Official Supporter of TEAM ABN AMRO in the Volvo Ocean Race

TEAM ABN AMRO | VOLVO OCEAN RACE | Leg 8 | Portsmouth - Rotterdam - The Netherlands

Warm welcome for ABN AMRO TWO

10 June 2006
by James Boyd of the Daily Sail

After a superb performance by ABN AMRO ONE, so leg eight was a disappointment for Seb Josse’s crew on ABN AMRO TWO. The white boat just not enjoying the light conditions on this 1,500 mile long, laboriously slow lap of the British Isles. The white boat crossed the Rotterdam finish line at 12:47GMT in sixth place after 7 days 20 hours 17 minutes and 51 seconds at sea, just over an hour after Brunel.

“When we sail it is to race and we want to win and we give it the max every time, so when we finish last it is not happy days,” said Josse upon his arrival this afternoon. “Every race you learn more and the boats sail faster and faster and on this leg in less than 10 knots of wind it was not good for us.”

One of the most crucial moments for ABN AMRO TWO on this leg was coming into the Irish coast alongside the Pirates of the Caribbean and ABN AMRO ONE. “We went a little too far inshore at daybreak and the guys outside us snuck round us,” described navigator Simon Fisher. “So we got stopped for a bit and the others got ahead and then the wind built and the black boat was just launched.”
Then around the north of Scotland, as the lead group ABN AMRO ONE, Ericsson and Brasil 1 were able to break away, so the trio of ABN AMRO TWO, Brunel and Pirates of the Caribbean were simply left standing. Seb Josse describes what happened: “When we started to go down [the North Sea], we had the tide with us but the tide killed the wind and it killed us at the same time and fleet A started to leave us. I am disappointed by that because normally that situation is better for people at the back, but that is part of life.”

Their passage through the Pentland Firth between the top of Scotland and the Orkney Islands was dramatic, the white boat being sucked through by an immensely powerful tide. “We had a three or four hours where we weren’t actually pointing in any particular direction, in thick fog, now wind and being sucked out at pac, like being a cork getting sucked down the plug hole,” recalled Fisher.

To add insult to injury in the North Sea even the boats in their own group started to leave them. “When the Pirates got away from us they must have only been a mile ahead and they ended up in 7 knots and we were stuck in four. And it was a similar thing with Brunel. It was all a bit frustrating. But that’s yacht racing I guess,” commented Fisher.

With the leg taking so much longer than forecast, the ABN AMRO TWO crew were running low on food like many of their competitors. “We had a bit of freeze dried left, but it was none of the stuff you would want to eat!” said Fisher of what was left in store by the time of their arrival. “All the food you would have derived any pleasure from eating was long gone! We did a bit of rationing and then it looked a bit better, but by the last bit the cupboard was bare.” However unlike their team mates they were fine in terms of their fuel.

Arriving in Rotterdam has been tough on the crew following the loss of their jovial Dutch crewman Hans Horrevoets on leg seven across the Atlantic. However skipper Seb Josse has no doubt the team continuing in the race is what Hans would have wanted. “Hans I’m sure would not have been happy if we hadn’t finished the race. And all the crew are perhaps more focussed than on the other legs.”

Rather spookily the white boat has had more visits from friendly pigeons on this leg, following the brave bird who stayed in the cockpit for most of the duration of the Portsmouth in-port race. “For the run in we had three on the antennae farm, we had a couple under the cuddy which we’d rescued and we had about five on the top of the mainsail,” described Fisher. “So I am not sure what it is about birds and this boat now, but they all seem to like to visit.”

As with all six Volvo Ocean Race boats so ABN AMRO TWO’s shore team are currently busying themselves in preparation for tomorrow’s in port race.


