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Emirati sailor Adil Khalid has described the moment Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s rig came crashing down as the scariest moment of his life.

"When you are faced with a situation like this, you really see what you are made of. We handled it very well and I think that says a lot about the crew that has been put together"

Khalid, who at 23 years old is one of the Volvo Ocean Race’s youngest sailors, said his “heart was beating really fast” as the 31-metre mast broke into three pieces just six hours into Leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race.

“It was the scariest day of my life for sure,” said Khalid, who was chosen from more than 120 hopefuls to be the first ever Emirati to compete in the Volvo Ocean Race with Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.

“Being out at sea, in the dead of night, and having that happen... We were well drilled for the situation and behaved so calmly and professionally. However, your heart is beating really fast and you thank god everyone is safe.”

Disaster struck for the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team at 1915 UTC on Saturday when their Volvo Open 70 yacht Azzam fell off the back of a wave in violent seas around 30 miles southwest of Cartegena. They were just six hours and 84 nautical miles into the 6,500 nautical mile leg from Alicante to Cape Town.

During the recovery, carried out in total darkness, boat captain Wade Morgan had to jump into the sea to release the locks that keep the mainsail attached to the mast.

“Everyone was really inspirational, especially Wade,” Khalid said. “Getting in the water to cut away the rigging was very brave; I have a lot of respect for him. When you are faced with a situation like this, you really see what you are made of. We handled it very well and I think that says a lot about the crew that has been put together.”

The crew, led by British skipper Ian Walker, managed to recover the rig and motor back to Alicante before launching into a round-the-clock repair effort.

“The name of our yacht, Azzam, means determination, and that is what we all feel right now,” Khalid said. “We want to get back out on the water and give it 110 per cent. Of course, it is scary to think about it, so I try not to. What will happen will happen and we still want to win this race.”

Abu Dhabi’s replacement mast arrived in Alicante last night where a team of specialist riggers set about preparing it for racing. The team will also carry out a complete check of the boat’s hull, which was damaged during the recovery of the rig.

Walker told a press conference yesterday he hoped to be back in the race within three days.

 

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PAUL TODD/Volvo Ocean Race

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's yacht Azzam, skippered by Britain's Ian Walker, returns to Alicante, Spain after the mast broke in rough weather on the first day of racing on leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12.

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PAUL TODD/Volvo Ocean Race

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's yacht Azzam, skippered by Britain's Ian Walker, returns to Alicante, Spain after the mast broke in rough weather on the first day of racing on leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12.

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Nick Dana/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's yacht Azzam, skippered by Britain's Ian Walker, returns to Alicante, Spain after the mast broke in rough weather on the first day of racing on leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12.