Team Blog – Nick Dana – 6th April 2012

Friday, 06 April 2012 | by ADOR

Hola! From Porta Montt, Chile. It’s been raining now for 3 days straight. The rig is out of the boat and sitting on deck. The small contingent of the shore team has been busy for the past two days packing up Azzam and getting her ready for shipping. The sailing team has finished off their jobs on board and are all heading home for some much needed rest.

Two of our shore team member will be traveling with the ship. Tim Collins and Sam Bourn have volunteered to travel with Azzam and continue knocking jobs off the work list. Everyone is in good spirits at the moment. The sailing team have a very positive outlook on the job ahead, and are looking forward the in port and leg start in Itajai. From the sounds of it, the stopover is going to be a blast.

date: Friday, 06 April 2012 18:24:21 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Nick Dana – 2nd April 2012

Monday, 02 April 2012 | by ADOR

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…

date: Monday, 02 April 2012 15:50:34 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Nick Dana – 1st April 2012

Sunday, 01 April 2012 | by ADOR

Seeing as we are still not certain of our next move, today’s report is more of an update to our current situation. Right now we are heading 65 magnetic towards the Chilean coast averaging 17 knots under an incredibly lit Southern Ocean sky. Our current goal is to assess the repair over time while gently ramping up the pace. Like I wrote yesterday, we continue to try and keep a speed limit on our injured Falcon. However, she still dives down waves here in excess of 25 knots.

On board life has become very casual. Chocolate addictions are quite common with the introduction of boredom, so the day bag has gone on lock down. iPod’s are blazing with movies and music videos, the media station and nav station are now just battery charging centres. Both beanbags are permanently occupied to windward and leeward with stray crew left sleeping in the bilge after their bunks were chopped up for the repair. Country music can be faintly heard coming from back in the ‘favela’ (media station) where I have left the media computer playing the best of David Alan Co and Johnny Cash.

Our decisions to either turn south and have a crack at finishing the leg, or continue east towards Chile to seek repairs should be made in the next 24 hours. For now, we are just pleased that our repairs seem to be holding up nicely. While the Southern Ocean seems quite friendly at the moment, the massive cloud lines on the horizon that we always seem to be running from are a stark reminder of why you don’t want to be stuck out here.

date: Sunday, 01 April 2012 13:18:39 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Ian Walker – 31st March 2012

Saturday, 31 March 2012 | by ADOR


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.

date: Saturday, 31 March 2012 15:57:12 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Nick Dana – 31st March 2012

Saturday, 31 March 2012 | by ADOR

It’s not very often that you’re doing 25 knots in a sailboat while desperately trying to slow down. These yachts just don’t know how to go slow, especially in the Southern Ocean - perhaps there greatest venue for speed. Imagine driving a Ferrari on the Nuremburg Ring in second gear – it just wouldn’t feel right, and it doesn’t with Azzam. Every other wave we steer down the hull shape just reacts, and before you know it we will have catapulted from 12 knots to 24 knots, doubling our speed in a matter of seconds.

Unfortunately for us, slowing down is a necessity at the moment. With an area of our port inside and possibly outside skin delaminated, it would be risky to carry on at pace. After all it’s 1.5mm of carbon that separates us from the frigid waters of the Southern Ocean. While we are confident that our repairs are strong and would likely stand up to the test of more speed, we must introduce it slowly and monitor the weakened area. Thus we have made the turn towards the north east for more favourable conditions. So far so good.

In the meantime we are being patient. Everyone is catching up on rest and taking care of any injuries sustained in the several days of fire-hosing that were endured prior to the damage. While everyone is determined to see the leg through, it is also necessary to explore our contingency plans. Hopefully Cape Horn is still on the cards though…there are a few of us that have had our sites on that goal for a long time now.

date: Saturday, 31 March 2012 15:53:58 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Ian Walker – 30th March 2012

Friday, 30 March 2012 | by ADOR


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 4th or even 3rd 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.

date: Friday, 30 March 2012 15:45:03 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Nick Dana – 29th March 2012

Thursday, 29 March 2012 | by ADOR

41.5 KNOTS. New top speed for Azzam set by Rob Greenhalgh today. Two reefs, the J4 and one huge mother of a wave made up the recipe for our top speed. “It was not really our intention to be hitting speeds like this, we have at least another four days of this weather and we certainly do not want to damage the boat or people right now,” said Rob while eating his lunch.

The conditions that Rob is referring to are similar to what the rest of the fleet has been seeing for almost a week now. “We‘ve been into it for about three days now and it already looks and feels as if it’s been a month,” explains Paul Willcox. “It’s more the ‘down below’ life that gets to you, the sailing is absolutely cracking! Blue sky, big waves and solid breeze from behind. Can’t beat it…The Southern Ocean is truly an awesome place.”

I can personally attest to Paul’s sentiments towards the ‘down below’ life. It’s completely insane…we often just find ourselves laughing out loud. There is no plane, train, automobile or simulator that could possibly emulate the violence ‘down below’. It’s simple, if you are not hanging on as if you are about to ride off a cliff and nosedive into the ground – you’re going to take a spill. I do several times a day, and the only thing I can do is control what I’m going to hit. Yesterday I was thrown from the top of engine box, directly sideways with no forward motion, into the top forward bunk. (A good two metres air born.) My shoulder cracked the frame, and subsequently when Nocka went to tuck into his off watch sleep, the bunk collapsed. I wasn’t laughing then…

date: Thursday, 29 March 2012 13:25:15 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Ian Walker – 29th March 2012

Thursday, 29 March 2012 | by ADOR


Right now the Southern Ocean is showing us who is boss. We are just shy of 50 degrees south and since the passage of the front 36 hours ago we have had sustained 30 – 40 knot winds. We are sailing with two reefs in the main and the J4, which is pretty controllable, but the sea state is horrendous as it remains confused behind the front.

