TEAM ABN AMRO | VOLVO OCEAN RACE | Baltimore | Annapolis - U.S.A.
Technical analysis: Not an ABN AMRO day by James Boyd of the Daily Sail 29 April 2006
Despite it being a perfect, sunny Saturday afternoon with an enormous spectator fleet afloat to watch the action, the light sub-10 knot breeze on the Chesapeake Bay proved not to the liking for ABN AMRO ONE and TWO, finishing sixth and fifth respectively in today’s in-port race.
Due to the extensive shallows of the Chesapeake Bay, racing was held in the middle of this massive inland harbour some two hours motoring for the boats from the Volvo Ocean Race village in Baltimore.
Albeit on this occasion with the impressive Chesapeake Bay Bridge as a backdrop, today’s race was comparable to the very first in-port race in Sanxenxo, also held in very light conditions with a similarly bad result for TEAM ABN AMRO. However, for ABN AMRO ONE skipper Mike Sanderson it was not nearly as disappointing. “Sanxenxo was the first race in the regatta. Here it was all pretty much as expected. It was just a really frustrating day. After 2.5 hours of racing we were about 1.5 miles behind - and that’s where we expected to be.”
An expected result given the conditions
While TEAM ABN AMRO’s Juan Kouyoumdjian-designed boats are optimised for medium to heavy conditions, their Farr-designed competition sail best in light to medium conditions. The crossover is believed to be in 10-12 knots of wind – more than was on offer today on the Chesapeake Bay.
The 1300 local time (17:00 GMT) start saw the strongest breeze and also the strangest beginning to all the in-port races so far. With the south-flowing ebb tide in the Bay running against them for the upwind legs, teams had identified the right hand side of the course as being most favoured as here the negative effect of the tide would be less. Thus while the rest of the boats made the start on starboard tack, i.e. heading out to the left, Ericsson charged across to the right behind all the boats and became the first to gain the benefit of the right.
For the ABN AMRO boats the start proved tricky. ABN AMRO ONE’s ability to get right was hampered, Mike Sanderson said, by a “little miscommunication." Meanwhile, ABN AMRO TWO was furthest right on the line but they were unable to tack first when one of the daggerboard control lines jammed.
From soon after the start, the tone was set with ABN AMRO ONE wallowing her way around the course just ahead of the Dutch Brunel team. They returned to the race in much revised form for the first time since the in-port race in Melbourne.
Thanks to the light conditions ABN AMRO ONE lost more and more ground to her Farr-designed rivals, a position that got steadily worse when the wind dropped off to six knots for the final beat and five for the last leg, as the Race Committee chose to shorten the race course. “To be honest I thought this was going to happen. I said it on the dock before we left,” said Sanderson.
After their dramatic start, Ericsson led around the first mark but approaching the downwind mark they were ‘engaged’ by Paul Cayard’s Pirates of the Caribbean team in the process, not only letting movistar into the lead. But during this scuffle in the most dramatic moment of today’s race, Brasil 1 was able to gain three places moving up from fifth place to second. This happened as she, Ericsson and Pirates rounded the downwind mark in quick succession.
ABN AMRO TWO, having rounded the first mark in the fourth position, dropped to fifth. Despite a good contest with Ericsson on the final run, culminating in the tack of the spinnaker coming away from the bowsprit on their very last gybe, they were unable to better this.
A winning day for the Farr boats
“It did turn into Farr boat weather on the last lap,” admitted ABN AMRO TWO navigator Simon Fisher. “The first few laps were really good and we were in the mix and we got to the right side and we were going well. But the last lap it went light and we got Ericsson and then they got ahead and they beat us by a length and a half.”
On ABN AMRO TWO they were also resigned to it not being an ABN AMRO day, but there was a homey feeling on board having their original crew back. “It is nice to be back with the team we did all our training with. We had our preferred squad with Johnny (Gerd Jan Poortman) on the bow and Bicey (Nick Bice) in the middle,” said Simon Fisher. “It was life as normal. So everyone was very relaxed and focussed on their job. We struggled a bit in the light air, but that is a fact of life with our boats.” In finishing fifth, ABN AMRO TWO have sadly lost third place overall in the Volvo Ocean Race to Pirates of the Caribbean, by just half a point.
