Team Blog – Ian Walker – 6th March 2012

Tuesday, 06 March 2012 | by ADOR

I couldn’t bring myself to write a blog for the last 2 days for 2 reasons. Firstly we were having a torrid time trying to get round the top of the Solomon Islands for a day, then we have been having just as bad a time trying to get through our own mini doldrums into the South East trades. All the while this was going on, the boats that were behind and couldn’t lay the Solomon Islands were being offered a ‘get out of jail free’ card in the West.

So after sailing so well and pushing hard to get into 3rd we now find ourselves in 5th but hopefully with a shot still at Camper. The leaders have been able to extend away from the lighter winds to a very impressive lead. So what has brought me to the keyboard? Well, firstly I feel a lot better after a fresh water shower in a huge rain cloud earlier today – the sight of 11 hairy, smelly guys running around covering themselves in shower gel in the rain was very amusing. Secondly we have just made a nice gain back at Camper and so maybe we still have a chance to convert our Easterly position into gains.

Everyone is also feeling a bit more upbeat now because we have our fraction zero up and are going reasonably fast towards Auckland for the first time in days. A lot of focus is already being put on the Auckland stopover – and how short it is going to be. The shore crews are going to have to really be on their game to turn the fleet around in a couple of days. There will be no time to order and make spares there – everything we need has to be put in action now so any spare time onboard is spent co-ordinating job lists and parts lists with them. The sailors have to get their heads around the fact that after 25 days straight sailing they will only get one or two days off before taking on the Southern Ocean.

This will be particularly hard on the kiwis who are looking forward to precious time at home after long stints abroad. Anyway – the best thing we can do on all counts is to get to Auckland as fast as we can. We still haven’t given up hope of getting there faster than a few boats around us.

Ian Walker

0430 6th March

16 45S 161 55E

date: Tuesday, 06 March 2012 19:14:30 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Ian Walker – 3rd March 2012

Saturday, 03 March 2012 | by ADOR

Today has been a big decision day for the navigators and skippers from third place back. The strong west going current and headed winds meant that boats in there were looking unlikely to clear to the east of the Solomon Islands. This would mean huge losses to tack up to those of us further east or they could try to go through the islands. The weather models also swung slightly in favour of a more western route today and so it appears the decisions were made.

For Telefonica and Sanya this would have been frustrating after fighting to get up to the east, but yet a relatively easy decision due to the fact they were furthest west. For Camper it would have been very hard as they would be giving up on Telefonica, but able to consolidate over Sanya. Onboard Abu Dhabi we were caught a bit between the devil and the deep blue sea. To turn down west would have meant giving up Telefonica and Camper but would have consolidated over Sanya. To carry on east means a chance of third place (unless we can catch Groupama or Puma) but also a big risk of ending up last. This would be infuriating after sailing such a solid leg to date.

For Puma and Groupama there was no decision to be made as they are committed to the east. So who will win… East or West? It is fair to say that it is fluctuating between weather models as to which should be the favoured route. There are also some considerable unknowns such as the extent of any wind shadows under the mountains in the Solomon Islands and the very variable weather predictions. For sure the westerly route is risky (we have been looking at it for a few days now) but if you are at the back of the fleet or if all the boats behind you follow what is there to lose?

Having been in third place we have the most to lose, but to go west would have been to give up two positions anyway. This must be great viewing for the armchair navigators at home and whilst we are well and truly on our own out here now there will be much anticipation of each and every position report.

date: Saturday, 03 March 2012 16:04:09 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Wade Morgan – 2nd March 2012

Friday, 02 March 2012 | by ADOR

Hi there! Bubs here! A busy watch just over, lots of rainy squalls, top wind speed of 38 knots, top boat speed around 33 knots, great stuff. Seems like the constant ‘pressure washing’ is over for the time being and we get a chance to dry out. The workshop has been closed today, no issues onboard and Azzam is running very smoothly, lots of good mile gains to show for it so spirits are high. We have prepared Big Breeze’s (Paul Willcox) ‘breakfast from King Neptune’ for the morning equator crossing ceremony… expect a feature from Nick on that one.

After two weeks and 2331 miles to Auckland, I sit here and the mind begins to think of arrival. I’m looking forward to seeing my wife and daughter, she has some new ballet moves to show me so that will be great to see. Catching up with old kiwi friends and a few old haunts from when I used to spend a bit of time there is on the to do list as well.

