The Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team rejoined the Volvo Ocean Race Thursday after a dismasting last weekend forced them to suspend racing just hours into the first leg of the marathon race around the world.
However, their stay in the race didn't last long as the team pulled out Friday.
"This has been one of the hardest decisions of my life to make but I have to consider not only the safety of the crew but the long-term interests of the project," Walker told The Capitol newspaper by satellite phone from the boat. "This is only the first leg of a long race and with this decision and a lot of hard work we can be race ready for leg two."
The mast broke as the team’s Volvo Open 70, Azzam, bashed through 15-foot seas in 30-knot winds off the Straits of Gibraltar.
“[We] came off a huge wave,” Azzam skipper Ian Walker says. “I knew there was going to be problems because my feet left the deck. So the boat was just falling, and when we landed the mast kept going. It’s hard to say how upset we are, really. It’s been like 16 months of work, and four or five hours into the race the whole thing falls down around us.”
The yachts had gotten under way Nov. 5 from Alicante, Spain, and were bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
Click play to watch video of the ordeal.
Crewmember Wade Morgan, making his Volvo Ocean Race debut, donned a survival suit and a life jacket and went into the water to recover the mainsail and rig in conditions the team described as “violent.”
No one was hurt, and the team motored back to Alicante, where the shore crew worked around the clock to make repairs and step a new mast.
The Volvo Ocean Race — formerly the Whitbread Round the World Race — is a nine-month circumnavigation that covers 39,000 nautical miles. Six yachts are competing, and the fleet will stop in Cape Town; Abu Dhabi; Sanya (China); Auckland (New Zealand); Itajaí (Brazil); Miami; Lisbon (Portugal); and Lorient (France) before finishing in Galway (Ireland) in July.
This story was updated Friday to reflect Abu Dhabi's pulling out of the race.