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Volvo Ocean Inshore Race-Portsmouth

May 30, 2006 12:48 0 comments

Copyright David Branigan OceanSport

When ABN AMRO TWO decided to return to the water as a mark of respect for crewmate Hans Horrevoets, who died during Leg 7, they said the spirit of their lost friend would watch over them.

Today they had something hovering over them; a pigeon. It nested on the cockpit roughly one minute after the start and throughout two hours of crashing over a choppy sea to the west of the Isle of Wight, it remained perched. Seconds after the finishing canon sounded it flew away, having not missed a beat of the young crew’s race to a fourth place finish.

“Quite spooky really,” navigator Simon Fisher commented after his team-mates on ABN AMRO ONE claimed their fourth win in six In Port races. “But it was good, after everything that has happened, to get back on the water and do what we do. You’ve got to move on and keep on racing, that’s why we do this sport. Because of the recent events, we didn’t get any time to train before the race so it was really good to see the crew put in a solid performance today.”

Whether the pigeon protected their boat from some of the calamities that befell others on a fiercely tricky day is anyone’s guess, but in a race dictated by bad luck, any kind of talisman may have been appreciated.

Pirates, who finished second, certainly would have been grateful for some help. Having spotted a shift to the left of the course they got off to a flyer, sharing the lead with Brunel midway up the first beat and going into a solid lead at the first mark, but at the third mark Lady Luck turned her back on skipper Paul Cayard. More accurately she kicked him square in the keel.

“It was a bit of a problem with the buttons of the keel, the thing didn’t come across as fast as we wanted it to,” Justin Ferris explained. The boat gybed and at the same time a gust of 35 knots swept across the course and tore straight through their spinnaker; it was a similar keel problem which ruined their race around the cans in Cape Town. ABN AMRO ONE, at this stage 55 seconds astern, raced past and never looked like returning the favour.

Cayard added, “I’m not sure that we would ever really have held them off. We just had a good jump on them at the start, we went the right way, they all went the wrong way, but that thing (ABN AMRO ONE) is cancerous, it just keeps eating you up. All in all we did what we had to do which was beat Brasil 1. We didn’t have to beat Brasil 1, but it’s adding padding to our second place position and in the big scheme of things that’s what we’re trying to do.”

In the scheme of the race it didn’t have much affect on the performance either, as Ferris elaborated, “We actually came out of it quite well. The next run was quite light and our other spinnaker was a light air sheet so no real problems there; and the other run was a reach so it didn’t hurt us too much for the rest of the race.”

Mike Sanderson, skipper of the race winner both today and overall, wasn’t convinced his crew needed that break to win this race anyway. He said, “It was only on the first leg, three to go, who knows, another opportunity may have popped up later.

“We sailed this race extremely well.” The Kiwi, celebrating his thirty-fifth birthday today, added. “This one once again belongs to the boys. We had fantastic crew work, a couple of nice gybes at key times and we had to dig our way back after Pirates got the lead.

“It was nice to go out and the boys gave me a great birthday present. We had to fight hard for that one; it was a crew work day not a boat speed day. We gybed the masthead chute in 35 knots, the Pirates tried the same and wiped out; we pulled it off.”

But it wasn’t just the Pirates suffering in the fluky conditions, which one moment threw 35 knots at the fleet and the next just six. Ericsson, which finished fifth, was also jinxed as it passed the third mark and began the run downwind.

Neal McDonald, the skipper, explained what happened when they went from flat out running to cutting their spinnaker loose. “During a hoist the spinnaker caught on the lifelines, blew out very quickly and one little rip turns into a massive rip.

“Not a great day, but that’s sailing. Once we lost our downwind spinnaker it left a big gap in our inventory and we were really battling.

“It’s not unusual to see gusty conditions around here and unfortunately they got the better of us today.”

The misfortune of Ericsson nearly allowed Brunel to claim a high-profile scalp, but their own damages ensured the chance eluded them. By the time Grant Wharington’s yacht crossed the finish line just one boat length separated McDonald’s stern from the modified Australian yacht’s bow, but it could have been the other way. Wharington explained, “We had a fantastic start, but unfortunately we dropped one of the daggerboards through the top bearing first time we tacked. The board went down a lot faster than we had in the past and it sheered off the board stopper.

“We actually thought our race was over because once it goes down it’s virtually impossible to get it back out. You have to drop the jib and stop the boat. We were higher and faster than Pirates at the time, very frustrating.

“That would have been nice to beat Ericsson, they only had us by a boat length. We had a couple of chances, but we just couldn’t get it right. We lost so much time at the start; I think we could have been first or second round the top mark.

“It is encouraging to see the modifications we made in Australia coming into effect. Racing with Pirates there was very little between us, that wouldn’t have happened with the old yacht. But today was always going to be tough, there were 100 degree wind shifts which didn’t make life easy.”

One team which didn’t seem to struggle was Brasil 1. Their results are rarely spectacular, but at the same time they are never poor. Today they recorded third place and made bronze medal overall look even more likely, a tremendous achievement for a country entering a round the world race for the first time, utilising a limited budget.

Marcello Ferreira said, “It was a tough race, but top three is always very good. It will be hard to get to Pirates, but we will play the last two legs and do our best. Third place overall is good for Brazil so we are happy.”

Skipper Torben Grael added, “I’m quite happy, it is a very good result. The shifts and pressures made a huge difference on the laylines, and both were going up and down all day.

“They look quite far ahead and sailing well to be honest. To get close to them they have to make a mistake. Maybe we need some luck.”

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