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TEAM ABN AMRO | VOLVO OCEAN RACE | Rio de Janeiro - Brasil

ABN AMRO ONE wins the Rio in-port race!

25 March 2006
Mike Sanderson and his crew scored a dominant victory in the fourth in-port race in Rio de Janeiro, sailing a nearly faultless race and establishing an early lead over competitors. The race took place in beautiful Guanabara Bay in 10-17 knots of wind, far better than the navigators had predicted. This is crew ONE's third race win in a row in the VOR in-port races.

The end of the race saw movistar finishing in second place, followed by Ericsson, Brasil 1, ABN AMRO TWO and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Mike Sanderson was over the moon about the win. Given the expectations for low winds, which do not favour ABN AMRO ONE, the win was all the more sweet. "It was a great day for ABN AMRO ONE!" he said, with a wide smile on the dock. The boat finished at 15:26 local time, in two hours, 26 minutes and 30 seconds.

Behind ABN AMRO ONE there was a great battle for the remaining podium positions. Throughout the race, Pirates of the Caribbean, Ericsson, ABN AMRO TWO and movistar jostled for second and third positions. At one point ABN AMRO TWO was in third place, but went quickly back to fifth which is where they finished the race ahead of Pirates of the Caribbean.

The next nearest boat movistar, finished two minutes and five seconds later. ABN AMRO TWO finished five minutes and 15 seconds later. The boat bringing up the rear, Pirates of the Caribbean, finished five minutes and 44 seconds after ABN AMRO ONE.

In-port race results - Provisional
1 - ABN AMRO ONE: 3.5 points
2 - movistar: 3 points
3 - Ericsson: 2.5 points
4 - Brasil 1: 2 points
5 - ABN AMRO TWO: 1.5 points
6 - Pirates of the Caribbean: 1 point

Current leaderboard - Provisional
1 - ABN AMRO ONE: 52.5 points
2 - ABN AMRO TWO: 36.5 points
3 - Pirates of the Caribbean: 31.5 points
4 - movistar: 31.0 points
5 - Brasil 1: 28.5 points
6 - Ericsson: 23.5 points


© TEAM ABN AMRO - Jon Nash 2006 |

The Rio in-port race preview

24 March 2006
As the TEAM prepares for its fourth in-port race in Rio de Janeiro, they are exploring all possible options with regards to weather, using their brand-new sails (recently rescued from a container on the tip of South America) and strategy. With light winds expected and a potential storm taking away any wind there is, the crews have no idea what will happen.

The lineup is slightly different this time round, with the addition of boat captain Neil Cox as the eleventh in-port race sailor, and veteran maxi sailor Yves Le Blevec on board ABN AMRO TWO to temporarily replace an injured Nick Bice.

Sanderson explained that tactician Tommaso Chieffi will rejoin his crew for the in-port race. “Crusty (Mark Christensen) has torn two ligaments in his knee. Accident-prone Crusty hasn’t made the cut fitness-wise!” He reiterated that Crusty will make it onboard for Leg 5, but wasn’t quite up to snuff for the rigours of an in-port race.

The expectations
Skipper Mike Sanderson of ABN AMRO ONE is cautiously optimistic. He said said “the guys are all fit, and ready.” Sanderson said he would be happy with a podium finish. He said the shore crew, as usual, had done an exemplary job.

Sanderson is looking, he said, to just rack up more points in the overall points rankings. He said that if he and his crew does their best, but don’t place well, he will be satisfied. As his tactician Tommaso Chieffi put it, the goal is “to get off the starting line fast.”

Navigator Simon Fisher of crew TWO agreed with the cautious strategy of Sanderson. “Obviously the race just gets tougher and tougher, and everyone gets quicker and quicker and smarter and smarter. But we’re trying to raise our game as well, trying to get off cleanly.”

The weather forecast
According to the TEAM weather team, there is a storm expected in the bay at about an hour or so after the race is due to begin at 13:00. Sanderson said he did not know what to expect, really. “I have no idea to be honest. The forecast is looking shady. It would be nice if the seabreeze kicked in.”

If the winds die down to the degree that the boats are parked, the race organisation might shorten the course so as not to prolong the pain of potentially slow-moving boats.

As the boats are not at their best in light airs, this makes for a potentially very tactical race. Currents are expected to be average. The course is a windward/leeward one round two marks. It begins from the Ponte Rio Niteroi to the north of the bay to the Laje Rock in the south.

