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Abu Dhabi entry resumes Volvo round the world race


The Abu Dhabi entry has set off, for the second time, on the first leg of the  Volvo round the world race from Alicante to Cape Town. A replacement mast fitted, every conceivable test completed, just before six o’clock in the early dark of the evening, British skipper Ian Walker cast off the lines and motored out of the race village, El Volvo, to give chase to the other four boats already out in the Atlantic.

Last Saturday, just over five hours into the race, the original mast had crumpled into three pieces and the yacht had turned round to motor back. A lorry carrying the spare mast, along with another owned by the Spanish team Telefonica, stopped on its way to Madrid Airport, where both were to be flown to a storage facility at Amsterdam’s Schipol airport.

Abu Dhabi’s mast was transferred to another truck and driven back to Alicante, where the crew has been working to attach all the fittings to the replacement.

Technical experts from the Valencia-based builder, Future Masts, have examined every last detail to find the cause of the breakage, not least to be sure that the same thing didn’t happen again.

No cause has been announced – doubtless the insurance assessors are very keen to keep that to themselves – but Walker and his team must be confident enough to take on the 6,500 miles. On Sunday, Walker said he felt they could still win the race to Cape Town.

He has been lucky in that the four ahead of him have been moving much more slowly than they would have expected. And they, too, could suffer bad luck of their own.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Spain’s Telefonica was leading by less than five miles from the American-flagged Puma with France’s Groupama, which has taken off on its own, south along the African coast, third by 15 miles.

The second Spanish boat, Camper, managed by Team New Zealand, was fourth by over 60 miles, still paying the price for changing from a southerly strategy to a westerly.

The other casualty of war, China’s Team Sanya, is being lifted out of the water at Motril, southern Spain, trucked to Gibraltar on Friday and then shipped on Sunday to Cape Town for the completion of repairs to its badly damaged bow.

A whole new section of carbon fibre panelling will then be fitted and skipper Mike Sanderson hopes that there will be at least one day to put the boat and crew through its paces ahead of the inshore race.

It will then be able to start leg two to Abu Dhabi, the course for which has yet to be revealed. The boats will race to a “safe haven” in the west of the Indian Ocean, stop, be shipped to a restart port, widely expected to be Muscat, Oman, and will then complete the course.

The change has been made to avoid the risk of the boats and crews being taken by pirates largely operating out of Somalia. It is expected that the split course will be as long as the straightforward original. A similar arrangement will be put in place for the third leg to Sanya on Hainan Island.

Alex Thomson and Guillermo Altadil have put their 60-foot Hugo Boss firmly into second place in the Transat Jacques Vabre doublehanded race from Le Havre to Costa Rica.

They are just 10 miles behind the French leaders Jean-Pierre Dick and Jérémie Beyou in Virbac-Paprec with Armel le Cléach and Christopher Pratt 140 miles behind the leader in third. Moving up to fourth are Mike Golding and Bruno Dubois in Gamesa, a further 40 miles astern.

The American sailor Anna Tunnicliffe and the Spanish pair now taking part in the Volvo, Iker Martinez and Xabi Fernandez, have been named female and male Rolex world sailors of the year by the International Sailing Federation.