Team Blog - Nick Dana - 14th December 2011

Wednesday, 14 December 2011 | by ADOR

After blasting out the other side of the Aguhlas Current this morning, we knew we were in for some drifting. In fact, before we even entered the Aguhlas the night before, we knew exactly where we would be entering the high-pressure system on the other side. So the original goal of the get in and out of the current as fast as possible was reached. Now the challenge was getting out of the high–pressure.

After a bit of wind hunting with Jutty (Justin Slattery) up the rig, we managed to spot a big old mother of a cloud forming just a few miles away. SiFi, who was steering at the time, shouts the call in his best southern American accent. “Right fellas – that’s our ticket off this pond. Let’s get er’ done!” Off we went, a few ugly light air gybes later and we were right on it. From then on we had solid pressure, gusts up to 25+ and sustained high teens.

The American accent wind up has been on the forefront of our humor campaign aboard Azzam for a while now. Both Andrew Lewis and I use the accent often in attempts to draw blood from the antipodean stone that they know as humor. On several occasions we have been successful, and thus the accent has taken on a new role on board. The accent, combined with heavy high-fives is virtually our only defense against the dark side.

In sailing news, we lost a few miles in the last schedule. No one is too stressed at the moment, as the fleet is still relatively compressed and headed for the same system. However, we are starting to believe that Telefonica’s slight course change to the north might pay off in a few of the latest weather models. No doubt their navigator Andrew ‘Hansel’ Cape will be chancing their possible break from the fleet for big gains.

date: Wednesday, 14 December 2011 19:58:11 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog - Ian Walker - 14th December 2011

Wednesday, 14 December 2011 | by ADOR

Right now we have the equivalent of a road block in the form of a trough lying North South across the fleet’s path. Just like a lorry blocking the fast lane if any of us can find a way past we will have an unimpeded road ahead to blast East.

Until then we will no doubt have a series of false dawns as the wind drops and lifts, we gybe onto port and think we are into the new wind before the Westerly once again catches us up and destroys our hopes. It reminds me of trying to poke out of the doldrums and the way that can take a few attempts.

Fingers crossed we will punch through before too long as the prize could be great for whoever succeeds. The first few days of the trip proved to be a generally light air scenic tour of the stunning South African coast. Andrew Lewis and Nick Dana out 2 best surfers onboard were particularly excited when we gybed into the famous Jeffreys Bay last night.

After that it was awesome sailing. 30 knots of wind, a full main and our biggest spinnaker up we just clung on and Azzam blasted her way past Port Elizabeth across the notorious Agulhas current and into the lead. Top speed 33 knots and more importantly the mast, boat, sails and people all stood up to the first real heavy air downwind test. Now it is time to tidy up, eat some food and catch up on some sleep whilst hoping we can push through the light air trough.

date: Wednesday, 14 December 2011 18:59:39 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog - Ian Walker - 14th December 2011

Wednesday, 14 December 2011 | by ADOR

That was a very tense night. After making big gains on the fleet by hugging the coast we have been running hard all night in 20 – 30 knots with our big spinnaker. Starboard tack was almost un-sailable due to the head-seas but port tack was fine – the only problem was we kept coming up against the land and having to gybe on to starboard! We made it through without breakages by slowing down and nursing Azzam!

We are now threading our way north east between the land and the Agulhas current which we must soon cross. These are infamously dangerous waters and nobody really knows how bad the next 24 hours may or may not be as anybody with any sense stays well clear of here!

date: Wednesday, 14 December 2011 11:30:58 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog - NIck Dana - 13th December 2011

Tuesday, 13 December 2011 | by ADOR

Masthead zero (MHO) – peal to G1 (largest headsail). G1 - peal to fractional zero (FRO). FRO peal to MHO. Put it on repeat. While this series of sails is usually indicative of pleasant light / moderate breeze and fast reaching angles, it also demonstrates the nuisance of light air sailing in Volvo 70s. “These yachts are extremely trim sensitive – a few gear bags too far forward in ‘the stack’ and your bow is under water. One too many people sleeping back aft, and she is doing a wheelie!” explains boat captain Wade ‘bubs’ Morgan.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe with all the technology woven into these boats’ DNA; the thousands of design hours, cutting edge building materials and brilliant minds that the relatively archaic method of shifting really heavy things fore and aft, and side to side can win races. Indeed there is no shortage of quotes alluding to the crew’s sentiments towards the ‘the stack’, but at the end of the day ‘the stack’ is just one of a hundred things that can break you in the Volvo. So best just to grit your teeth and get on with it. (`Says the media guy!)