Crew TWO
Le Blevec said, "I think we can do something good. But for sure, there are all the best sailors in the world here! Paul Cayard, Kostecki, for example. It is very difficult to finish ahead. We have a good chance. Of all the boats this crew is like a dream team. It has that little edge, I think."

Navigator Simon Fisher said, “it’s going to be a pretty tough race!” He said that the crews have been spending as much time as they can on the water facing off against one another, “trying to feel our way round the place. We’ve spent most of the last two days getting our new guys acclimatised, which seems to be working out quite nicely. Of course we miss our normal guys though!"

The match racing with some other syndicates was useful, he said. “Brasil 1 were looking good, but I’m sure they’re beatable like anyone else. There can be wind holes, though, and it can all change.”

Crew TWO skipper Sebastien Josse said “the pressure is on,” but to help him he consulted the father of the local sailor Lucas Brun, Gustao. “He says the sea breezes are predictable – they kick in at around two and die at four so that is good. Like the black boat, we have new sails. They make a real difference, so we hope to do well.”

Local heroes Brasil 1 have been sailing these waters for decades, if you count their collective experience. Said Fisher, “there are some things particular to the bay, a lot of geographical stuff we have to pay attention to. This is good for the locals though!”

A good challenge
Both skippers and navigators say they enjoy the challenge of a good in-port race. Skipper Mike Sanderson of crew ONE said that he is a supporter of these races. “In-port races have been a good thing for the boats and the class. Maybe they have a few too many points in my opinion though.”

Fisher said he has fun on these days. “I’ve done a lot of sailing in America’s Cup boats, to me it’s similiar to that. They are tough boats to get round with 11 people though.”

All of the skippers in the race are extremely aware of how many points are up for grabs and how much each race or leg counts towards the final score, which will make the race an aggressive one as each skipper will vie for the best opening position off the starting line.

Sanderson said “I have enjoyed the last couple in-shore races, because we won them. I hated the first one, because we came last! Now we try to earn as many points as we can.” He points out that he can’t rest on past glories. “We won in Melbourne but it took us halfway through the race to get our act together. If we come last on Saturday and do everything we can, that is pretty satisfying.”

New sails and new fans
Sanderson said the race would also profile some of the TEAM’s new sail inventory. “We decided not to do that in Melbourne, and to wait until Rio. It was tough to do that mainsail wise, but it was worth it. Now we have all new gear for the next leg.”

Sanderson said, given the enthusiasm the crews have experienced thus far, “we expect a huge turnout!” The boats will depart the Marina da Gloria at about 10:30 local time. The race starts at 13:00 local time, or 16:00 GMT. The Volvo organiser website will have live radio commentary: Stay tuned to our breaking news box on our homepage for the most up-to-date information on the course of the race.


Crew shifts on ABN AMRO ONE and TWO

23 March 2006
There are a few crew changes in the TEAM due to injury for this weekend's in-port race on 25 March and for Leg 5 from Rio de Janeiro to Baltimore.

Australian Nick Bice of crew TWO will not be racing in this weekend's in-port race, nor in Leg 5. During Leg 4, he fractured his hand in two places and was advised to sit out this leg.

Nick Bice, 28, is a watch captain and one of the original four ‘professionals’ aboard ABN AMRO TWO. He described his injury at the time: “I was thrown into the steering pedestal and my hand came off second best. It’s a bit swollen, not sure what’s wrong with it but I think it could be broken. On the back of another wave I ended up with both feet through the wheel. That’s probably the nearest I’ve come to coming adrift on a boat.” Bice's hand is now in a plaster cast.

As TEAM doctor Peter Vergouwen put it: "Bice must have been in terrible pain the last couple of weeks during Leg 4. Unbelievable, what he must have gone through!"

The replacements
Bice will be replaced until Baltimore by Yves Leblevec, a French Figaro sailor and world record holder with maxi catamaran - Orange II.

As there are eleven sailors on board during an in-port race, a replacement for Bice was found amongst the shore crew. Boat captain and fellow Australian Neil Cox will step in this time. Cox, a seasoned sailor himself, is a natural choice as he knows the crew and the boat inside out.

Brun back on board
Gerd Jan Poortman, as previously written about here, was diagnosed with a fractured vertebrae and tailbone. This happened when he was thrown down the deck and collided with the daggerboard during a rough night on Leg 3. Poortman missed the last leg from Wellington to Rio and is now expected to rejoin the crew of the world’s fastest monohull in Baltimore, a little later than previously anticipated.

