Volvo Ocean race website reports that the Ian Walker skippered entry, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, suspended racing and headed back to Auckland after suffering damage to the bulkhead on their racing yacht shortly after the start of Leg 5 to Itajaí, Brazil.
The fleet began Leg 5 from Auckland in New Zealand to Itajaí in Brazil at 1400 local time in Auckland (0100 UTC) on Sunday.
'Abu Dhabi have confirmed that they have suspended racing and are returning to Auckland,' the team said in a statement. 'There is a problem with the bulkhead.'
In a later report the team said that Abu Dhabi had suffered damage to the J4 bulkhead.
'Only 50 nautical miles into the leg and given the close proximity to Auckland, where the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing shore team is still based, Walker decided returning to port to undertake repairs was the best course of action,' the team said.
'Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is expected to rejoin the Volvo Ocean Race Leg 5 immediately after repairs are complete -- approximately in the next 48 hours.'
There is a Storm Warning in force for the area the yachts are heading into (the third level of warning) with a 25 kt easterly forecast, increasing to 35kts overnight and turning SE in the morning and increasing to 50kts. Seas are predicted to be high at 3metres from the NE (90degrees to the wind direction).
The incident is believed to have occurred when Abu Dhabi was in the Colville Channel, 50nm from Auckland, which runs between Great Barrier Island and the Coromandel Peninsular. Winds in the area, at the Channel island reporting station, were reported as averaging 30kts and gusting 33kts from the SE. Seas in the area are notoriously steep and awkward in this wind condition because of the strong tidal flows causing overfall seas.
In her last report just before the incident which led to the damage, Abu Dhabi reported that they were 'just in the lee of Channel Island right now. Flat water, smooth sailing. A bit of a tease really - seeing as though in about 20 minutes time the sea state will jack up about 3 metres and our misery will begin.'
As there is a three week stopover in Brazil, allowing Abu Dhabi ample time to re-join the fleet.