Moving on from the heavy stuff – last night was shocking for me! While shooting some moody twilight footage of a particularly funny watch group, I got my right foot caught in between ‘the stack’ and the lifelines, stripping me of my right Sharx shoe. This was particularly devastating for me considering these are the ultimate hot weather foot wear on board a boat, and we are faced with two sets of Doldrums this leg! Now I’m down to only my cold weather boots. A few of the guys have been nice enough to offer me their own pair for time being; fortunately I have sailed long enough with them to know that everything comes with a price. And you don’t want to be in debt when you’re approaching your first equator crossing!

date: Tuesday, 13 December 2011 13:22:09 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog - Ian Walker - 12th December 2011

Monday, 12 December 2011 | by ADOR

We have been sitting bobbing up and down looking at the notorious Cape of Good Hope for about 10 hours. Our main concern has been to not get swept up onto the rocks in the swell as we sit here in no wind.

It has been a very real concern as we have been unable to sail on port tack away from the shore as this puts us directly bow on to the waves and we get pushed backwards. We have been pretty good friends with one rock in particular that has been less than half a mile dead down swell from us for two hours.

We have just managed to pull forward on it despite some adverse current so it is now 1 mile behind – hopefully we won’t head back towards it again like we did an hour ago! The best word to sum up the start of the race so far is frustration and to give you an idea we have managed to sail 0.6 mile in the last two hours. We made a great exit from Table Bay and built a nice lead before getting swallowed up by the fleet as we sat in now wind further up the coast.

We managed to get through that in 2nd place but then got caught out too near the shore and we have paid a huge price. All our weather strategy is in pieces now as the fleet has failed to catch the low pressure as planned and I suspect we will all sit waiting for a new Westerly wind to pick us up in the next day or two.

This couldn’t have been more different to the windy start to leg 1 but looking on the bright side, we are at least enjoying our first breakfast of the race!

date: Monday, 12 December 2011 11:50:21 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog - Nick Dana - 12th December 2012

Monday, 12 December 2011 | by ADOR

Back on track!

It almost feels like act one: scene two for us on Azzam. However after a killer start leaving Cape Town, and an eventual heading that points us to our second home, Abu Dhabi, it’s all smiles on board. “It’s great to be out racing again, and finally get a chance to see how we line up with some of the other boats over a long distance” said Andrew Lewis. “I know we are fast, but it’s tough to judge entirely until the scheds start pumping out,” he adds.

But as the wind quickly dropped around the corner from Table Bay, big numbers on scheds became less likely. We all began to think back to our last weather briefing before we left. It was obvious that if we miss the tail end of this low pressure system we’re chasing, we could be in for a painful drift off for a few days. A thought that is particularly chilling considering you’re already faced with the two sets of Doldrums later on in the leg.

Nevertheless we press on, eager to prove ourselves to the rest of the fleet. And as we drift off Cape Point in the early hours of the morning eating our porridge, we cannot help but think how good it is to be back at sea.

date: Monday, 12 December 2011 09:51:49 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog - Nick Dana - 7th December 2011

Wednesday, 07 December 2011 | by ADOR

And here we go again, 'Nice one mates!'

In just less than six days after Azzam's arrival in to Cape Town, the team from Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing and Future Fibres has pulled off quite an impressive rigging feat. "I think everyone should be very proud of what we have achieved over the past week - this is both a very exciting and nervous moment for us, but now it's time to dial Azzam back in for racing," said Ian Walker.

