TEAM ABN AMRO | VOLVO OCEAN RACE | Leg 5 | Rio de Janeiro - Baltimore / Annapolis
ABN AMRO TWO arrives into Baltimore last but vows to fight another day 18 April 2006
The sailors of ABN AMRO TWO arrived to a warm reception in Baltimore today. They came in sixth, dropping to third place in the overall race results with 39.5 points overall. They are only .5 points behind movistar. Despite their discouragement at their result, all said they had fought hard the whole way and are more determined than ever to do well in the rest of the race.
The boat brought two Americans back to home turf: Andrew Lewis of Hawaii and George Peet of Michigan. Peet said, "it feels great to be here - it was pretty full on. I have a lot of family members coming here, looking forward to it!"
Lewis said he was very happy to be home, and that the past leg was good in a lot of respects. "We are a lot freer to be a lot more risk takers than some of the other boats."
Looking at the ups and downs
Skipper Sebastien Josse took a philosophical look back at the leg. "The crew did really well and progressed a lot. That is funny to say, given we came in sixth!" Looking at the leg critically, he pinpointed where things started to go downhill for the crew. "The first few days we were battling the Pirates. Then we slipped and never caught up. But we always continued to fight, no matter what."
There was one sched in particular, he said, when they were parked and assumed the rest of the fleet would have the same issue. That was not the case, the rest of the fleet took off and left them to make up the miles for the following two weeks.
Navigator Simon Fisher said this was the toughest day in some ways of the entire leg. "The worst six hours were where we lost all those miles, on day three. Then we spent a forthnight losing miles." The good news, said Fisher, was "we stayed composed and persevered. We did get the opportunity to make tactical decisions and there we gained some. At the end we weren't so far behind the rest."
So, out of a character-building leg, what did Fisher learn? "We learned a little about clouds and the speed of boat." He also learned how to take bad news and how to share it too. "I think we are our own biggest critics as navigators. It is a pretty horrible feeling when the scheds come in, and pretty tough to tell crew it's been a loss."
So what does the future hold? "We are looking forward to getting out on next one and getting a good result. Absolutely, we have a good chance to recover!" This leg he, like many other crew members, has family visiting. "Mom will be stalking me for another stopover. I've actually never been here before, so Baltimore is my oyster! I am looking forward to Taco Bell, that's right."
Bringing Brazil back to America
Local Rio hero Lucas Brun was pretty tired after a tough leg and equipment failure. "It feels pretty good to be here, but it is not as rewarding because of our result. It's harder to be motivated. But everyone was pushing the boat fast. We had bad luck, very bad luck all concentrated in one leg. Now we are concentrating on the next one."
"I have family here from Rio and Canada and California. I am Brazillian, so I have family all over the world!" he said, finally breaking out in a grin.
Looking forward to 'blowing it up'
Dutchman Hans Horrevoets, being one of the more experienced 'professionals' on board, was more technical in his critique. "We didn't do so well, even though we sailed well." He said the first three days were a blast when the boat held its own against the Pirates and others. "But it was an uphill climb the whole way. For that half a day we were on the wrong side of the course whilst the others gathered more wind."
Despite that, he said, the tides turned somewhat. "We gained some ground in the last three days so that we were at the end only ten miles apart." He pointed out that at times the boat was hundreds of miles behind, so to come back from that to a fairly close finish to the back half of the fleet was quite an accomplishment.
For him, he said the most frustrating part of this was that "we can do it, the boat can do it. We can still finish on the podium in Gothenburg. Every boat thus far has had its bad legs. In this leg we were in the trade winds for so long and there were stretches where nothing happened."
Horrevoets has a special message to his fellow Dutchmen and women. "The leg from Portsmouth to Rotterdam will be a blast for eight days. Anything can happen, going round the top of England! It'll be off the hook - really crazy and interesting to follow. Now the legs are half what they used to be." In short, he invites all Dutch fans to come and see what the excitement is about. "Rotterdam will be a huge spectacle, come and enjoy it with us!"