Also Joyce if your reading this I have surveyed the lads and we would love 11 chunky pepper steak ponsonby pies and say another half dozen mixed variety when we get in if that can be arranged. Oh, and Ailsa can you sort the Coke Cola! Thanks!!!

date: Friday, 02 March 2012 13:07:58 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Ian Walker – 2nd March 2012

Friday, 02 March 2012 | by ADOR

Finally we are really seeing the benefit of being in the east and today we have passed both Camper and Telefonica to hold third place. The positioning of the boats doesn’t really tell the full story though as we are getting tested regularly by huge clouds and rain squalls which try their best to push us off course. Some squalls have been up to 38 knots and have resulted in us having to sail 60 degrees off course to weather them.

It is a real test for the crews who need to rapidly reduce sail as fast as they can and hang on tight until the rain squall passes. It is then a race to get back to full sail as the wind drops away behind the cloud. In the day time this is not too bad as you can see the clouds and plot your path through them, but at night it takes on a whole new dimension. The only tool we have to help us is our radar that can pick up the rain signaling the advancing squalls. It is safe to say new have been getting better at this with practice but there remains a slight element of luck as to which clouds hit you, how hard and when. One cloud can make or lose you tens of miles so as the sun goes down over the horizon we will be looking to ride the front edge of as many as we can in the darkness tonight.

The only frustration aboard has been the downtime we have had due to some minor breakages. When you are travelling at 20 knots, having to slow down for even 20 minutes results in many lost miles. I suspect we have lost about 20 miles now but I also suspect we are not alone in this after a punishing few days at breakneck speed.

Looking forward we have some very interesting navigational challenges ahead. For now we are constrained by the Solomon Islands which we must pass to the east of but after that some big decisions will need to be made. Right now the fleet remains very tightly packed and I don’t think even Groupama can be sleeping easy as the fleet compresses into the back of them. Another person who will not be sleeping easy is Paul Willcox. He is 75 miles away from his first Equator crossing and King Neptune is growing very restless.

date: Friday, 02 March 2012 12:27:31 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Ian Walker – 1st March 2012

Thursday, 01 March 2012 | by ADOR

We are now about halfway into our drag race across the trade winds and the wind has been starting to abate. It’s not that it has been particularly windy - perhaps averaging 22 knots, but we have been sailing at 90 degrees to the wind which is fast and the exact angle to propel all the water straight over the deck and whoever is standing in its way.

The toll is starting to add up both in minor impact injuries to crew (ribs, legs etc) and minor breakages to the boat. Our most major breakage yesterday was the jib tack ram which snapped clean in half. Fortunately we had a safety line in place to save the jib and Justin and Bubs have been able to rig up a jury system that seems to be holding so far. The whole event cost us about 10 miles. Otherwise most of the issues are minor but very annoying. The toilet blocked last night - not a nice job for two people bouncing around in there.

All but three drinks bottles have washed away and some minor but persistent leaks have lead to a minor electrical fire (Nick's lap top charger) and some less than desirable conditions below. Jules and my shared bunk has two nice water features over it. One drips on your head every 30 seconds and the other builds up a nice pool of water that is tipped onto you at waist height every time the boat over heels! It's a good job it is warm and the sleeping bags are made of goretex.

None of this can prepare you for the conditions on deck however and harness lines have been mandatory for a couple of days. It is hard to move around and real care must be taken when moving from the hatch to the 'safe zone' in the back windward corner. In the racing we have been going well, gaining miles on our nearest boats, but it will get harder from here on as we will lose the benefit of more lifted wind in the east. It feels great to be right in the mix and it also feels good to see the estimated time of arraival coming forward all the time to Auckland thanks to some potentially favourable weather.

In summary Azzam is slightly bruised but still charging along well.

date: Thursday, 01 March 2012 15:27:19 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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مدونة عادل خالد عضو فريق أبوظبي للمحيطات

Thursday, 01 March 2012 | by ADOR

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كانت آخر زيارة لي إلى الصين عام 2008، وخضت حينها تجربة رائعة في سباقات القوارب الشراعية من فئة "ليزر" ضمن دورة الألعاب الأولمبية. ومنحتني عودتي إلى هذا البلد مجدداً فرصة إلقاء نظرة على التقدم الذي أحرزته خلال السنوات الـ 4 الماضية سواء على الصعيد الشخصي أو الرياضي.

