SOUTHAMPTON skipper Ian Walker suffered disappointment in the Volvo Ocean Race after Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing had to retire from the gruelling Southern Ocean Leg 5.

The team were forced to take the course of action in order to carry out urgent repairs to their yacht, Azzam, and ensure they are in a position to be competitive for the final four legs of the global sailing event.

"As skipper my overriding responsibility is the safety of Azzam and her crew and this is always at the forefront of my mind," said Walker.

"The Southern Ocean is one part of the world you do not want to head out into with a yacht that is not 100 per cent.

"We have carefully reviewed all our options, spoken with our build teams and weather experts and this was the only sensible choice available to us.

"Of course we are devastated. However the team is fully motivated and will once again show a fighting spirit to get Azzam back sailing competitively as soon as possible."

The crew had first noticed hull delamination on Thursday, March 29, when Azzam was sailing against 35-knot winds and four-metre swells in the Southern Ocean.

Despite remedial at-sea repairs being carried out by the team, the boat was not deemed safe to tackle the forecasted hurricane winds off Cape Horn.

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing are now heading to Puerto Montt on the West Coast of Chile. A major repair and shipping operation is being put into effect to ensure that the team and race yacht will be ready to compete in the Volvo Ocean Race's In-Port Race in Itajai, Brazil, on April 21.

For all the top sailing news, see Sail Solent in Thursday's Southern Daily Echo.