Alicante, Spain – Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing retired from Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 on Friday having returned to racing early on Thursday, following their dismasting on November 5.
The decision leaves four of the fleet of six still racing the first stage, the 6,500-nautical mile leg from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town. Team Sanya also pulled out of Leg 1 after suffering substantial damage to the boat’s hull on Sunday. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing will now sail to Lisbon, Portugal with an expected arrival time of Saturday evening. Their boat, Azzam, will then be shipped to Cape Town to arrive around November 28. The decision will give the team suitable time to ensure the boat, the team and its rigging are 100 percent ready for the Cape Town In-Port Race on December 10.
An Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing spokesperson said: “Despite the heroics performed by the shore crew in getting our yacht Azzam re-masted after it was damaged last week in high seas and strong winds, the team believes that the estimated arrival time in Cape Town would be counter-productive for its preparations for Leg 2, especially given the almost windless prevailing weather conditions in the Mediterranean.
“Azzam’s mast and rigging system have not been compromised and the decision is purely one of time management. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is steadfast in its commitment to return to the race from Cape Town,” the spokesperson said.
The points for the first leg will now be shared out between Groupama sailing team, whose decision to take the road less travelled near the coast of Africa looks increasingly smart, and their three rivals out in the west – Team Telefónica, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG, and CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, who briefly flirted with the coast before siding with the majority.
Groupama appear to be sitting pretty with a lead of 237 nautical miles over Telefónica as of the early afternoon position report, but they are aware that some or all of their lead could yet disappear if they do not manage to avoid a long spell in the windless area at the eastern end of the Doldrums.
All four teams were travelling at roughly similar speeds around 14 knots on Friday afternoon but the three boats to the west were just waiting for a high pressure ridge that will let them turn south at speeds of 20-25 knots and start clawing back the miles.