Team Blog - Ian Walker - 21st August 2011

Sunday, 21 August 2011 | by ADOR

I am writing this blog from about 40 miles off Cape Finisterre (NW tip of Spain) as we head back to Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s training base in Cascais. We have had a lovely run down from Plymouth and are currently enjoying 22 knots of northerly wind.

Jules is up on deck steering as we tick off the miles quickly. It has been a useful trip in terms of gathering much needed downwind data. We have our sail designer Jeremy Elliott onboard and he has been checking out all our latest downwind sails.

The guys have all been very tired after the exertions of the Rolex Fastnet Race so it is good that the weather has been kind. It looks like we will complete the 760nm trip in a little over two days and then a comfy bed awaits.

The Fastnet seems to have passed by in a whirlwind. It’s amazing to think so many of the boats are still out there battling away having not enjoyed the favourable winds of the bigger boats. Everyone onboard Azzam is still reflecting on Rambler’s capsizing and how fortunate all our friends were to survive.

Next week we have a sea survival course to help us learn the survival skills we will hopefully never call on plus the preventative plans to help us stay safe. It has been a very good week for the team and one everyone can look back on with some pride.

Hopefully our Fastnet record will stand for many years. It is great to have checked in with some other boats and completed our first race as a team. We know we have lots to improve and several areas we need to address but for now it is a very good start for Azzam and Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.

date: Sunday, 21 August 2011 11:00:18 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

posted in:

Comments [8]

Team Blog – Nick Dana – 15th August 2011

Monday, 15 August 2011 | by ADOR

Greetings from Azzam –

0600 hrs: Charging the batteries and cooking the porridge.

We are coming up on Landsend in the second day of the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race. It’s a very different tempo onboard now that there are other VOR 70s on the horizon. Our skipper, Ian Walker, helmed Azzam during the start and led the other VOR 70s out of the Solent. Since then, each watch has kept the intensity up as the race remains tight between the three teams.

Considering the race is expected to only last just over a day and a half for the 70s, the crew will be working at full sped to keep the lead. Major pressure on navigator Jules Salter too, who will no doubt suffer from lack of sleep over the next 24 hrs keeping us on the right side of any course shifts. We have now been tacking upwind for around 19hrs. Long enough on a VOR 70! The crew is anxious to crack sheets and see how these other 70s stack up at pace in a bigger sea state.

Life is happy onboard as we tuck into our morning feed. More to come…

date: Monday, 15 August 2011 12:45:50 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

posted in:

Comments [8]

Team Blog - Ian Walker - 15th August 2011

Monday, 15 August 2011 | by ADOR

Passing Land’s End…

We are engaged in a very tight match race with Groupama as we pass just east of the Scilly Isles. After building up a pretty good lead over Team Sanya and Groupama we lost most of it in a one hour period where we struggled to get Azzam going.

We finally stopped to clear the foils and were immediately rewarded with an extra knot of speed. We were back on the pace just in time before Groupama passed us. Since then we have been shadowing each other with Groupama generally sailing lower and faster and us sailing slower but higher.

Just before daybreak we were able to tack onto port about 100 metres directly in front of Groupama and we have been tied together with elastic ever since. Sometimes we stretch away only for Groupama to come right back at us. Right now we have about a half mile advantage but the wind is light and seas are choppy.

Whilst we conduct our private match race, Team Sanya is doing exactly what is expected of them. They are going well and sailing with the freedom that being an underdog allows. They have crept out early on port and just scraped passed Lands End.

This could be a race defining moment for them – and us.

We decided to let them go and stick with what the weather and routing software was telling us would pay off in the long term. Their tracker isn’t working but if it was they probably look quite good right now.

Everything is fine onboard Abu Dhabi and we are all just relieved to be somewhere near the pace. We are trying to rest up before what looks like a wet and windy night ahead of us. Something tells me that half a mile here or there might not make a difference when the wind hits us all later.

date: Monday, 15 August 2011 10:57:31 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

posted in:

Comments [8]

Team Blog – Ian Walker – 14th August 2011

Sunday, 14 August 2011 | by ADOR

I woke up this morning with a few butterflies in my stomach.

I don’t normally suffer from nerves too badly but the next few days are crucially important for our team. It is not so much the result of the race which worries me but the performance of the boat. If I have one wish then it is to be competitive with Groupama, one of the two other Volvo 70s in the race and the only other new Volvo 70 in the race.

Their team has been training for much longer than ours and they have had their new boat in the water far longer so we expect them to be far more developed, but we still hope to be able to line up well with them.

We know we have much more to get from our boat and team but for sure, we will learn a lot about our potential. Personally I want to make a good clean start and avoid any trouble in the first hour. We will have some very big boats on our line and a strong tide to contend with – matters are made worse when the fleet gets funneled through the very narrow gap at Hurst Castle. It is a fantastic backdrop and the thousands of spectators will be in for a real treat.

Looking at the forecast for the race it could be very quick. I suspect Speedboat more than capable of breaking the record and we hope to be not too far behind. It is going to be a fast and wet ride from tomorrow onwards. Right now we are running final system checks on engine, generator and keel systems. Everything is loaded and ready. Azzam is as ready for her racing debut!

date: Sunday, 14 August 2011 12:42:47 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

posted in:

Comments [8]

Team Blog – Ian Walker – 5th August 2011

Friday, 05 August 2011 | by ADOR

After just under six days of sailing I can just make out the silhouette of Portland Bill in the morning haze directly in front of us. This marks the edge of Weymouth Bay where in 12 months time the Olympic medals will be contested for the London 2012 Olympics.

