Volvo Ocean Race fleet hit first choppy waters; Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing take lead

Gusts of 30 knots hammered the yachts off the coast of northwest Africa through Tuesday as the Volvo Ocean Race continued along its first leg to South Africa.

Justin Slattery, left, and Luke Parkinson, right, of Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing sailing aboard the Azzam during the first leg of the 2014/15 Volvo Ocean Race. Matt Knighton / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing / October 13, 2014
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As Tuesday turned into Wednesday and the Volvo Ocean Race reached the roughly 10 per cent of the way to Cape Town on the first leg of the round-the-world competition, the fleet was recovering from the first bout of rough weather, off the coast of Morocco, in the Atlantic Ocean.

On the Volvo Ocean Race website, Team Vestas Wind's on-board reporter, Brian Carlin, compared the conditions thusly: "It's like World War 1 here."

By the mid-morning position report on Wednesday, Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam had taken the lead, 1.7 nautical miles ahead of Chinese team Dongfeng, sailing at 12 knots. Through most of Tuesday, though, that speed hovered around 4-5 knots as the fleet fought against strong headwinds.

Pictures trickling in from the race revealed battered sailors, dark skies and plenty of ocean spray.

Spanish team Mapfre’s Francisco Vignale reported “gusts of 30 knots” and Team Brunel’s Stefan Coppers wrote of searching for “my seasickness pills”.

On Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing's Facebook page, skipper Ian Walker relayed that, once night fell, "it was so black you could barely see the end of your nose on deck.

“Until this hideous sea state dies down we won’t be able to get any sleep. I am always glad to have everything and everybody in one piece after nights like this one.”

Eventually, early Wednesday, it did die down, everything and everybody apparently still intact as Azzam had sailed into the lead on their way to South Africa.

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