© TEAM ABN AMRO | Jon Nash -

A master finish by James Boyd of the Daily Sail

10 June 2006
Leg 8 from Portsmouth clockwise around the British Isles to the Dutch port of Rotterdam will go down as one of the most unusual in the history of the Volvo Ocean Race. In what so easily could have been one of the most severe legs, taking the boats around the normally weather-beaten north of Scotland to the highest latitude visited in the race, the 1,500 mile passage was carried out in conditions so light that the boats didn’t see water over their decks until the final hours into Rotterdam.

Despite the frustrating conditions, the leg was also the most competitive seen so far, the lead seeming to swap between ABN AMRO ONE, Ericsson and Brasil 1 with every six hourly position report.

Nowhere was the level of competition more apparent than on the final run into Rotterdam. Over the last 24 hours Torben Grael’s Brasil 1 pulled out a slender 4.5 mile lead but rounding the turning mark on the final run into the finish the wind had built ideally suiting ABN AMRO ONE. Given just a little more runway into the finish ABN AMRO ONE are likely have beaten the Brazilians but in the end Torben Grael’s team were able to secure their first leg win of the Volvo Ocean Race with ABN AMRO ONE finishing at 23:21:52 GMT, second by just 3 minutes 10 seconds after 7 days 6 hours and 52 minutes of racing.

Considering she had the race won overall in Portsmouth and the light conditions experienced rounding the British Isles were far from optimum for her, ABN AMRO ONE’s performance on this penultimate leg of the Volvo Ocean Race was formidable. “To be honest we are over the moon with the result because obviously it was going to be a tough one - it couldn’t have been any less our conditions” commented skipper Mike Sanderson as he stepped foot on Dutch soil. “We took every opportunity we could and I think we surprised a few people with our hanging on in the light airs.”

Navigator Stan Honey concurred: “I think we sailed as well as we did in this race on other legs, but then we didn’t have to because the boat was fast in those conditions or we had some luck go our way. This leg, I don’t think any of our competitors will say we had an advantage in our boat, because every time they saw us they were faster than us, but we kept reappearing. For us to sail a leg of this length and finish a distance behind that we’d be proud to finish in a light air inshore race – we can’t get this close in a light air inshore race, so to be this close to first place after a leg of this length is something I’m real proud of.”

A tactical leg
After a slow start one of key tactical moments in the race for ABN AMRO ONE came as they were crossing the Irish Sea. With an area of high pressure [i.e. no wind] over the direct route to the southwest corner of Ireland, all the boats skirted to the north of where they supposed the high to be.

“The Farr boats were sailing away from us pretty quick,” recounted watch captain Mark Christensen. “They were 6-8 mile straight in front and Stan [Honey] said “I am not that comfortable going that close to the high” and so we tacked off [away from the high] and basically we didn’t go very far but we went far enough so that when the breeze filled in in the world we always had a bit more and bit more angle.”

From being 6-8 mile behind the leaders this one move brought ABN AMRO ONE to within three miles of them whereas if they had simply followed the leader’s route they may have ended up 20 miles behind. Tactical moves such as this were as important on this leg as ABN AMRO ONE’s superior boat speed on the rare occasions the wind built to double figures. The ABN AMRO ONE crew arrived in Rotterdam tanned and weather beaten, with the exception of skipper Mike Sanderson and navigator Stan Honey. “Stan and I spent the whole leg down below pulling our hair out,” explained Sanderson.

Honey was exceptional on this leg, pulling the rabbit out of the hat when the race committee chose to shorten the course around the top of Scotland, sending the boats through Pentland Firth between the Scottish mainland and the Orkney Islands. Here tides have been known to be as strong as 16 knots…

“Stan was unreal – when they changed the course he opened up his computer and he’s got the Pilot’s Guide to Going through the Pentland Firth' – ten pages of it and the charts and where the tides go,” recalled Christensen. “When you go through the Nautical Almanac there is a map that is two inches square and that is the top of Scotland! This had all the detail. It even gave instructions for boats doing less than 11 knots going from this way, with this current and with line sites and where you’ll find the eddies, etc.”

