Team Wants To Repay Heroic Return To Action With Strong Showing  

A resurgent Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, the Volvo Ocean Race contesting outfit, is determined to ‘come out of the blocks with all cylinders firing’ in Leg 6 of the 39,000 nautical mile round-the-world sailing odyssey - a 3,590 nautical mile voyage from Itajai in Brazil to Miami, USA.  

Having defied the odds to steer its repaired Volvo Open 70 race yacht, Azzam, to fourth in last Saturday’s DHL Itajai In-Port Race, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing must now negotiate a two-and-a-half week journey through an unpredictable minefield of tropical Atlantic Ocean weather systems.  

Eager to overturn a run of bad luck and claw back up the overall standings, skipper Ian Walker revealed his crew is chomping at the bit to get offshore and fight for a Leg 6 podium position.  

“To be here competing on time and fully repaired is a mega achievement and thanks must go to everyone involved in making it happen. We must now show the same grit and determination that got us here in the next leg. We know we have what it takes to be pushing the fleet hard, so we’ll come out the blocks raring to go and won’t let up,” said the double Olympic medal winning Briton.   

“For the first time, the weather forecast looks nice. This part of the world can be stormy but it looks predominantly downwind, which is unusual in this race, and it won’t be too cold — in fact it will be the opposite problem. Everyone will be sad to leave Itajai but we’re looking forward to sailing downwind against some actual boats and not dots on the computer.”  

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s heroic shore team produced a herculean effort to get the damaged Azzam Volvo Open 70 race yacht repaired in record time for the Brazilian In-Port race and today’s Leg 6 start (Sunday 22 April).  

Forced to retire from the previous Southern Ocean leg with hull delamination, Azzam was shipped to Itajai from Porte Montt in Chile to undertake emergency on-shore repairs. Poor weather delayed the arrival of the ship, meaning the team had to undertake three days work in less than 40 hours. Remarkably, they achieved the task with two hours to spare.  

Despite managing two wins in five previous In-Port Races, the team was unable to complete a fairytale return in a close-fought Itajai battle. Azzam secured a fourth place finish behind winners Groupama sailing team (FR), CAMPER With Emirates Team New Zealand (NZ) and Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg (US).  

Abu Dhabi’s Emirati star, Adil Khalid, believes there is more to come from the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority-backed outfit on the voyage to Miami.  

“The last month has tested us to breaking point and I think this has just made us stronger. What everyone achieved to get Azzam ready for Itajai is unbelievable. I don’t think you can truly appreciate just how big a mountain we climbed to make that happen, unless you were in the thick of it. I am very proud to be part of a team that can stay determined in the face of adversity like that. Now we need to turn that passion into on-water results,” said 23-year-old Khalid, the first Gulf national to compete in this ‘Everest of Sailing’.

The race to the iconic North American port of Miami takes the fleet north along the Brazilian coast, past Rio de Janeiro on the way to Recife at the northwest corner of Brazil. From there, the boats will cross the Equator as they continue north, passing the Caribbean islands and the Bahamas on their way to the leg’s Florida finish. An early tactical decision will be whether hugging the coast of Brazil or venturing well offshore will offer the best breezes on the way to Recife. Perceived wisdom suggests that crews will need to fully commit to one strategy or the other, as those trying to hedge their bets on the middle ground are unlikely to reap any rewards.  

At Recife, the fleet faces more crucial decisions as they prepare to face the Doldrums yet again. The challenges centre on how long to follow the prevailing winds around the north coast of Brazil, and then finding the quickest route through the Doldrums. Following the haul north to the course turning point at Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas, the boats are likely to face light winds on the final run in to Miami, making crossing the strong northerly-running Gulf Stream a potentially tricky manoeuvre.