Lucas Brun, 22, from Brazil, who was the first Brazilian to sail into home soil and the youngest competitor on this race, remains onboard ABN AMRO TWO in Poortman’s place.

Sebastien Josse commented: “Of course it is always a disappointment to lose crew due to injuries, both Gerd Jan and more recently Nick are critical members of the crew. I have no doubt Yves will fit into the crew with no problem. For the in shore race we have Neil Cox who has been a very important part of the team and the TEAM ABN AMRO campaign so I am happy he will be with us.”

Meanwhile on Crew ONE
As in previous in-port races in Cape town and Melbourne, tactician Tomasso Chieffi will lend a hand as tactician. Watch captain Mark Christensen will sit this one out.

Grinder Brian MacInnes will rejoin the TEAM again in this weekend's in-port race. He has been with the TEAM since the first in-port race in Spain.


© TEAM ABN AMRO - Jon Nash 2006 |

Report 58: Contrary winds

23 March 2006
By Carlos Lua from Rio de Janeiro

Sailing in the Volvo Ocean Race is a multifaceted affair. Sailors, boats, sails and teams have to be perfectly integrated and used to their maximum capacities. Day in, day out, during seven consecutive months concepts, skills, ideas, tailor-made solutions, fast thinking and perseverance are put to test and stretched to the limit.

In the water during the in-port races and legs what we see is direct result of what a combination of the items above can do when put together in proper cadence.

Interfering symptoms
Easier said that done as the good rhythm is constantly broken up by disorders of all kind: nature related, sailing connected, blunder associated, stubbornly created, fatigue inflicted or Murphys law related.

So the attention has to be constant and the ability to react to the challenges has to follow. A positive thinking attitude is the uniform to wear and teamwork continues to be the password of the day.

TEAM ABN AMRO and Brasil 1
Wednesday, 22 March, was the last day to take the decision for two of the teams in the Volvo Ocean Race. TEAM ABN AMRO and Brasil 1 had some sails still coming from Melbourne after a problem with the routing of the ship that was transporting them. A detour to Singapore and unexpected stops along the way had put the ship in Rio Grande harbour (south of Brasil in the Rio Grande do Sul state) and the container shared by the two teams, stuffed with their light winds sails.

Tom Touber and Ricardo Ermel, respectively from TEAM ABN AMRO ONE and Brasil 1 then shared a private turbo propeller Carajá airplane and flew three and a half hours from Rio de Janeiro to Rio Grande. In Rio Grande they received the big container ship, got their container, worked all day to clear customs, took the container to the airstrip and managed to squeeze seven sails inside the small airplane. "It was not a problem of weight", explained Tom Touber "as all the sails weight a little less than 600 kilos, but of space, and enough room for the pilot and co-pilot to get to their seats on board the aircraft". And he continued "we only managed to do it with the cooperation with Brasil 1 that helped put pressure on and get the light winds sails without which our boats wouldnt even bother to go sailing on Saturday".

The trip back to Rio
While the small plane waited to fly back to Rio, Ermel, Touber and the cameraman from TEAM ABN AMRO drove 500 kilometers to Porto Alegre, during the night in a van, carrying two more sails (150 plus kilos) to board a commercial flight Thursday morning.

Back to the Marina da Glória in Rio with the Mission Impossible accomplished and after 36 straight hours of another kind of marathon, Tom Touber was very precise when telling what lessons could be learned from yet another facet of the Volvo Ocean Race. It was our turn to face a headwind of 40 knots and to battle to go forward and get our problem sorted out , we can for sure count as 4 the lessons to always remember:

  • Stay focused: fight for what you need and do not take NO for an answer.
  • Have a Plan B ready sometimes: even be sure to have a Plan C standing by, just in case.
  • Cooperation with the competition: putting pressure together with another team makes things go easier, working together with the efficient people from Brasil 1 made all the difference.
  • Impossible is a non-existent word: the battles are always worth fighting and even the smallest victories are important.


© TEAM ABN AMRO - Jon Nash |

© TEAM ABN AMRO - Theo Ribeiro 2006 |

Few surprises as ABN AMRO ONE and TWO are repaired

19 March 2006
By Cleo Petry and Carla Sapsford from Rio de Janeiro

Every stopover has its own rhythm, but there are several constants. One of these is the carefully planned and orchestrated refit of some worn-down boats after a long leg such as the one between Wellington and Rio. Since arriving a week ago, the boats’ shore crew have all been going through their job lists.