By this time next year, Azzam will have sailed around the world and the journey will be over. Right now it is only just beginning and our 2,000 mile Volvo Ocean Race qualifying passage is complete.

Azzam has carried us more than 2,100 miles since setting off nearly a week ago which works out at an average speed of just under-15 knots. After some problems with the bowsprit this represents excellent progress and getting here a day earlier than planned will allow the sailing team time for a day off before getting back into our preparations for the Fastnet Race in nine days time.

After two days of strong wind, the last 24 hours has been easy sailing so everybody has been catching up on some sleep. Looking back on the trip we have come very close to doing a dry run of Leg 8 from Lisbon to L’Orient next year. Much will depend on the weather for this leg as it could be quite light or could be a very wet and windy ride – we had both in the space of 12 hours.

We also had a glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean’s immense power. Leg 8 will be a tough test but it is late in the race and we should be a well-tuned machine by then.

A few close encounters with whales over the last few days – more than usual – reminds us that not everything is in our control and we will always need a little luck in the Volvo Ocean Race.

I am sure Butti will reflect with relief and pride at completing his longest trip at sea. He has done well and now has a close bond with the rest of the crew. For me it feels great to be sailing Azzam to my home port but I think Butti is also looking forward to coming back to the Solent where he did so much training in April and May. This has been an important and successful trip for Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing – another big step forward for the whole team in its preparations for the race.

date: Friday, 05 August 2011 22:11:52 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

posted in:

Comments [8]

Team Blog – Nick Dana – 3rd August 2011

Wednesday, 03 August 2011 | by ADOR

The colour of the sky is slowly greying as we sail further towards the English coast. We had originally thought that the breeze direction was going to stay consistent enough to do the old ‘one an in’ from Cascais. However, to leave Portugal, go around the Azores and finish our 2,000-mile qualifier in the UK with only one tack is a highly unlikely scenario.

So far the weather has been very cooperative for us though. With very little upwind at all, Azzam has done just over 1,400 miles now with a 15-knot average. With cracked sheets and wind speeds up in the high teens, there is one thing you can guarantee on a Volvo 70 – you’re going to get wet! Especially when boredom is running high on a four-hour watch. The lads love catching a surf any chance they can get, and Open 70s are the perfect vehicle for catching long ocean swells.

Right now we are VMG reaching 300 nautical miles to the North West of Cape Finisterre, France. With a healthy average speed 18.5-knots through the night hours and a little less during daylight hours so far, we are ticking the miles off nicely. Although it was an instrument-heavy, moonless night, Azzam felt like a ‘low riding Cadillac’ (according to myself and Andrew Lewis, the two Americans on board) moving smoothly through the darkness. Her comfortable motions coupled with the underbelly detail lights from a spectacular amount of phosphorescence, gave her that restored classic car feel.

It’s looking like a Friday daytime arrival into the UK right now, which is perfect. The English amongst us are looking forward to getting home to see friends and family and it will be familiar ground to Butti too after his month-long training session in the UK earlier this year. Sailing conditions look excellent for the rest of the qualifier, and the crew continues to run tests throughout each day. The yacht is dry down below, and the mango porridge for breakfast is still warm. All is happy on board Azzam.

date: Wednesday, 03 August 2011 21:57:01 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

posted in:

Comments [8]

Ian Walker blog – 2nd August 2011

Tuesday, 02 August 2011 | by ADOR

Having crossed the high pressure ridge, we’ve now picked up some good Wwesterly winds to propel us north east to the UK.

We are slightly handicapped by not being able to use our bowsprit after some minor damage two days ago so sadly cannot launch Azzam as fast as we would like. However we are still able to sail at 20 knots which crosses the miles off fast.

These are what we in the trade call ‘very easy miles’ – the sun is out, there is little water on deck and yet the speedo is in the high teens or 20s. We have now sailed 1,100 miles and if the wind holds we should cross off the last thousand miles in two and a half days.

It will be great to get the mandatory 2,000 mile qualification trip out of the way. Those of us whose families live in the UK are particularly excited about getting home after a very busy six-weeks in Italy, Portugal and at sea.

There has been remarkably little to report out here with the exception of a couple of ‘whale encounters’. Yesterday afternoon Rob reacted fast on the helm to swerve round a particularly dozy one that breached a few boat lengths in front of us and this morning one decide to follow along beside us for a few hundred metres. It reminded me why it always pays to sleep feet first just in case!

4405.1N 1937.4W

date: Tuesday, 02 August 2011 21:54:43 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

posted in:

Comments [3]

Ian Walker blog - 1st August 2011

Monday, 01 August 2011 | by ADOR

At first light this morning, after sailing 600 miles due west from Cascais, we tacked onto port. The wind has backed nicely to enable us to reach due north. We decided not to go to the Azores in favour of getting to Southampton quicker to be better prepared for the Rolex Fastnet Race in two weeks time.

Yesterday had a bit of excitement when a fitting ripped out of the bowsprit and this helped us to make up our minds. We are now 1,150 miles from Southampton on a direct course but our route should see us complete the 1,400 more miles we need to do to satisfy the 2,000 mile Volvo Ocean Race qualification requirement.

Life is good onboard with steady wind making for pleasant but fast sailing. We are slowly getting to know ‘Azzam’ and working out what makes her tick. Hopefully today will be a quiet day of northerly progress in order for us to pick up stronger westerly winds to bring us east to the Western Approaches.

Position 3848.4N 2157.8W
Wind 18 knots from 270

date: Monday, 01 August 2011 21:48:34 (Arabian Standard Time, UTC+04:00)

posted in:

Comments [7]

The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing / Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority is not responsible for third party comments on the website.