ABN AMRO ONE retains their lead
For ABN AMRO ONE, despite today’s result, they still hold a commanding lead of 63.5 points overall, 19.5 ahead of second-placed movistar, today’s winner.
“To be fair I don’t think we were quick enough to have got on the podium today, but maybe we could have got a little bit closer,” concluded Sanderson as they motored home. “We have to keep our chin up. We still have a 20 point lead or something. We can’t expect to go a knot faster than everyone coming into Fernando and also win in seven knots of breeze. At this level it is a game of trade-offs. I still wouldn’t swap with anyone.”
ABN AMRO TWO takes fifth and ONE takes sixth in Baltimore 29 April 2006
Although the day was sunny and warm for the fleet, the light winds meant that ABN AMRO TWO came in fifth place and ABN AMRO ONE in sixth in the Baltimore in-port race. The boats are now heading back to port from Annapolis.
The sailors of ABN AMRO ONE and TWO expressed a little nervousness about the expected conditions before the start today. The sailors knew that at the start of the race at 1:00 p.m. local time (17:00 GMT) there were expected winds of about ten knots. But they also knew these winds would drop to below nine knots by the middle of the race, which would be a challenge for the wider ABN AMRO ONE and TWO boats which were built more for offshore conditions.
Skipper Mike Sanderson had this mixed forecast. "This is going to be a pretty tough day for us. The boat felt a little bit funky yesterday when we went out sailing."
Predictions at the start
Navigator Stan Honey said before the race started that "the forecast seems to indicate it is on the light side, which might not be the best for us."
Rob Greenhalgh was watching from the water. He said before the start, "anything can happen. These are not our ideal conditions."
Justin Slattery said that the crew has been sailing as much as they can in the Chesapeake Bay to get used to the conditions. "Everything sub-eight knots we find quite challenging. In Rio we had over eight knots," when crew ONE came in first place. This is his fourth time in Baltimore, and said every time it has been rough going given the fickle winds in the bay. "There are still 40 points to go before the end of the race."
Sanderson concluded that "today we just want to do the boat and the team justice. We'll do what we can in the breeze. That does not mean we will win, but we keep working to get the best out of the boat and crew."
Lucas Brun said that the crew was prepared, "physically and mentally. We have been going to the gym, to build up our strength. We have been ready for this in-port race. We are very motivated, and are getting better and better." In the end, crew TWO came in ahead of their older brothers crew ONE.
Skipper Sebastien Josse warned naysayers not to write his crew off. "They may be young but they are very good."
Two boats get some structural healing 25 April
As with every other stopover, the TEAM shore crew has two boats to ready for their next in-port race and leg departure. Boat captain Neil Cox explains. “Every part is examined from the top of the mast to the bottom of the keel. This is to make sure they are as good as new and up to the challenges ahead. So while the sailors take a break, the shore crew steps in.”
The sailors have had a week off, but this week has been put to good use. The boats were pulled out of the water. And as with other stopovers, the shore crew has adapted itself to the changing conditions of each upcoming leg. Cox explains. “As always, there is plenty to do. For us, fortunately, there is nothing too structural. The boats had a pretty good run up from Rio to here.” What the crew has done this time around, says Cox, is to shave some extra weight off the keel. This is typical of the shore team, who try to think in advance and anticipate upcoming conditions.
Cox tries to plan ahead as much as possible. "The white boat was at its maximum weight limit, so we wanted to put a kilo or two up on it. That gives us the ability to do more work on the boat without having to remove lead out of the bulb to compensate for that later."
As for now, “we got a chance to catch up on a lot of cosmetic work in general. The boats had a great run.” The boats will go to water again on Wednesday after all the sailors return from vacation.
What makes a good shore crew?
