Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Passionate skipper suffers hefty blow from broken mast

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing prepare their new mast and rigging
Photo: Paul Todd/Volvo Ocean Race
I know Ian Walker, skipper of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, very well - I sailed with him for three years. I know how passionate he is both to win a race and to protect his crew and get them all home safely.

Losing the mast after only six hours’ racing in such a dramatic way will rock Ian to the core. I found it hard just watching his dockside interview, as he struggles to hold his emotions back.

I can’t imagine how he felt after so much hard work and preparation to get to the start in good shape.

Smashing hull
The second it happened the whole team sprung into action. Every second the rig lay in the water, the waves where chewing the carbon fibre rig and sails up, and smashing against the hull, causing even more damage.

Watch leader Wade Morgan had to jump into the water to cut the sails off their locks and get retaining lines attached. This is an extremely hard and dangerous thing to do as it would be easy to get caught up in loose lines and carbon splinters.

The team made it back to Alicante where they are fitting a new mast and repairing any additional damage. Luckily they had a spare rig already being shipped on. A quick phone call turned the lorry round from Madrid to save the day. It looks like they will be back on racing by Thursday.

Gather thoughts
Just as Ian’s passion drives him harder than anyone else I know, his pragmatic and logical approach to set-backs is even more impressive. He will gather his thoughts and then his team and get back into the business of racing to Cape Town.

By now he will know that Mike Sanderson’s Team Sanya have even more problems on their plate. A huge hole on the starboard side of the hull has forced them out of this leg and possibly on to a ship to get to South Africa. I will explain more in my next blog.

So only four boats are still racing and they have just ironically run out of wind and slowed right down.

Checking boats
They will be counting their blessings that they are still in good shape and checking their boats and equipment over very thoroughly indeed.

Watch Ian’s Interview:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-pBiSsiPLk
Listen to his press conference:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeRJPE4Jtas

Mark Covell

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