As Brasil 1 and Ericsson parked up as they encountered adverse tide, this knowledge helped ABN AMRO ONE briefly to take the lead. Not once in the race did they park up, a superstitious Sanderson attributing this to their having a brand new anchor all set up and ready to deploy should the need arrive. In the event it never did.

Removing a majority of the extra gear – spare rudders, daggerboard, spares, etc – due to the light conditions forecast also paid dividends, the boat going much faster in the light at the expense of a performance reduction in the stronger 16-17 knot conditions they experienced coming into the finish.

With the leg some two to three days longer than forecast so many teams have been forced to ration their supplies. On ABN AMRO ONE they cut down to half meals, although no one went hungry as for this leg they carried the same vast calorie content meals as they had in the Southern Ocean. The main fear was running out of diesel to run the generator to pwer the batteries to drive the canting keel. “We got all the way through. We were nearly empty at the end, but we were fine,” commented Sanderson.

But the overriding memory of this leg will the light conditions. “If anyone had tried to set a powerboat record around England and Ireland they would have got it by miles,” continued Sanderson. “We never had one foot of chop - it was glassy calm all the way round. It was unbelievable. You would have to go back 15 years to find a week of glass around England and Ireland.”

Finally Mike Sanderson paid tribute to Torben Grael’s Brasil 1: “We have a lot of respect for the Brazilians. If we had to be beaten by anyone it was good to be them. They were going really quick and it is great for them.”

© Fur Photography | Ferdy Rozenberg -

Si Fi: The "silver fleet" battle

Log 112 - 8 June 2006, 17:38 UTC
Hi there,

We have finally turned the corner and are pointed at the finish of what is probably the most unexpectedly long leg of this Volvo Ocean Race. However, I suspect this race is far from over as we are once again stuck in an area of no wind.

Our day began with ABN AMRO TWO doing its best impression of a cork getting sucked downstream. We maneuvered the boat around Duncansby Head, the Northern most point of Scotland amongst rocks and islands in no wind and 3.5 knots of current.

Although with little boat speed on the display and little control over the direction we were pointing at times, we were thankful that the current was pushing us along the way we needed to go! However, the current carried us from one wind hole to another and sadly the three leaders are now a long, long way ahead.

However, for us back here in what we are now calling the "silver fleet" the battle rages on with Pirates and Brunel. It is all we can do to keep up with the slightly more slippery Farr boat in these light conditions but it is a fight we are not going to give up easily. Right now Pirates are a little ahead but we are chasing hard and are we are determined to pass them once more before sunset!!

Whilst rationing is no longer fully in force it would be fair to say that most of the food we look forward to eating has long since been eaten. Having seen how everyone looks in the day bag only to find the cupboard bare there are no doubt a few hungry people on board! The disappointed faces tell it all.

On that note, it is time for me to look in the box myself, although I think I know what to expect already. Hopefully it is not too long until the next meal...


Simon Fisher


Mike Sanderson: The Merry Men of Mey and Muckle

Log 126 - 8 June 2006, 18:53 UTC
Well, it has been no shortage of excitement out here. Yesterday was spent trying to work our way down wind in some extremely light conditions with the forecast saying that it was going to blow a whopping 0.4 of a knot!!!

I think that would have to be one of the lightest forecasts I have ever seen. Anyway we were lucky and it stayed up over 4 for most of the day, but probably maxed out at 6.5.

The boat has been going well on this leg, it seems that our measures to save weight by not taking lots of our spares made a difference in the very light. Don't get me wrong, we are still the slowest in the fleet in that
stuff, but it could have been much worse. Our big aim was to stay in touch with the front runners until maybe, just maybe, we got some conditions that suited the big girl.