It has no doubt been a challenging month for Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, and it doesn't seem like long ago that we were drifting in the Med, deliberating whether to sail to Cape Town or not with the new rig being held vertical by old rigging. The logic of shipping prevailed, and I do not think anyone has regretted it since. Especially considering how many stars aligned in order for us to be back sailing this afternoon.

Logistically, we had a massive effort from everyone. From our Team Director, Jamie Boag, literally getting his hands dirty putting Azzam on the ship in Lisbon to Craig Satterthwaite’s meticulous oversight of the new rigging which was made in Spain and finally installed in Cape Town. Each member of the team has had to put in a bit extra than what they had probably originally bargained for. But as Ben Davis our lead boat-builder said to me yesterday: "that's the nature of the beast with the Volvo, and it wouldn't be a rush without it".

We are also reminded by Puma's misfortune and the potentially worse situation we could have found ourselves in had we made the decision to sail instead of ship. Looking back, I didn't envy Ian in the slightest having to make those kinds of game time calls. The foresight of what lay ahead for us at the time was next to impossible for anyone to even hazard a guess at, let alone logistically decide for. But there was no prolonged hesitation, the call was made and off we went. Since then, with the help of many very capable people, the entire saga has been dubbed a huge success. As our Emirati crew member, Adil Khalid, told us yesterday: "We're hungry and we're coming home".

While the breeze is looking relatively moderate for our first test this afternoon, this weekend should be a different story. Forecast are already showing potential for 30+ knots on the course for Saturday's in port race in Table Bay - with similar, if not more, for the leg start Sunday. More to come after our first look at the new gear...

date: Wednesday, 07 December 2011 13:55:08 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog - Nick Dana - 4th December 2011

Sunday, 04 December 2011 | by ADOR

Day three of proper 'boat out of the water' work here in Cape Town. The onboard job list is ticking away quite nicely - Future Fibres alongside the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing rig team are moving swiftly through the rigging modifications. Seeing as though we hardly sailed any of Leg 1 under our own power, there is a relatively small job list. However, in a race that pushes the envelope of design, materials, and even people like the Volvo does, it is a true rarity to see the light at the end of the tunnel on a job list.

So it is crucial that we spend our time efficiently, as well as use this time as an opportunity to improve upon things that we might not have otherwise been able to.

Things we are looking to do this week: daily weather reports with our weather team that's based in the US. Scout out the in-port race track and monitor wind conditions relative to the Table Bay. Full debrief of Leg 1 and Alicante's in-port race. Look into all logistics involved in the upcoming leg etc... While it may not be your average action packed Volvo Ocean Race work week, the team is extremely focused on Azzam's return to the water and the racing ahead.

date: Sunday, 04 December 2011 18:29:13 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog - Nick Dana - 29th November 2011

Tuesday, 29 November 2011 | by ADOR

Another healthy start to the day for Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing. After a hearty South African "braai" last night at the team base, a few of us decided that we should probably burn off a few calories today by climbing up one of Table Mountain’s smaller cousins; Lion's Head.

At around 10:00 a.m. this morning we began the trek under stunning blue skies and barely a breath of wind (rare for Cape Town!) A few hours later and a couple hundred metres up, we were overlooking the incredible turquoise water sprawled out in front Cape Town and the adjacent town of Camps Bay. I have now done this climb four times, and it never ceases to impress. Table Mountain and its adjoining peaks, The 12 Apostles, are truly a wonder of nature.

However we must not forget why we are in Africa, where the scale of almost anything seems several times bigger than that of the rest of the world, and can often leave you in awe for hours on end. Same goes for its weather. While this morning we enjoyed several hours of blue-bird climbing conditions - tomorrow, or even later this afternoon we could very easily see wind speeds of 30+ knots sustained! It's a tricky place to predict sometimes, but no doubt it will make for an exciting import race come the 10th of December.

