6 posts tagged Ian Walker
6 posts tagged Ian Walker
40 knot winds, 10 meter high waves, and sailing past the world’s most remote spot? It is indeed Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, and Team Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is experiencing all of this, and more.
As we recapped before they left port in Auckland, this portion of the race is the longest and carries with it particular challenges due to the Southern Ocean routing. On their first day out, the Azzam suffered structural damage which forced the crew to turn back for repairs. Now 11 days into Leg 5 and over 1000 miles behind the leaders, the team has banded together and “morale is very high onboard.”
While last week saw relatively light winds and mild seas, crew member Simon Fisher commented Wednesday of a “gear shift” brought on by 25 knot winds. “We’re into Azzam’s conditions” remarked Nick Dana, with 24 knot boat speeds keeping Azzam “pointed right at the barn door”.
The team battling conditions on Leg 5
That barn door is Cape Horn, which the team is scheduled to round this week. The Horn is considered a remarkable sailing landmark – an accomplishment not lost on crew member Adil Khalid: “This is it, my Mount Everest.”
With Cape Horn a yachtsman’s version of Everest, it is no wonder the Abu Dhabi native (and first Gulf national to race in the VOR) will be “getting my head down, doing the jobs in front of me, and praying that I get lucky.”
Crew Member Justin Slattery in calmer waters
Conditions around the Horn (Chile’s southernmost headland) are notoriously hazardous. So much so that in 1864 Charles Darwin commented: “One sight of such a coast is enough to make a landsman dream for a week about shipwrecks, peril and death.”
Given this, and with team Camper now tacking into Chile to undergo structural repairs, Captain Ian Walker cautiously notes “this leg could still be all about who makes it to Itajai in one piece.”
Azzam’s crew handling the sail
With high boat speeds and higher winds forecasted for their future, we are anxiously watching the Azzam and sending its team continued wishes. As crew member Rob Greenhalgh so succinctly remarked: “Southern Ocean sailing. Big risks but big smiles.”
When we last heard from the crew of Azzam, team Abu Dhabi’s boat in the Volvo Ocean Race, they had tucked into the southern China city of Sanya after completing the third leg of the race. They had finished a tough 4600 mile segment, and had withstood the challenges brought by the often wind-less Doldrums, for a 5th place standing.
We now re-join Captain Walker and crew in Auckland, New Zealand where they are gladly resting after a hard fought Leg 4. The start to this portion of the race was postponed due to a typhoon warning in the South China Sea, which brought waves of up to 8 meters, and which caused race organizers to split the leg into two parts. After the teams were cleared to sail they went into heavy competition to gain as much ground as possible on the 5,220 nautical mile course, passing by the northern tip of the Philippines en route to New Zealand.
This was the first time since 2001 that the race has stopped in Auckland, and as they were just shy of its shores Captain Walker noted that: “After nearly three weeks of intense racing we finally came within sight of the ‘land of the long white cloud’ – and guess what – it was covered with a long white cloud.” This did not dampen the spirits of Azzam though, and they sailed into port in a time of 20 days, 5 hours, 20 minutes, 35 seconds, maintaining their hold on 5th place.
Their arrival in Auckland could almost be described as “sailing coming home”, because virtually all the teams have at least one New Zealander on board. From Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing, the team sponsored by IWC Schaffhausen, 38-year-old watch leader and native Kiwi Craig Satterthwaite is particularly happy to be there: “New Zealand’s my home. I’m lucky enough to see lots of the rest of the world but each time I come back only confirms to me that it’s a very special place. It’s unique and I hope it stays that way.”
This positivity will be well used as the team finishes up their on-shore activities here in Auckland and prepares for Leg 5, the longest portion of the entire race. At 6,705 nautical miles this course through the Southern Ocean will have the boats facing “ocean swells the size of buildings, storm force winds, freezing temperatures as well as taking on Chile’s infamous Cape Horn.” The weather systems can produce winds of up to 60 knots — conditions that may set speed records in the race, but will also elevate safety concerns for everyone.
The Azzam, and the other entrants, will depart Auckland on Sunday March 18 (local time) to begin what is the second half of the race, and the next high seas adventure of the Volvo Ocean Race, and we look forward to hearing about their journey when they dock in Itajaí, on Brazil’s eastern coast.. As always our best wishes and thoughts go with them.
It has been exactly two months since we brought you news of the Azzam, the IWC sponsored entrant in the Volvo Ocean Race that is being helmed by the Abu Dhabi Ocean Team. In December we had bid them a successful journey as they tackled the second leg of the race from Capetown to Abu Dhabi, a distance of over 5000 miles.
The team at sea
We now rejoin Skipper Ian Walker and team after they’ve completed another 4600 miles on the third leg of the race, sailing from Abu Dhabi to the southern Chinese resort city of Sanya. After having won the first stage of Leg 3, they subsequently struggled to maintain that lead and arrived in Sanya on February 4 in fifth place. The path from the UAE to China’s coast took them a grueling 13 days, 3 hours, 5 minutes, and 6 seconds. It is a stage where tight and concentrated sailing is required, and where a passage through the Doldrums (the equatorial area where winds all but cease to exist) can further challenge a boat’s crew.
These challenges led to some frayed nerves on board, but the now 620 mile difference between Legs 3 and 4 caused Azzam Media Crew Member Nick Dana to comment: “Every once in a while you have to remind yourself that this was only a 12 day leg — we will have at least another week past this in the next leg.”
Coursing through challenging waters
Indeed, Leg 4 starts on February 19 with Azzam venturing from Sanya to Auckland, New Zealand at a distance of 5220 miles.
The Azzam crew celebrating their arrival in Sanya
While in Sanya the team can rest, work with the onshore team to make any needed repairs to the boat, and participate in in-port racing. They will then embark on the next leg with renewed vigor, as the race is still very much up for grabs. Dana’s sentiments during Leg 3 are as true now as then: “a crazy weather change for another boat and we would be right back amongst the leaders. That’s the beauty of this race.”
The Azzam being reviewed by the Onshore Team in Sanya
It is with this optimism that all of us at Schaffhausen wish Skipper Walker and the entire crew of the Azzam a prosperous onward voyage.