Ian Walker's crew was forced to carry out a mid-sea repair to Azzam after discovering structural problems with the boat's hull on March 30. At the time, they were around 1,700 nautical miles from land. Slowing the boat to stop further damage, Abu Dhabi changed course and headed for land, and at 0400 GMT today were just over 80 nm from Puerto Montt.
With gales and 10-metre seas forecast in the vicinity of Cape Horn for the next four days, skipper Ian Walker said their decision was the only logical option.
"As skipper, my overriding responsibility is the safety of Azzam and her crew and this is always at the forefront of my mind," Walker said.
"The Southern Ocean is one part of the world you do not want to head out into with a yacht that is not 100 per cent. We have carefully reviewed all our options, spoken with our build teams and weather experts and this was the only logical choice available to us."
Abu Dhabi first discovered the damage to the mid-section of the port side of Azzam's hull on March 29 while sailing in typical Southern Ocean conditions. The crew carried out a mid-sea repair in 35 knots and four-metre seas, drilling 30 bolts through the hull to reinforce the damaged section.
Despite the team's efforts, it was decided the repair was not strong enough to take on the remaining 3,000 nm of the leg. Walker said the delivery of Azzam to Itajaí would allow them to return to racing at full strength for the in-port racing on April 21.
Abu Dhabi were also forced to return to Auckland a few hours into Leg 5 after landing heavily off a huge wave and damaging a bulkhead in the bow of the boat. A monumental round-the-clock effort from their shore team saw them back out on the racetrack around 12 hours later.
CAMPER with Emirates Team New Zealand arrived in Puerto Montt at 2240 UTC on Tuesday after suspending racing earlier in the day. They plan to repair their boat before resuming racing and finishing Leg 5 in Itajaí.
Meanwhile, leg leaders, Groupama (Franck Cammas/FRA) and PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG (Ken Read/USA) have ended their duel as Team Telefónica (Iker Martínez/ESP) enters the fight for a leg win in Itajaí, just 657 nm ahead. The Spanish team suspended racing for 17 hours on April 1 to carry out repairs to structural damage and have since made a spectacular comeback.
At 1000 GMT today, Telefónica had closed to within 55.5 nm of Groupama 4, who took a 3.8 nm lead over PUMA at 0400 GMT, and extended it to 6.9 nm at 1000 GMT. Maintaining a course 183 nm off the Argentine coast, Telefónica were 135 nm to leeward of the frontrunners and sailing close-hauled. The leading trio were all averaging 11 to 12 knots