Neil Cox, the TEAM’s boat captain, together with Ben Wright, the technical project manager, are heading up the biggest refit of the boats since the start of the race in Spain. Before this stopover, the time between arrivals and the in-port race hasn’t been long enough. From the beginning, the TEAM planned to go over ABN AMRO ONE and TWO with a fine-tooth comb in Rio de Janeiro.

Crossing the Southern Ocean over the course of three legs has put some wear and tear on all the boats in the fleet. “To cross Cape Horn was a big milestone, and a mental and physical hurdle. Here it won’t be only taking the keel and mast off, but also redoing and refitting defective parts.”

The work isn’t only to fix the things which are broken. “There is also a bit of cosmetic work. We want to have these boats in the same top condition they were in when they left for Leg 1”, explains Cox.

A few expected surprises
Wright said that although the shore crew receives a job list from the sailors whilst they are still at sea, there are always details a trained shore crew and boatbuilders will find that the sailors don't always catch. “The shore crew managed to find a few more surprises, which to be honest is the way you want it. So we have managed to fill out job lists.”

The shore crew works like clockwork – after working together all this time everyone knows exactly what to do, and how. Explains Wright, “getting planned supplies and even containers in here on time is a challenge.” Sometimes even the best-laid plans go awry with unforeseen delays in shipments. Luckily, the crew have faced a few twists and turns before. They can usually find their way around these roadblocks until the needed equipment arrives – some of what the TEAM uses just can’t be bought at the local hardware store.

The shore crew has to sometimes play a waiting game until the needed supplies come in. Says Wright, “few lads will be forced into some long nights in the next couple of days, but all in all the team is pulling through very nicely.” This time they are even accompanied by several of the boatbuilders who were involved in the build from the very beginning. “Our Norwegians are doing a fantastic job, especially considering they have come from -20 degrees Centigrate to this and humidity!”

On top of that Cox describes another important issue concerning Brazil; how difficult it’s to find specific products needed to these refit. Products which the shore crew couldn’t have foreseen they would need. They have the help of local crew members who help them “chase almost every product we need to complete our work,” through a variety of local rules and regulations.

A shore crew proud of their work
Leg 4 was particularly demanding due to the number of miles sailed and the huge amounts of water they encountered in the Southern Ocean. “We are testing every and any piece of equipment in the boats. From a shore crew point of view, we must give them the best we can."

So what makes this all worthwhile? "We see our work reflected back in their performance. We are all very proud of our work and what the crews are doing in the water”, says Cox.

Rio is different
Given the temperature in Rio, which can go to almost 30 degrees Centigrade, says Cox, “we have to watch out. Shore crew and sailors have been working inside the boats in very high temperatures, it’s like a sauna in there. It’s easy to get dehydrated and get sick for a few days.”

Cox believes Brasil 1 will be a great competitor in the in-port race on 25 March, as they have good knowledge of the bay which has a typically light breeze.

Two-boat testing will resume when the boats go on the water early this week.


© TEAM ABN AMRO - Theo Ribeiro 2006 |

Injured sailor Gerd Jan Poortman to sit out Leg 5

15 march 2006
Sailing a Volvo 70 like ABN AMRO TWO is a tricky business. Bowman Gerd Jan Poortman learned this the hard way during Leg 3 between Melbourne and Wellington, when he crashed into a daggerboard tail first after being hit by a huge wave. He ended up spending a good portion of the leg in frustration, forced to rest so as not to damage himself further. His forehead cut was quick to heal: his tailbone was not.

What seemed to be a bit of bruising turned out to be a bit more serious, as Poortman's tailbone turns out to have been fractured. After having rested in the Netherlands with his family during Leg 4, the doctors' verdict came back. Poortman was to sit out another leg so as not to run the risk of permanent injury.

"The doctors said if I overdid it I could pop out three vertebrae," said the young sailor, who is only 28. His tailbone wasn't the only injury he had, as it turned out. His back is something that bears watching. Part of the stress on his back may stem from an old sailing injury when Poortman was in his mid-teens. The extent of his injury wasn't fully known till he returned home and saw a sports medicine specialist.

After Poortman initially fell, he was helped up by skipper Sebastien Josse and didn't realise what had happened at first. Then he had had his face sewn up by crew TWO medic George Peet, but had no idea of the extent of the damage until after the port stop in Wellington.