We had a fun little obstacle in the night as we had to sail through "Pentland Firth" which is the waterway between the Orkney Island group off the northern tip of Scotland, it was filled with some interesting
landmarks and we enjoyed the names of the "Merry Men of Mey" rocks and then the "Muckle Skerry" island which we passed by. The passage through went really well for us though. Stan (Honey) once again managed to produce all this literature that he had dug out on the tidal flows through there, which at times can be up to 12 knots!! A fairly daunting prospect considering we were supposed to only have 3 knots of wind...

All to play for...really!
Anyway we stuck to our game plan and hugged the windward shore which can be very risky. At first we lost to both Brasil 1 and Ericsson. But then about half way down, after investing in the right hand side pretty
heavily, it paid and we reached past them both doing 15 knots while they where coming close to going backwards in no wind and a lot more current.

It was a nice feeling as I am sure that nobody would have done more work on getting through that gap than Stan, and he was all over were we should go water-wise and for the best current, and Crusty (Mark Christensen) did an amazing job picking a way for me to steer the boat from one puff of wind to the next, while the guys trimmed frantically around us weaving around. All in all it was a pretty cool thing.

We then decided to tack up the shore for a while to try and make sure we were on the inside of a long and progressive wind shift to the right and also to avoid yet another tide race. Maybe this time it was a case of us
over thinking it, as Brasil and Ericsson just came straight out of the entrance and made pretty nice gains back on us. Today however has been a pretty good "Black Betty" day as the wind has over achieved on the
forecast and we have been going ocean upwind in 11 to 16 knots, most of the time the boat speeds are between 12 and 13.

For now we are back in the lead, but it is going to be a very tricky last 300 miles. The breeze is due to lighten right off and nearly shift through 180 degrees as we deal with the high pressure yet again. We will
just do what we can do though, try and cover the fleet as much as we can, and just hope that it doesn't get too light and that we lose out to these guys. For those of you that read my logs with some regularity you might be saying, 'yeah, yeah, you always talk about tricky finishes and having boats close behind who might catch up.' But this time it is different, 300 miles to go and two boats within two miles of us!!!

Reality is, it is just as likely to be any one of us that will get to stand on the tallest step at the prize giving in Rotterdam. We will for sure though be giving it every ounce of effort that we can to make it be us, as
there would be nothing cooler than to lead into our team's home port...

See you soon!


Mike Sanderson


In-port race delayed by a day

8 June 2006
Due to the lack of winds that have slowed the progress of the fleet on Leg 8 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-06 from Portsmouth to Rotterdam, the decision has been taken to delay the In-Port race by a day to Sunday 11 June.

With over 500 nautical miles to sail to the finish, the expected time of arrival into Rotterdam has shifted to late Friday evening or Saturday morning.

At a meeting with race management, syndicate and port representatives, chaired by Volvo Ocean Race CEO Glenn Bourke, all parties felt it prudent to change the date in order to give the crews sufficient preparation time given the late arrival into Rotterdam.

The start time for Sunday’s race has also altered from the original time of 12.30 to 11.00am local time.

Glenn Bourke commented: “The weather prognosis we have is not conducive to the fleet finishing in time to compete in the in-port race on Saturday. We have shortened the course as much as we can and there are no more avenues that are available to us.

“It is imperative that we hold the in-port race as many of the teams still have an opportunity to improve on their overall positions. It is just an unfortunate set of circumstances that have led to this decision. We have done what we feel is best for all stakeholders in the race – but ultimately we are in the lap of the wind gods.”


6 June 2006 5:29:59 PM GMT Report 80 A Trimaran in first?

From Rotterdam by Carlos Lua Mauro
The official positioning system could not decide and put three boats in equal first place The three hulls entity composed by ABN AMRO ONE, Ericsson and Brasil 1 continue to run a course parallel to the coast of Scotland in search of something more than just 5 knots of wind Pirates, ABN AMRO TWO and Brunel lost significant terrain in the last 6 hours, probably due to their decision not to stick to the coastal cruising Brunel even found 8 knots of wind but paying the price of a longer route The boats are expected only on Saturday in Rotterdam that has already postponed the in port race for Sunday at 11 AM, to escape form the football match between Netherlands and Serbia and Montenegro that will glue the country to the TV sets


Mike Sanderson: All she needs is a little breeze

Log 125 - 6 June 2006, 18:04 UTC
In the last 24 hrs we have gone from last place to first, not sure how long we will stay here, as the breeze is due to crump out again in the next few hours, but we have had some fun getting here.