Log 101 Simon Fisher: A plenty to talk about in Baltimore 17 April 2006, 22:30 GMT
Just a quick one from me today as things are getting pretty busy as we make our final run into the Chesapeake. Despite the finish getting ever close, our days seem no be no less eventful. We have just endured a bumpy crossing of the Gulf Stream, the warm current that flows up the east coast of the States. Not only did we have to cross the Gulf Stream, but pass through a front at the same time, which proved to be a great opportunity for the ocean and mother nature to throw us a little of her wrath. 50 knot winds, 100 degree wind shifts, driving rain and fork lightning touching down on the water all around us. All this on a day that started glassy and calm for us!
Luckily things are settling down again now and the winds are moderating although life will get no less busy as in just a few hours we have to negotiate the Chesapeake Bay. With hundreds of crab pots, fishing nets,
shoals and commercial traffic it is sure to be a busy night. Throw into the mix a close race with the boats around us (we hope... the next sched will tell all) and we should have plenty to talk about when we finally
reach the bar in Baltimore!
Cheers for now,
ABN AMRO ONE wins another one! 17 April
After a seemingly interminable finish, ABN AMRO ONE pulled across the finish line in Baltimore at 18:57 GMT. After crawling along and at one point dropping her anchor to avoid going backwards, the boat managed to come in well ahead of second-placed movistar. ABN AMRO ONE now has 62.5 points to her credit, well ahead of the competition.
For the team this is the fourth leg victory of the race. For crew ONE's navigator Stan Honey, he came into port the oldest participant in the race (at 51 years of age) aas well as the first American.
Mike Sanderson had nothing but praise for his crew. “It is awesome to have won this leg! The conditions in the Bay have not been fast. It is incredible that we have got through them all and are here in first place. Once again the boys have done a fantastic job! I am more than happy and very proud to be part of this TEAM. It is a great day for us, and I am looking forward to getting onto dry land here in America.”
ABN AMRO ONE completed the leg in 15 days, 2 hours, 47 minutes and 52 seconds. Although the boat had been expected to come in much later in the day, they fared will with the winds overnight and sailed up the Chesapeake much earlier than expected. Yet the closer they got to the finish line, the less wind they received. At one point Rob Greenhalgh hauled himself up the mast to scout for better winds.
Yet ABN AMRO ONE had a hefty lead over their nearest rival movistar, and despite these drawbacks pulled in well ahead of the rest. ABN AMRO ONE is currently sporting the flag of ABN AMRO's American affiliate LaSalle Bank, right next to the red Leg Winner flag and yellow Overall Race Leader flag.
An inauspicious start
ABN AMRO ONE began the leg sailing out of Guanabara Bay in last place as they lost the halyard on the head sail. For the ABN AMRO boats it was then a tough battle to stay with the fleet as the winds were light. However, by Day 2 of Leg 5 the wind had become much more suited for Mike Sanderson and his crew and they quickly began the hunt for first place.
As the fleet headed towards the scoring gate off Fernando de Noronha it was a close fought battle for maximum points. In the end, the Spanish movistar passed 1.25 minutes ahead of ABN AMRO ONE. For Mike and crew ONE, the first place finish into Baltimore, 16.5 miles ahead of movistar, will be the first opportunity to finally relax on this tactically difficult leg.
Meanwhile, ABN AMRO TWO has had some equipment troubles but is still on course. They are over 200 miles behind their sister ABN AMRO ONE but could always make some progress over fourth-placed Ericsson or fifth-placed Brasil 1.
The day is somewhat cool in Baltimore’s harbour, and the winner’s podium is ready and waiting for the victors to arrive, by about 21:00 or 22:00 GMT. They are currently motoring up the waterway at a slow but steady pace. The harbourfront is already full of people awaiting their arrival, and sailing fans from nearby Washington, DC and other cities have arrived to witness this rare event.
Log 100 Simon Fisher: Back with the pedal to floor16 April 2006, 20:34 GMT
Right now, here on ABN AMRO TWO we are all feeling pretty damn lucky that we still have a rig in the boat and are able to push hard in the hope of making up a few places. Earlier this afternoon we got pretty damn close to this leg being all over for us...