Being on board means being 100%
Part of the caution in determining whether or not to send an injured sailor back to sea is the knowledge that the physical rigours of working on board are extreme even for a fully healthy sailor. Lugging 120 kg. sails up and down the foredeck and into the belly of the boat multiple times a day puts tremendous stress on a bowman's back. A sailor needs not only to be fit, but 100% in order not to risk re-injuring himself far at sea where help is unavailable.

Poortman is naturally disappointed. "Well, what can you do? You don't want to go out there with a busted back. You have to think of the future, not just about this leg." Poortman is trying to keep a positive outlook. "It could have been much worse, I could be paralyzed today if I'd hit that daggerboard in another spot. You never know, you know?"

The replacement
The young bowman will again be replaced by local hero Lucas Brun, who is from Rio de Janeiro. He also replaced Poortman during Leg 4, and like Poortman was chosen during an open selection process on the internet in early 2005.

Poortman is planning to be on board for for Leg 6 from Baltimore to Portsmouth. In the meantime, he said, he is keeping fit in the gym and taking every precaution so as not to put any strain on his back.

Poortman is currently in Brazil helping out the shore crew with rigging and catching up with his sister Renate who works with the TEAM.


Work, sun, and a birthday party in Rio

12 March 2006
Since the boats arrived at the Marina da Gloria last Saturday, both crews are enjoying very much deserved rest in one of their favourite cities. But there remains much work to be done as well.

The TEAM shore crew has already started the boats’ refit. “As Rio is a long stopover, we take the opportunity to start from scratch, which was the stage leading up to the race. We will check and repair any small damage or wear and tear done to the boats. The goal is to have the boats in the condition they were in when the race started”, said Neil Cox, the boat captain.

Some crew members will be spending the coming week in town until the shore crew is ready with the boats’ refit. “Stan and I are having a week off in Angra dos Reis, a beach paradise two hours away,” said his wife Sally Honey. The navigators are also busy with the data compiled on board during Leg 4 and preparing for the next in-port race and Leg 5. The work, for them, is never done. The boats, although currently resting in their cradles, are expected to be back on the water in about a week’s time.

Other sailors, such as Mike Sanderson, Justin Slattery and Andrew Lewis, are heading back home to spend some time with families. Home for many means getting on an airplane, or two, and spending about a day en route to New Zealand, Hawaii or Ireland. “The only thing I want now is to get home and have some rest, and recover from this leg,” said newlywed Justin Slattery.

The constant banging and crashing around for weeks on end has taken its toll on many of the sailors. For one sailor, Nick Bice, a hand fracture means a thorough medical check-up. Fellow sailors George Peet and Luke Molloy hooked him up with a do-it-yourself cast, but Bice has been in quite some pain for two weeks. The accident happened during a wash-out on board. He said, “my hand is minor compared to how happy I feel about arriving!” For a while at the end of the leg, the sailors of crew TWO didn’t know if they had taken third or fourth place. There are several other minor sprains and strains among the sailors, which they have to recuperate from.

For others, a homecoming is a long time coming. This is the first time Lewis is going back home after a year of being with the TEAM. About this time last year, he was going through a rigorous selection process as the TEAM sought the very best young sailors in an open competition. “It’d be very good to see my family again and I’m planning to windsurf and sail a lot.”

Hail to a returning local hero
Local ‘carioca’ Lucas Brun is the man of the hour, and he is constantly surrounded by friends, family and ever-increasing requests from the media for interviews. As the first Brazilian to finish in the Volvo Ocean Race, he is quite in demand. After a long time away from home, “I am so happy to be back!” he said. “It’s an unbelievable feeling.”

TEAM pavilion
The TEAM pavilion in the Marina is getting busier and busier every day. Banco Real, as ABN AMRO Bank is known in Brazil, has organised a programme for ever-increasing numbers of visitors and clients. These guests can register to have sailing lessons in the ‘sail clinics’ or to learn how make knots in a ‘knot clinic’. Everyday after 6 p.m., TEAM members and visitors are welcomed to a cozy happy hour, which features live music. The music features local music genres like samba, axe and Brazilian pop with live bands.

Happy birthday to Tarajune
Family life goes on as well. Sidney Gavignet and his family, which is now complete with his mother-in-law Catherine, decided to stay in Rio and enjoy the good weather and attractions the city offers. Today the family celebrated the third birthday of Tarajune, the youngest daughter of Gavignet, in the pavilion. The party was completed with chocolate cake, pointed birthday hats and a ‘happy birthday’ song in French.


© TEAM ABN AMRO - Theo Ribeiro |