The decision leaves four of the fleet of six still racing the first stage, the 6,500-nautical mile leg from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town. Team Sanya also pulled out of Leg 1 after suffering substantial damage to the boat's hull on Sunday. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing will now sail to Lisbon, Portugal with an expected arrival time of Saturday evening. Their boat, Azzam, will then be shipped to Cape Town to arrive around November 28. The decision will give the team suitable time to ensure the boat, the team and its rigging are 100 percent ready for the Cape Town In-Port on December 10.
An Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing spokesperson said: "Despite the heroics performed by the shore crew in getting our yacht Azzam re-masted after it was damaged last week in high seas and strong winds, the team believes that the estimated arrival time in Cape Town would be counter-productive for its preparations for Leg 2, especially given the almost windless prevailing weather conditions in the Mediterranean.
"Azzam's mast and rigging system have not been compromised and the decision is purely one of time management. Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing is steadfast in its commitment to return to the race from Cape Town," the spokesperson said.
The points for the first leg will now be shared out between Groupama sailing team, whose decision to take the road less travelled near the coast of Africa looks increasingly smart, and their three rivals out in the west – Team Telefónica, PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG, and CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand, who briefly flirted with the coast before siding with the majority.
Groupama appear to be sitting pretty with a lead of 237 nautical miles over Telefónica as of the early afternoon position report, but they are aware that some or all of their lead could yet disappear if they do not manage to avoid a long spell in the windless area at the eastern end of the Doldrums.
All four teams were travelling at roughly similar speeds around 14 knots on Friday afternoon but the three boats to the west were just waiting for a high pressure ridge that will let them turn south at speeds of 20-25 knots and start clawing back the miles.
ABU DHABI RETIRES FROM LEG 1 VNR
00:10-00:32 QUOTE – Ian Walker, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
“My competitive fighting spirit was saying don’t give up, don’t give up and fight for everyone point and go to Cape Town but I guess my level-headed business mind was saying that there’s a heck of a lot of investment in this project to risk it all for the sake of 10 points. I think we have to go to a different rigging solution in Cape Town and, of course, that will be new on the boat and we’d have to go through the process. There will be question marks but it’s probably the lesser of two evils.”
00:32-00:46 GVs of Ian Walker on-board/ Close-Up rigging & mast
00:46-00:52 Close-Up of navigation station
00:52-00:56 Cutting the engine seal (to start engine and officially retire officially from leg)
00:56-02:18 QUOTE – Ian Walker, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
“Well, we’ve been agonizing now for a couple of days, because we knew when we left Alicante we were not 100 percent. We knew that we haven’t fully isolated why our mast fell down and couldn’t pin it on anything and hand-on-heart that it wouldn’t happen again. So we had to weigh up the risk of carrying on and obviously everyone wanted to carry on and get the points. That’s what we came to do is sail around the world and that’s what everyone wants to do, but we have to marry that up with the potential risk of doing further damage and putting the boat out of the race. This is our last mast. It’s not just a question of this leg. Had it been this leg, I think we would have nursed this boat and got to Cape Town, but what became very evident was that it was going to take the better part of a week to replace our rigging in Cape Town so its become a race against time to get to Cape Town. If we don’t get to Cape Town a week before the start then we don’t actually solve anything and we would be having all the same doubts before heading off into the Indian Ocean – so very regrettably we’ve decided that we need to try and get back into control of our own destiny by shipping the boat to Cape Town and replacing the rigging so we can leave Cape Town 100% and it’s the best chance of winning this race and the best chance of getting back amongst it.”
02:18-03:04 QUOTE – Wade Morgan, Sailor, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing
“It’s obviously pretty hard, no one signs up to do an around the world race and don’t want to get around the world. That’s first of all. Second of all, out of all the legs, this is one of the better ones. Pretty cool leg. Where we are now, we’re sailing along now, we have the rig up. They just decided that the best way to move forward and to still win the race was to fix as soon as possible. There’s well up to 200 points up for grabs at the moment, six of them are gone that’s 36 points at the end of this leg that will have been handed out.”
“It’s disappointing, but you also need to be prudent and do the right thing. The race, as you say, it’s a long race. You have to move forward and consider all the options.”
03:04-03:31 GVs – Sailing at Sunset
03:31-03:41 END SLATE