ويختلف عالمي اليوم كثيراً عن عالمي خلال تلك الفترة، فقد تخليت عن السباقات الفردية التي تستغرق ساعات معدودة لأتوجه إلى سباق جماعي أجوب فيه العالم على مدى 9 أشهر متواصلة من التحدي والمغامرة، وكل ذلك في تجربة فريدة ستترك في نفسي انطباعاً مذهلاً عن هذه المنافسة التي أخوضها مع مجموعة من أعتى البحارة وأكثرهم خبرة على مستوى العالم. وقد أتاح لي ذلك إمكانية اختبار روح العمل الجماعي والتعاون بطريقة لم أعهدها من قبل؛ فعندما كنت أشارك في سباقات القوارب الشراعية من طراز "ليزر"، كنت لوحدي دون أي مساعدة. أما الآن، فأنا مع 10 زملاء يمدّون لي يد العون وأتشارك معهم أفراح ومصاعب هذه الرحلة الأسطورية.

غادرنا ميناء سانيا الصيني لنمخر عباب المحيط على متن "عزّام" متوجهين إلى نيوزيلندا في الجولة الرابعة من السباق، والتي لا بد لنا من إحراز نتيجة جيّدة فيها لكي نحافظ على آمالنا باحتلال أحد المراكز الثلاثة الأولى، فالنجاح هو الهدف الذي يصبو إليه الجميع في هذه الملحمة البحرية.

وتتسم هذه الجولة بشيء من الغرابة، فقد قرر المنظمون إطلاقها على مرحلتين نظراً للظروف الجوية السيئة؛ حيث قطعنا في المرحلة الأولى مسافة 40 ميل بحري بعد انطلاقنا من ميناء سانيا، واسترحنا خلال الليل لنواصل السباق صباح يوم الاثنين. وأنا أستطيع تفهّم هذا القرار جيداً، إذ من الأفضل للفرق المتنافسة أن تنتظر قليلاً ريثما تهدأ شدة الرياح الخطرة بهدف حماية القوارب والطواقم المشاركة من أي ضرر محتمل. وكما قال ملاحنا، فإن هذا السباق هو منافسة رياضية في نهاية المطاف وليس معركة حتى الموت.

وعلى أي حال، نحن سعداء لكوننا في أعالي المحيط مجدداً ولو أن الأيام القليلة الأولى من الجولة كانت صعبة إلى حد كبير. وقد تعرّض زميلنا ويد مورجان لإصابة في رأسه على متن المركب، ولكنه لحسن الحظ لم يتأذ كثيراً. إلا أن الحادثة بحد ذاتها جاءت لتذكرنا مجدداً بوجوب أخذ ما نقوم به على محمل الجد، والاستعداد على أكمل وجه لكل ما قد يباغتنا من حالات طارئة.

وليس لدينا فكرة حقيقية عما قد نواجهه خلال الأسابيع القادمة، فالطقس يتغير بشكل دائم. وكانت الجولة السابقة أسوأ جولة على الإطلاق في تاريخ السباق من حيث صعوبة الأحوال الجوية.

ويبدو أن هذه الجولة ستكون صعبة هي الأخرى، حيث أخذت الرياح تشتد مترافقةً مع ارتفاع في الأمواج كلما ابتعدنا أكثر عن جزيرة هاينان إلى درجة أصبحنا فيها عاجزين عن فعل أي شيء على متن المركب، ولم نعد نستطيع التحكم بالأشرعة أو دفة القيادة كما يجب.

واسمحوا لي أن أترككم الآن على أمل أن تحمل المدوّنة القادمة أخباراً أكثر إيجابية


date: Thursday, 01 March 2012 10:05:43 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Nick Dana – 28th February 2012

Tuesday, 28 February 2012 | by ADOR

Finally!! Azzam has just poked into the solid northerly trades. The wind direction has now headed enough that we are rattling southeast at pace. The latest sched should show us doing around 60 miles, a massive departure from the majority of scheds for the entire race so far. Not to mention the sailing is sensational. 18-20 knots of consistent northeasterly wind while we rip along with a full main and fractional zero averaging around 20 knots of boat speed. “About as good as it gets” Jules Salter explains. “Soak it in and rest up fellas, it won’t be like this for forever. It looks like it will be a tight finish with more upwind.”

No matter though, right now we are all just focussing on the sailing at hand and getting south. It’s now roughly 1,600 miles to the equator and we are smashing them off quickly. Azzam is now in “super-stack” mode with everything that is not tied down jammed in the back corner of the boat and as far outboard as physically possible. Our ‘snow plow’ bow has been chucking up ten-foot solid walls of white water for the better part of day. As Justin Slattery put it, “you almost feel weightless when doing a sail change on the bow. The wave it puts over the deck is insanely powerful. You can’t see a thing, you’re basically working from memory at that point.”

