn’t deteriorate.
After consulting with the boat’s builders and designers we soon had a plan for a remedial repair but it would have to wait for daylight. Believe it or not the repair was to drill through the hull and bolt the hull laminate back together. Fortunately we carry threaded rod for just such an occurrence so Wade [Morgan] and Craig [Satterthwaite] set about getting all the materials ready. They chopped up other carbon panels in the boat to make a whole new ‘inner skin’ to glue and bolt to the sides. By lunchtime we were ready to tip Azzam on its side and send Justin [Slattery] over on a halyard in a survival suit and harness to push 32 bolts through the holes as they were drilled from the inside. I could never have imagined drilling 32 10 mm holes through the bottom of our boat when 1,700 miles from land with no possibility of rescue.
We spent the best part of five hours hove to with the boat on its side to keep the water off the port side while the work was done. We are now back sailing cautiously as daylight turns into darkness. The repair seems strong so far and the crunching noises have stopped. We are currently just edging our way north east for better weather and to edge closer to land. As yet I cannot confirm our plans moving forward.
Currently the safety of the boat and crew remains the only priority and I am considerably more relaxed about that now than I was 24 hours ago. Only in adversity do you really get the full measure of a team’s strength and today everybody played their part in stabilising what could have been a very serious situation.