We have had to race each and every boat, boat for boat to get here, first was ABN AMRO TWO (or the artists formally known as "the Kids"), then Brunel and then towards the end of yesterday, we had some great racing with the Pirates, often crossing gybes, dipping each other as we tried to pick nice shifts to riggle our way north. Then this morning with Brasil 1 and this afternoon Ericsson.

It has been nice to see the boat perform well in conditions which I think lots of the competitors thought was an Achilles heel of ours, and that is moderate air VMG ( gybing downwind) running. It was quite clear that once we got over our little speed hump we had a speed edge, it's quite a strange situation, we spend very little time the same speed, we go from slower to faster, this probably is well reflected in our inshore race
results too. We have basically had four wins and two lasts or nearly lasts, when she is on she's on, when she is off, she is off....

The trip is still looking painfully slow, even this next little stretch which is under 300 miles to get to the northern tip of Scotland is due to take us 34 hours!!! That's just not very normal for a Volvo 70, in fact in breeze we have come very close to doing that in 12 hours, nearly a third of the time. Right now we have got plenty on to make the start time for the in-port race.. Who knows, maybe the easiest thing if we get to Rotterdam as a fleet on Saturday morning would be to stay out there and just still do it on Saturday? Will be interesting to see how race management decide to play it, I am sure they are under a lot of pressure from the sponsors to try and make sure that the "show still goes on" so to speak... we just need to keep our fingers crossed for a little more breeze then what is currently forecast.

Whatever happens, Rotterdam is going to be an exciting stop-over.. seeing the Volvo 70's roaring around right up in the center of the city on the river will be fun.

Even in the time I have been writing this the breeze has dropped from 14 knots to 9.5, pity we were enjoying some ABN AMRO ONE conditions, let’s see for how long we can hang on.

Talk soon.


Mike Sanderson


Tue, 06 Jun 2006 17:10:28 UTC

Glenn Bourke, CEO of the event, yesterday notified the teams they will have to reach Holland by midnight on Friday in order for the In Port race to go ahead as scheduled, but latest estimates suggest the fleet, currently stuck in a high pressure system off the Scottish coast, will not arrive until Saturday morning.

He said, “The boats are still in a nasty high pressure system that doesn’t look like abating for some time and at the moment the prognosis looks like they will arrive on Saturday morning. If they do, and as I said to the teams yesterday, if they don’t get here before midnight Friday then we are going to have to postpone.”

Meetings with team representatives and Rotterdam’s port will now be held on Wednesday and Friday to discuss alternative dates, however, the favoured date, Sunday, clashes with Holland’s World Cup clash with Serbia and Montenegro and the race’s directors accept there is a chance they may run out of time to hold the event.

Mr Bourke, who is “90 percent certain” the In Port race won’t need to be scrapped altogether ahead of the restart on Thursday 15 June, continued, “If we have to postpone, the first date we will go to is Sunday. Depending on what the team’s say and the Dutch World Cup event then it would be Monday. Failing that we could run it on Tuesday.

“There is an option to can the whole thing. It would be a hard option to take because the expectations of the points at the end of the race means that if any two teams get in close proximity on points it seems a little unfair to just delete the In Port race altogether. It’s probably 90 percent chance it will run, but there is the option to can it completely.”

If the race is scrapped Mr Bourke suggested a scoring waypoint could be added to the final leg trip to Gothenburg to preserve the maximum point totals.