Looks like we are in for a wild night. We have just peeled from the fractional zero and are opting for our smaller G2. As the breeze continues to go right, we will be forced to sail tighter angles and cannot afford to have too much sail area up.

date: Tuesday, 28 February 2012 12:33:00 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Ian Walker – 27th February 2012

Monday, 27 February 2012 | by ADOR

The next 24 hours are crucial as it is then the fleet will probably start to bear away south east on course for New Zealand and the long drag race across the trades will begin. That means that the boats in the north have this amount of time to try and consolidate any gains by rolling over those to leeward.

It is clear that Puma’s bravery in digging north has got them out of trouble and into a duel with Groupama for the lead. It is not yet clear who will come out on top but it looks close. What is also not yet clear is whether we can make our move to the north of Camper stick and if so by how much. Each position report is critical now and our fate can hang in the effects of one or more clouds or their wake zone.

The last position report was excellent for us gaining 15 degrees thanks to a nice cloud line, but right now we are struggling in lighter winds. One thing I have learnt over the course of two races is that you will drive yourself to distraction worrying over each hour sailed. You have to hope that each boat will get dealt some tricky periods to get through and that they will even out in the long run. The best strategy seems to be either to get on deck and do something to help or go to sleep and hope it is better when you wake up! Fretting in the nav station won’t help. So far I think we have managed the tricky weather pretty well and Jules is no doubt looking forward to some straight forward trade wind sailing in the next few days.

Onboard everyone is getting well rested apart from Bubs who is doing his best impression of Bob the Builder again – this time it’s a daggerboard post that needs fixing. I should mention that Paul Willcox has settled into the team really well although he is only too aware that the Equator is less than a week away. He had better hope that the next week goes well for us or King Neptune could be an angry man.

date: Monday, 27 February 2012 21:08:02 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Nick Dana – 27th February 2012

Monday, 27 February 2012 | by ADOR

When you hear the sound of cracking carbon fibre on a Volvo 70, your heart always jumps a beat. Your mind begins to race with a diagnostic process that absorbs all the elements of the situation surrounding the noise. Where it came from, what speed the boat is doing, the sea state, where the stack is etc… Then you move onto looking for any obvious signs of what could have caused the noise; water pouring into the bilge, fragmented bits of material strewn about or even just people freaking out looking at something.

Last night we heard this distinct sound. A few of us jumped from our bunks looking for where it could have come from, we knew it was forward of the galley bulkhead, but past that we were unsure. Eventually we were led to the issue by Justin Slattery who was on deck at the time of the cracking and knew exactly what had happened. When lifting our starboard dagger board, the crane system that is designed to lift the board using a series of internal turning blocks, had failed with a violent snapping sound. The bottom turning block had torn away from the post, and had now rendered the system useless. Without the use of this board, our speed would be severely compromised. A halyard was then quickly attached in place of the broken post and movement of the board was regained.

Now it’s just a matter of fixing it. The halyard will work for the time being, but there is nothing like the real thing. The bits of the system were all removed and brought to the galley where there is ample light to work. Wade ‘Bubs’ Morgan is going to fix the post, but only if the pieces are salvageable enough to re-use. He began gluing this morning and should be finished by the middle of the tonight. If it’s not going to work, the team will have to discuss alternatives to the problem. Until then, the crew continues to push Azzam just as hard as always and remains focused on the surrounding competition.

date: Monday, 27 February 2012 13:05:56 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Interview – Paul Willcox – 26th February 2012

Sunday, 26 February 2012 | by ADOR

Today I will feature an interview that I recently had with Paul Willcox while sitting on the stack at 0200 this morning in the rain. Paul a.k.a ‘Big Breeze’ has just joined the sailing team as an alternate for Andrew Lewis. This is his first leg, in his first Volvo Ocean Race and he seems to be pretty stoked on the experience so far.

BB (Big Breeze) = Paul Willcox

ND= Nick Dana

ND: Big Breeze, how has the race grabbed you so far? Is it what you had imagined?

BB: No. Not at all really, for some reason when I used to imagine doing the race it was more like a race promo. You know – blast reaching in 30 knots with so much water over the deck you struggle to stay upright and your eyes swollen shut. I know there is plenty of that to come, but I guess I neglected to think about the more tedious days and weeks of light air, no air, upwind drifting, downwind drifting, no wind drifting, you know the days that are more mentally challenging than physically.