TEAM ABN AMRO isn’t the only team doing this kind of work. Every syndicate makes its choices, what to work on whilst their boat is in port. “There is someone doing our job in every other team. As long as we are doing as well or better, we are giving our guys the best chance possible,” says Cox.
Cox is very proud of the TEAM shore crew. "Everyone down here is on fire! We've had a very quick turnaround on these boats." The ABN AMRO TWO went back on the water on Monday 24 April, a half day ahead of schedule. ABN AMRO ONE will go back on the water in the morning of Wednesday 26 April, right on time.
Despite a shore crew that makes the work seem so easy, the race can be a long one, especially given the long preparation period leading up to the start. “You have to know there is light at the end of the tunnel. This race is not for the rest of your life. It helps when the boats are doing well, morale is quite high," says Cox.
But does having two boats mean there is twice the work? “It has been not twice as much work, but sometimes four times as much work! But by now we are at a stage where we’re deep enough in the race where the boats are stabilizing themselves.”
The beginning, he said, was much harder when more things had to be repaired, and the entire crew was getting to know the new technology. “We are just servicing the boats now. When we got to that stage, the workload got lighter.”
Port Log 81: One size fits all 20 April
By Carlos ‘Lua’ Mauro - TEAM ABN AMRO in Baltimore
Since the time when part of the industrial revolution decided that human beings fell into a pre-determined physical dimensional grid and started to produce clothes of pre-established sizes, the differences between we humans have considerably diminished.
Or they have become less perceptible, to say the least. Except for the rare and extreme examples like some sophisticated Italian shoe manufacturers (which introduced the half-size-in-between for shoe sizes, or the everyday more uncommon ‘made to measurement’, we have turned into a society that has to happily adjust between S and XL.
The impressively big small details
Then it is left up to people’s personalities and behaviors - the duty to demarcate the differences, even when disguised in capital letters which mercilessly hide or reveal attributes.
In a sailing boat, in such a spectacular and exciting competition as the Volvo Ocean Race, it is also the small details. These are in the beginning of little significance or strategically concealed, those differences which make the big difference, even when the rules impose codes and limits that go from precise S's to concise XL's.
Sizes and weights of hulls, rigging and sails are determined and constantly scrutinized. The number in the crew is established, everything has to respect the limits and fit in the constituted matrix, but…(there is always a “but”, isn’t that right?) it is exactly there that enters the planning, the preparation, the talent and so on.
Homogeneous and hegemonic
This is what we saw in this leg. Since it left Rio until it got to Baltimore, it was was not even abundant in different conditions of breeze. This presented unique opportunities to be fully exploited.
The weather system with its lows and highs dictated the rhythm of the fleet. The navigator’s strategies were all based on how to anticipate the moments. Some managed to avoid then the traps and vanished in the lead, as was the case of ABN AMRO ONE. She was followed by movistar on an almost constant thirty something miles of difference during the last days. It was an amazing demonstration of control by the crew in the Dutch boat, that everyday shows a little bit more the quality of their so homogeneous talents. Leg, after leg, after leg, maintaining a pace that is both constant and colossal, indefatigable and unreachable.
The other boats, for diffrent reasons of choice or lack of luck, were left well behind, including ABN AMRO TWO. Crew TWO had been, up until this point, the most positive and welcomed surprise of the 2005-2006 edition of the Volvo Ocean Race. The 'kids' from TEAM ABN AMRO remained parked in a windless hole and lost the “Weather Express”, being forced to rely on a secnd generation of frontal systems. But they did not lose their “Fighting Mode” and promise to return to fight for their so well-kept second place overall.
There are four legs, three in port races and one scoring gate to be sorted out until the arrival estimated for June 17 in Gothenburg. In total there are a maximum of 42 points to be conquered, for us to know the three podium occupants. A podium made to measurement to be shared by only three crews while reserving the top spot for the one that exceeded in all aspects. The campaign that will serve as a model and that will be reference and measurement to be copied during the next four years.