Injury forces Azzam to consider change to Volvo Ocean Race crew

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing are considering a change to their crew after it transpired one Azzam member broke his hand during the second leg from Cape Town to Abu Dhabi.
The Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew sail Azzam towards the UAE capital during the final stages of the Volvo Ocean Race second leg. Ian Roman/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.
The Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crew sail Azzam towards the UAE capital during the final stages of the Volvo Ocean Race second leg. Ian Roman/Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing.

ABU DHABI // Azzam is likely to join three competitors in a crew change before the six surviving boats of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet depart Abu Dhabi for China on Saturday.

Squad rotation was a topic discussed by the skippers yesterday and, in some ways, it exposes the demands the nine-month, round-the-world race makes on reduced crews.

The all-woman Team SCA had always planned to rotate crew from a squad of 18.

Team Dong Feng is keen to give several Chinese nationals experience in the “Everest of sailing” and are changing out one of the two Chinese. The boat also will see Martin Stromberg replaced by Jack Boutell, who fulfils the requirement of one under-30 sailor on the boat.

Mapfre’s skipper, Iker Martinez, is passing up Leg 3 to train for the 2016 Olympics with fellow Spaniard Xabi Fernandez to replace him.

Azzam, the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing entry, may make a change because of an injury, and as soon as today.

“One of our crew broke his hand leaving Cape Town,” Azzam skipper Ian Walker said. “He sailed the last leg with a broken hand and wasn’t very well either so we’ve been waiting to see how he recovers. We’ll be looking at that.”

If the change is made, Azzam will be able to call on one of four reserves who have trained and sailed with the crew, pre-race, and fulfil the logistical requirements of the race committee to be part of the crew.

Race organisers reduced the crew from 10, in the 2011/12 race, to eight for the current edition, as a cost-cutting move.

Team Brunel, the Dutch entry that shares the race lead with Azzam and Dong Feng, hopes to keep the same crew through the 39,000-nautical-mile race.

“We have a fantastic team and I trust the guys we have,” skipper Bouwe Bekking said.

“If I had other guys in the team I would have picked them but I think this is the right approach. It’s what we know from previous races that the guys who stayed together came top.”

Before the race, Azzam’s skipper said he hoped his crew could stay together but conceded the stresses and hardships of the race might make a change unavoidable. “It is a thing that has gone through our minds a lot,” Walker said.

“We’ve never ruled it out. You could argue this both ways. It’s great having the same guys, where you learn and improve together.

“History shows the team that wins the race very often keeps the same people but that’s a little bit of a myth.

“They do that because they’re having a good time and they are winning so they don’t need to make changes. They are probably the team that has done the best training before.

“There is a very good argument for a squad system, as well. This race is brutal on the body and mind and we’d all love to have a month of just eating, going to the gym and getting ready. You would be stronger and fresher for the following leg.

“I am a little bit old-fashioned and think that people want to do every leg. But maybe that is a mistake and we should be saved from ourselves.”

Email: osamiuddin@thenational.ae

Published: December 31, 2014 04:00 AM

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