March 18, 2012

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) -- Abu Dhabi's faltering campaign in the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race endured another setback Sunday when skipper Ian Walker was forced to suspend racing six hours into the fifth leg with major equipment failure.

A bulkhead for a key sail broke off its mounting after the fifth-placed boat crashed into a huge wave while sailing out toward the Southern Ocean. The boat returned to Auckland for repairs as the rest of the fleet navigated toward stormy conditions having only left the New Zealand port earlier on Sunday to start the leg.

Earlier, the last-placed yacht in the Volvo Ocean Race, China's Sanya, led the six-boat fleet out of Auckland's Waitemata Harbor at the start of the leg to Brazil.

Sanya won the start off downtown Auckland, led through an in-harbor loop, then turned in the lead as the yachts steered toward New Zealand's East Cape.

Abu Dhabi has struggled from the first day of the race in October, when it was forced to pull out of the first leg with a broken mast.

It won an in-port race in front of their home fans in the United Arab Emirates during the third stopover but has otherwise struggled in the longer stages that carry the most points.

The latest setback is expected to take around 24 hours to fix.

The rest of the fleet was expected to sail into strong winds and heavy seas soon after leaving Auckland in a foretaste of the stormy waters of the Southern Ocean on the 6,700 nautical mile leg to Itajai in Brazil.

Spain's Telefonica leads the race after five legs ahead of France's Groupama and the New Zealand yacht Camper.

The race is scheduled to finish in Galway, Ireland, on July 8 - nine months and more than 39,000 nautical miles after setting out from Alicante, Spain.

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