We are sailing hard but trying to minimise the slamming as much as we can. It has been an eventful 24 hours with nighttime surfs up to 40 knots (Si Fi claimed that one), helmsmen being washed off the wheel (well that was me and luckily I landed in Craig’s lap) and the piece de resistance the crash tack. Nocka can claim this one but had mitigating circumstances as the wind gear blew off the top of the mast and the numbers he was steering to in - the pitch black - went haywire.

My last words to him before he started helming were ‘whatever you do… don’t Chinese gybe in to windward’. He took me to my word and as the numbers indicated he was going to crash gybe he steered hard up to weather. The net result was an inadvertent tack and ensuing capsize. It was bizarre down below trying to get dressed standing on the walls. It was remarkably peaceful. Once we got some boys on deck we managed to tack the runners, centre the keel back down and get sailing again. After a good check of everything we were off again.

A very lucky escape. So we have just under 2,000 miles to Cape Horn and it looks like it will be windy all the way. Hopefully the waves will sort themselves out a bit but either way the next five days are going to be anything but dull.

date: Thursday, 29 March 2012 11:59:58 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Nick Dana – 28th March 2012

Wednesday, 28 March 2012 | by ADOR

Once More Into The Breach, Dear Friends, Once More

Not only are have we finally joined the battle in the Southern Ocean, but we just hit forty knots while surfing down wave. Finally! We’re into Azzam’s conditions – keep an eye on the scheds, at the moment we are averaging around 23 -24 knots of boat speed with a reef in the main and a j4. So far it has been plenty of sail area and will probably keep us on our ear throughout the night. The forecast has us into this frontal line for at least the next 24 hours. 25 -30 knots of breeze with a following sea and we’re pointed right at the barn door – should tick off the miles nicely now.

It’s amazing what the addition of adrenaline does to a team’s mood. For the past 4-5 hours we have all been on deck hooting and hollering at whoever is driving, egging them on for a good stack into the next wave. Paul [Willcox] managed to fill the cockpit up enough to make it look like an above-ground swimming pool. Needless to say, we all went swimming. The boat is handling fantastic – this is the first time we have really had her in this kind of situation and everyone is very pleased.

The night has brought a bitter cold. You are able to see your breath down below, and the condensation has become ridiculous. Everything is soaked. Jules [Salter] and I are in our little war trying to keep electronics somewhat dry and functional. It’s difficult though, nothing is meant to work in this type of environment. Sometimes you’re better off just closing everything up and going for a ride on deck. Definitely one of the better night skies you will ever see on the planet.

date: Wednesday, 28 March 2012 14:59:49 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Ian Walker – 27th March 2012

Tuesday, 27 March 2012 | by ADOR

Soon we will be able to lay the ice gate and it will be time to gybe and head south east for Cape Horn. This will mark the first time in a long time that we have been able to ‘point at the target’ and therefore stop losing miles to the leaders.

Jules’ original estimate when looking at the weather was that we would end up 1,500 miles behind the leaders and as always he looks to be fairly accurate. Preparing ourselves for this has been the key to not letting frustration creep in. Hopefully the fun can now start as we try to pull the miles back. We have a fairly windy forecast ahead but hopefully nothing too dramatic. To be honest we need some wind as this must be the longest time (8 days) it could ever have taken a Volvo 70 to sail 2,000 miles from Auckland! The important thing though is that we are still in A1 condition and ready for the long distance that still lays ahead.

I am gutted for my friend ‘Nico’, skipper of Camper TNZ. I have spoken to both him and Volvo HQ by e-mail and we have agreed to keep a close eye on them in case they need assistance. They have great guys onboard so I am confident they won’t need our help but soon we will be within one day’s sail of them. We have also learnt of Telefonica’s problems but we don’t know the real extent of them. Hopefully we can reel them in by Brazil whether they have to stop or not.

This is always the point in this race when you question quite why we are out here in these crazy boats. We are over 1,000 miles from land (a tiny island to the north) and over 2000 miles from both Auckland and Chile. We live in a world where help is nearly always at hand if you need it but right now we are about as far from help as you can possibly get on this planet. I will be a happy man when we start rattling off the miles to Cape Horn. First things first we need to pull off a gybe in 25 knots in the dark – no pressure!

date: Tuesday, 27 March 2012 20:50:34 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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Team Blog – Anthony ‘Nocka’ Nossiter– 27th March 2012

Tuesday, 27 March 2012 | by ADOR

Day nine, leg five, and back in the Volvo Ocean Race on the mighty Azzam. Joining this team was an easy decision - I've raced with a lot of these guys before, Ian, Jules, Si-fi, Robbie, Craig - my word, good guys. And then there's Wade from Sydney, my home town. Big Wade (Bubs) is solid and that is what you need out here when it’s all on. When you’re pushing hard in the Southern Ocean on a Cape Horn leg you know it's going to get tougher and tougher. You need to be with guys you can trust when there is so much water coming over the boat you can hardly stand up.

And you have to keep smiling - when it gets hard, humour up. Last night, two am, cold and wet on deck and boy were we into it. I had a good soaking from a random wave that came over the deck with my name on it, and then I heard a quiet Australian voice next to me say, "go hard or go home son..." so I looked over and saw a big smile on Wade’s face. Good mates - good company!

date: Tuesday, 27 March 2012 14:21:25 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

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