Tomorrow morning Azzam arrives on her ship at 0600 hrs local time. An eight man team comprised of both sailing and shore team will greet her at the industrial docks in Cape Town and bring her around to our new base within the VOR village. Once safely at our base, the fun will begin. The familiar long days, and sometimes long nights that are synonymous with this race will once again be enjoyed. The shore team will be back in their element and the excitement of racing will take hold of everyone involved.

date: Tuesday, 29 November 2011 19:15:17 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog - Ian Walker - 29th November 2011

Tuesday, 29 November 2011 | by ADOR

Flying in to Cape Town airport was not what I had planned when the race started on November 5th. But I think it’s fair to say that Sanya skipper Mike Sanderson didn’t plan on either and I’m pretty sure Ken Read and his team didn’t expect to be playing golf in Trista de Cunha!

The Volvo Ocean Race has already been full of surprises. I arrived just in time to welcome in Telefonica after their fantastic leg victory. Three teams may have dropped out but make no mistake this was a very impressive win.

For me it has been a very strange few weeks. After a week sailing Azzam to Lisbon and working on logistics I have enjoyed a week at home followed by a week in Abu Dhabi en route to Cape Town.

Abu Dhabi is getting geared up for the stopover with the race village infrastructure and plans really taking shape. It is going to be fantastic and I have lots of friends and family coming along.

Back here in Cape Town we are fully focused on making sure we are 100% ready for the restart in order to do as well as we can on the leg to our home port. The team have all regrouped now and we have the advantage of being fresh and still at a good weight – not living on freeze dried food for three weeks is a bit of a relief.

As a group we have decided to stop looking back over the ‘incident’ and to focus only on moving forwards. The ship ‘Red Cedar’, bringing Azzam to Cape Town, is on time and due in on Wednesday morning. All being well we will be sailing by the 7th December with two days training before the pro-am race. We would love to get back into the race with another in port win.

date: Tuesday, 29 November 2011 11:58:42 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog - Nick Dana - 15th November 2011

Tuesday, 15 November 2011 | by ADOR

The mighty Azzam still awaits her ship. The crew is doing the final preparations for the loading, which will hopefully be tonight. The load team consists of Justin Slattery, Simon Fisher, Wade Morgan, Ben Davis and myself. Considering the wind hasn’t dipped below 15 knots since we have been here, and the tide moves through at about 3 knots, we should have plenty on!

Wade met with the loadmaster this morning and it looks like we have a nice little spot carved out in the middle of the ship amongst a sea of 40ft. containers. Azzam will travel with rig out and on her keel. Everything on board is wrapped up, tied down and awaiting approval of the boat captain Wade.

We are following the race quite closely still, wishing we were out there battling out in the trades. Then again we are not complaining about the two-hour lunches with 3 different courses that you can actually chew. No doubt we will be the heaviest team once we reach Cape Town.

More updates to come, as we know more about the loading times. Never a dull sight seeing a Volvo 70 getting hoisted a hundred feet in the air, and placed down in a ship that makes it look like a toy boat in bath tub.

date: Tuesday, 15 November 2011 19:26:43 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog - Nick Dana - 14th November 2011

Monday, 14 November 2011 | by ADOR

And so, the race to Cape Town has finished for us, and the race to get Azzam on the ship has started. It always amazes me that some of the world’s best sailors have other skills as well.

Yesterday saw Satterthwaite and associates carpentry masterclass. For four hours, Craig, Justin Ferris and Simon Fisher toiled away with chip board, 2x4 planks of wood and a selection of power tools and screws, to manufacture or new mast cradles that will hold our precious spar on the deck of the yacht all the way to Cape Town.

While there is still a real sense of loss, there is also a real sense of camaraderie amongst the team that warms the heart… having trained for three months in Cascais near Lisbon we have many friends here who have dropped everything.

Vincent, and his wife Joana have even left their 1-year-old daughter with their in-laws and become our lifesavers here on the dock, shipping, organising and even brining the food down to the lads.

It's at times like these that we should remember what a special sport sailing is, to have friends around the world, who are prepared to put family aside, to help a fellow racer in a time of need.

date: Monday, 14 November 2011 12:22:57 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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