Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing believe they are 99 per cent certain to rejoin the action in Saturday's DHL In-Port Race Itajaí after their shore crew worked flat out to complete a complex repair to both sides of their Volvo Open 70.
The shore team have worked around the clock since Azzam arrived by cargo ship yesterday from Puerto Montt in Chile where Ian Walker’s crew were forced to pull in after sustaining structural damage in the Southern Ocean on Leg 5.
A relieved Walker said he was “99 per cent certain” of making it to the start line on time and paid tribute to the dedication and hard work of the shore crew who he hoped to reward for their effort with a victory on Saturday.
“They have done an amazing job and now it is the turn of the sailing crew to put in a good performance and try and get us back in the action with a win,” he said.
Abu Dhabi shore crew boss Mike Danks said the repair work had begun with cutting a section of the boat’s inside skin away to try establish the reason for the problem.
“We put a mould on the outside of the boat to stabilise the outside skin so then we could cut the inside skin away and find out CSI style what had actually caused the issue with the boat,” he said.
When investigations proved inconclusive, Danks said the decision was made to cut away the damaged area and replace the honeycomb Nomex core with new sections of solid foam pre-shaped to match the hull shape, flown in from Italy.
“Last night the guys cut it away from the inside and vacuumed some foam in to replace the core,” he said. “Then, in the early hours of the morning they laminated the inside skin back on to the boat.
“The hull is back intact now and we are touching up the paint work on the outside of the hull. We just have a couple of frames to put back into the inside of the boat which we had to cut away to get to the damaged area.”
Danks admitted it was frustrating not to have identified the exact cause of the problem but said he was confident the repair had toughened up the boat considerably.
“Definitely the boat will be stronger in that area and we hope we have eliminated the problem for whatever reason it happened,” he said.
“It just one of those things that could be a combination of everything -- a bit of design, a bit of the build, a bit of sailing the boat too hard -- you can’t blame anyone for anything, it’s just a bit of everything I think.”
Danks praised the herculean effort of the shore crew which had been boosted by some specialist boat builders from the UK.
“The guys have been glamours,” he said. “We have got five extra guys in to help us and they have just been outstanding. They have all put their hands up and everyone has just got on with it.
“We went hard last night to try and nail it down and get ahead of the game so we could get on with the boat maintenance and get the boat into measurement trim and ready to go racing on Saturday.”
Danks said final touches were being made to the repair this afternoon after which the team planned to step their mast in time to be ready to race tomorrow.