He said, “It’s not quite the same, and you’d have to put it fairly early on in the leg I’d suggest; we might do that to keep the points total exactly the same. At the moment we are in the planning stage and we have three options if they don’t make it; postpone the event, total cancellation, or put a scoring waypoint into the next leg.”

© Volvo Ocean Race 2005 - 2006



Log 109 Simon Fisher: Playing the game 'stay close to the shore'

5 June 2006, 18:18 UTC
Hi There,

It has been a long hard day and night of working our way round the Irish coastline. With not much sleep and about a million gybes under our belt we are finally on our way offshore in decent breeze off the west coast of
Ireland. It has been hard to imagine a more spectacular coastline to sail around. Our day started sailing in and out of the mist rolling down off the hills and as the sun rose and the mist burnt off it gave way to spectacular views of rolling green hills and a weather beaten rocky coastline. With castles and towers stationed on each headland it gives you the feeling of sailing through a scene out of Lord of the Rings.

The name of the game has been to stay close to the shore to pick up what little extra breeze is available meaning that we have spent a good portion of the day stepping our way from rock to rock and island to island.

We had another night and morning of trying to pick up what little pressure we have as like so much of this leg, the sea was calm and windless. However, unlike other days we have finally been able to find some decent gradient breeze and we are now slipping along down wind quite nicely in 12 - 14 knots of wind.

Perhaps this extra wind will mean that we can all relax a little and enjoy the miles ticking by a little bit faster than before. But with the rest of the fleet still in spitting distance I doubt that we will be able to relax for long!


Simon Fisher



Log 47 Sidney Gavignet: on breaking the barrier and letting sleeping pigeons lie

6 June 2006
We are moving

I just heard a commemoration coming from the deck, the guys are excited, we just crossed the barrier of two knots of speed! My last watch at the helm was the slowest of this whole trip around the world. We are really into a very funny sport - there is no doubt about it.

Jan Dekker impressed us all capturing a pigeon that landed in one of the sail bags on the bow of the boat and then put it to sleep! To achieve that he put the pigeon’s head under one of its wing and covered all with the second wing, and after cradling it for a minute, Jan put the pigeon in the cockpit, where it did not move: he was deeply sleeping. We had to wake him up for him to go flying again. He is impressive, our South African!!!

The nights are cold, short and beautiful, the stars reflect in the calm surface of the flat sea.

We have been having a little trouble in following the fleet in these almost inexistent winds, but we are not that much far away. Nothing is decided yet; everything depends of the way that the wind will reinstall itself in the region.

We are making the best that we can, but I have to say that is really a particular feeling being at sea again, after having already completed our contract.

ABN AMRO TWO is in the same rhythm, sometimes ahead and sometimes behind us. Last night we are so close one to another that we started having fun making “pseudo” codified messages with the torches.

Right now, I hear the water moving along the hull, we are moving…

A bientôt,

Sidney Gavignet



Log 124 Mike Sanderson: wriggle wriggle

4 June 2006 14:37 UTC
Wriggle wriggle wriggle, as Simon Gundry who was one of Sir Peter Blake's crew in the 1981/82 Whitbread and sailed with him again in 85/86 would say. These where Some of Simon's words of wisdom to me for sailing in light airs when I did one of my first Coastal races in New Zealand on a yacht skippered by Murray Ross called "Satellite Spy".

It was on Satellite that I got to know Murray and where in fact both Brad (Jackson) and I got our big break so to speak, as Murray was due to navigate Grant Dalton's new Maxi Ketch New Zealand Endeavour and he thought that we would be worth a shot, to this day of course we are both very grateful.