ND: Yes. But you had done quite a bit of sailing so far on Volvo 70s. Both training with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing for the past year, as well as shore team with Team Russia in the previous race. Why is it different now?

BB: It’s different for a whole variety of reasons. Mainly though, I don’t have to use my imagination anymore! The days just come as they are, some are harder and some far easier than I would have probably expected. I guess when you’re on the shore team or doing short training segments there is real senses of urgency to perform at you’re absolute best. But once you get out here, you realise it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon and you have to pace yourself in all aspects of life on board. Perform at your best, but don’t burn yourself out.

ND: Getting the call up to do this leg must have been a little bit of a shock. In fact, you were back in South Africa already probably wondering what’s next outside the Volvo at the time you got the call. What was that like, and has it hit you yet that you’re actually doing the race?

BB: Not even close. I don’t think it will set in until some crazy day in the southern ocean when it really resonates with my original imagination of the race; at least as I knew it before I was sailing in it. As far as the call, yes it was a shock to say the least. Ian (Walker) had explained to me that there was always going to be a possibility that I would get the chance to step up. So for me it was all about keeping the opportunity alive, staying fit, strong, and willing to provide the team with whatever it needed to succeed. To be honest - I just kept knocking at the door and someone finally answered!

ND: How do you think this race will affect your career in sailing now?

BB: Well for sure it takes it to a new level. But with only a week into my first leg under my belt, it might be a bit brash to say what doors have opened for me. I know that you make great contacts, and the camaraderie that is among fellow Volvo sailors is very unique in the sport. So hopefully it means more work in the future, but I’m taking it one leg at time right now.

ND: What do you think King Neptune has planned for you?

BB: Something heinous - probably a real ugly haircut and some sort of elaborate dead flying fish outfit. I keep hearing the boys talking about a Lego man haircut, but I’m not sure what that means.

ND: I do. And I hope for your sake that is not what you get. Last question, where did you get the name Big Breeze?

BB: Not quite sure its exact origin. I remember telling an American mate of mine a story about sailing and using the words ‘big breeze’ to describe the conditions. He seemed to think it was hilarious and next thing I knew I was walking around the yard hearing ‘Big Breeze’ left and right from everyone on the team. Guess that’s what mates are for!

date: Sunday, 26 February 2012 13:38:59 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Ian Walker – 25th February 2012

Saturday, 25 February 2012 | by ADOR

Today is a big day today for two reasons. Firstly it is my 42nd birthday. Not much to celebrate out here today after losing a few miles crossing the front at first light this morning – still it was better than Christmas Day morning when we got smacked by 35 knots and torrential rain on leg 2. It was nice to receive a few bags of sweets from my wife and kids plus a couple of lovely cards. These moments make you miss home more than ever.

The second reason today is a big day is that it is the christening of my beautiful goddaughter Sophie Fox. Not a great start to as a godfather being 5500 miles away on her christening but I guess I have her whole life to make it up to her.

Talking of home the kiwis onboard are beginning to wonder if we will ever turn right towards New Zealand – Jules insists we are still a few days away from that eventuality but at least it will save us from any more upwind sailing for a while. It is making for a very interesting tactical race. I suspect anybody watching at home will wonder what on earth we are all up to. It is probably quite misleading as to who is actually winning. I am not really sure how things are going to pan out but we have committed to the new wind that will fill in from the north in a day’s time. I suspect there is a lot of time for the race order to be shaken up yet and now that Kenny has re-read the sailing instructions and realized we are not in fact going to Qingdao I wouldn’t bet against Puma getting back into the fray as the Northerly winds come in.

We have had two other incidents to speak of today. Firstly last night we were confronted by a line of flashing lights several miles long. Assuming this to be a long line of drift nets we took evasive action costing us several miles – we kept reminding ourselves that anything was better than getting stuck in a drift net at night. When we got near, a fishing boat started to drive quite aggressively which suggests we were doing the right thing. Secondly today we had our second hard collision with a large plank of wood. It hit the rudder pretty hard but fortunately we were doing only 11 knots and not 20. We seem to be unscathed.

Other than that all is well onboard as we run gently in easy conditions across the bottom of Japan. It is starting to look like our route will be remarkably similar to that of the last race through this part of the world.

date: Saturday, 25 February 2012 17:28:17 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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