Simon also had some other choice words of wisdom in that race which I also remember very clearly, and that was as we where all concentrating to get the last little ounce of speed out of the 40 footer. Simon came past us as he headed down the hatch and said, "Moose the secret to light air speed is to keep the weight low in the boat" this was followed about two minutes later, by the very loud noise of Simon snoring at the top of his lungs, and would remain so until Murray gave him an "oui" to get back on the rail as the breeze had filled. Anyway Simon, you will be pleased to know that we are wriggling to our hearts content out here and we also have the weight low in the boat, not only the boys asleep but also a lot of the sails etc. that would normally be stacked on deck.

A race to get to Rotterdam...before the next race
These light conditions are tough for us, in these light winds we are for sure the slowest in the fleet. Yes we have proven that we can hang on for a certain amount of time just by trying to do a nice job, but slowly but
surely the faster boats are sneaking away.

I can't complain though of course as the boat was developed to win the Volvo Ocean Race and it has done that with two legs and an in-port race to spare!!! We knew in the calculations that there was a good chance that we would get a whole leg of light airs and that we would get a bad result if that happened.

We’re not giving up that easily though and it will be interesting to see what happens in the next position report. The last one looked like a shocker for us as we showed big losses, in fact a lot of what it did show
was how much time we had spent on a tack trying to get North and trying to escape the clutches of the high pressure.

We didn't like the way that the leaders where heading, in our opinion it was just too dangerous to just punch straight into the middle of a high. By doing that you are relying on the fact that it is moving and that even
though you will be slow for a while that very soon it will move off the top of you and you will get the new breeze from the Western side. We’re not convinced it is moving that fast. So we have made a play to the North and to the East of the fleet, Brunel and ABN AMRO TWO have come with us and we can see them up on our hip.

The others have gone and it's going to take another two hours to the position report to see who has done what. This is one time when I don't think both options will be right, if the Farr boats have snuck through the
high and are getting into the Southerlies on the Western side, then they will be launched and we will be the big losers, if our side pays and we are wriggling along in a light Nor Westerly then who knows what will

It would have been interesting to see how we would have played it if we didn't have the overall result in the bag, just off the top of my head I would guess that we would have just stayed close to the Pirates so that
win lose or draw hopefully there wouldn't be too many points between us, with the way it is now we might be last and they might be first, but then again it could also go the other way around...

This isn't the only tricky part of this leg though, plenty of fun and games coming up yet, and even though we are now two days into what was supposed to be a five day leg, right now though it's looking like we have all
got another race on our hands as well!! And that is to get to the in-port race in Rotterdam that is scheduled for Saturday. It's looking slow.

Keep your fingers crossed for us.

Talk soon.





Technical analysis: The leadup to Leg 8 to Rotterdam

2 June 2006
In one of the most mixed and variable starts we have seen in the Volvo Ocean Race so far, this afternoon it was Seb Josse and the crew of ABN AMRO TWO who were first out of the blocks at the departure of the Volvo Open 70s on the penultimate leg to Rotterdam.

The gun was fired at 5:30 pm (GMT) enabling a large spectator fleet time to assemble off the entrance of Portsmouth Harbour basking under the late afternoon sun with a useful 10 knots of wind to get racing underway. In one of the best starts we have seen from them, ABN AMRO TWO crossed the middle of the line with the best speed of the six boats and nosed ahead with ABN AMRO ONE close in under their right hand flank.

As the boats set off so the spectator fleet gave chase churning the Solent up into a white foam, boats encroaching on the race course to an alarming degree.

Unfortunately this impressive spectacle was not to last. Within half an hour the wind had completely disappeared leaving the race boats and spectator craft wallowing, the “racing cars having run out of fuel” as one observer put it. ABN AMRO ONE sent bowman Justin Slattery up the mast to look into the distance for wind further up the race course, but it took a further half hour of extreme patience on the part of the crews before the wind returned.

Unfortunately ABN AMRO ONE by this stage had drifted off to the right side of the course with ABN AMRO TWO in the middle and as the wind filled in from the left hand, Isle of Wight side it allowed Pirates of the Caribbean to take the lead followed by Brasil 1. First to get the new breeze these two boats shot off towards the historic sailing Mecca of Cowes with ABN AMRO TWO holding on to third, ABN AMRO ONE wallowing at the back with Brunel, both boats last to feel the benefit of the new wind.

Leaving the Solent and heading out into the English Channel ABN AMRO TWO had been edged into third ahead of Pirates but behind Brasil 1 and Ericsson, while ABN AMRO ONE had overhauled Brunel to hold fifth both boats a considerable way back from the leaders.

More of these fluky conditions lie in store for the boats as they make their clockwise circumnavigation of the British Isles. A high pressure system is currently hovering over southern Ireland and will slowly head across to the UK mainland over the course of the next five days and while this may provide UK residents with a first taste of summer so far this year, it will mean very light conditions for at least the first half of the race.
Unfortunately this impressive spectacle was not to last. Within half an hour the wind had completely disappeared leaving the race boats and spectator craft wallowing, the “racing cars having run out of fuel” as one observer put it. ABN AMRO ONE sent bowman Justin Slattery up the mast to look into the distance for wind further up the race course, but it took a further half hour of extreme patience on the part of the crews before the wind returned.

“It is going to be light and it is going to be slow,” summarised ABN AMRO TWO navigator Simon Fisher “The first few hours of the race will be pretty tricky and then the next few days it will be a case of how close we can play it to the English coast and how much we see a sea breeze or a gradient wind.” Playing the sea breeze is a common tactic whereby boats stay constantly within a few miles of the shore to make use of the onshore wind or ‘sea breeze’ that develops as during the day the land heats up faster than the water. The alternative to using the sea breeze is to sail further offshore where the wind will be free of coastal effects and more regular. But equally it can be lighter and will require those taking this option to sail a longer course.

Unfortunately for the ABN AMRO boats, leg eight, with single figure wind speeds forecast, is lining up to be a ‘Farr leg’ in which their fatter boats are not best suited.

“In all reality it is a Farr leg,” agrees Mike Sanderson skipper of ABN AMRO ONE for whom a result in this leg is relatively immaterial as they have already won the 2005-6 Volvo Ocean Race outright. “I don’t think we are going to be able to hang with them, like they can’t hang with us in some stuff. I think you’d be honest to say it is going to be very tough to hold those guys off. It would have been a fantastic course for us if there had been breeze because we would have contained the opposition. So not ideal with the forecast of no wind.”

Predicting winds would be light some days ago the shore teams on both ABN AMRO boats have been busy removing any extra gear they can to lighten the boats and make them perform better in the conditions. “The boat is pretty stripped out,” admits Sanderson. “We are carrying very few spares compared to what we would normally have. No extra spare rudder or daggerboard, so quite a different set-up for us.”

Having already won the event Sanderson admits that some of their hunger has left them, but it is always a challenge going up against some of the top sailors in the world and a good result into Rotterdam would be good for ABN AMRO. With the forecast being so light many are predicting a finish into the Dutch port on Thursday or worst case Friday.

While the race is effectively over for ABN AMRO ONE, this is far from the case for ABN AMRO TWO who now hold fourth place overall on 48.5 points just 3.5 points behind Brasil 1. During the stopover here in Portsmouth Josse’s team were awarded an extra 1.5 points by the race’s International Jury for the time they took to go to the rescue of the movistar crew during leg 7.

So the kids are out to nail Brasil 1, despite the comments of their navigator: “We have just got to go out and sail our own race. I don’t see any radical covering. If we can get ahead of them we’ll get as far ahead of them as we can!” quips Simon Fisher.

Predicting winds would be light some days ago the shore teams on both ABN AMRO boats have been busy removing any extra gear they can to lighten the boats and make them perform better in the conditions. “The boat is pretty stripped out,” admits Sanderson. “We are carrying very few spares compared to what we would normally have. No extra spare rudder or daggerboard, so quite a different set-up for us.”