We were power reaching along in 25 knots of wind, going fast, all under control. It has become a drag race against Brasil 1 and Ericsson to see who can get to the next shift first so we had the pedal down hard. All of
a sudden there was a massive bang from on deck, like gunfire followed by the screams of the guys on watch to get everyone on deck. The toggle that holds the runner block to the boat had snapped.
With this broken there was nothing opposing the force of the jib and staysail pulling the mast over the front of the boat. Luckily Beavis, thinking fast threw the boat into the wind and the guys arriving on deck wound the mainsheet on hard to stop the rig tumbling down. With little support the 30 metre spar was writhing around like a snake as the jib flapped on the bow. Fortunately we were able to get the sails down without any further damage and start making repairs in order that we get under way again. We were able to rob some parts from the leeward side enabling us to fix the runner block back to the back of the boat and within half an hour we were back sailing again at full pace.
Despite these set backs and having lost valuable miles to the boats in front we are pretty pleased that we are still in the race, and more importantly no one was hurt as the runner block left the deck when its six tonnes of load hurled it skywards. Thankfully that little episode is behind us and we are back with the pedal to floor, racing harder than ever to beat the guys in front to the Chesapeake.
Report 62: Sitting at the dock of the bay... 16 April 2006
By Carlos Lua Mauro from Baltimore, USA
They are almost there. In the next sched at least ABN AMRO ONE (36 miles ahead of second placed movistar) will enter the Chesapeake Bay.
Looking to port, Black Betty’s (ABN AMRO ONE's) crew will see Virginia Beach on the Western shore of the Chesapeake. Casting their eyes to starboard, a little bit to the Northeast, Cape Charles will loom on the Eastern shore.
Then it is a matter of going north in the fastest possible way in America’s largest estuary: Point Lookout, Hoopensville, Cover Point, Jamies’s Point, Chesapeake Beach, Valliant, Annapolis, Love Point Lakeshore and Sparrow’s Point will follow in zigzagging succession.
Rivers, rivers everywhere
Against the boats, hampering their progress, continue the erratic winds. These are now joined by the succession of rivers flowing up against the boats: the James, York, Rappahannock, Potomac, Patuxent, Choptank and Patapsco that drain into the bay. Up, up and the bay will take them from South to North, turn from salt water to fresh water whilst the fast V70s avoid local traffic, pleasure boats, oyster boats and crab pots. A distance of 100 miles, plus with a shoreline of 5,000 more, with an average depth of 21 feet. This is the home of more than 200 different kinds of fish and for almost 16 million people.
‘Tschiswapeki’ in the term in one of the Native American languages (Algonquin) that was spoken by the original inhabitants. They are believed to have been around since 8,000 BC. This 'Chesapeake' is the last hurdle, a kind of a ‘ruffling drums’ finale for a leg that has seen amazing battles, unpredictable changes and nerve racking distress.
They are almost here. The ETA in Baltimore's Inner Harbour for ABN AMRO ONE is 9 p.m. local time on Monday 17 April, if all these traps play fair and the wind plays just. Baltimore is ready and waiting restlessly. No more eager, though, than each soul on board the boats themselves.
Log 98 Simon Fisher: A white Easter15 April 2006, 00:32 GMT
We are currently reaching along in 25 knots of breeze. The water is once again flying back down the deck and the spray is pounding the guys on watch. Everyone is reveling the conditions, the first time we have had a big breeze in two weeks!
Sadly I think it will not last and probably in less than an hour we will once again all be on deck changing back to a bigger sail. However, we'll enjoy it while it lasts, and use it to make as many miles as we can on the boats ahead of us.
It has been a good day for us today. We have gone some way to making up the deficit of miles that the other boats managed to put on us yesterday. There has been some tricky sailing today, big squalls and massive wind shifts but luckily we have managed to duck and dive around them and best of all avoided the calms that have so often set us back in this leg. Hopefully if we can continue in this fashion by the entrance to the Chesapeake, now only 1000 miles away, we could have a real race on our hands!
In the rushing around that ensued in this latest squall things got a little messy downstairs today. As the spinnakers were dragged aft to try and help the boat’s bow out of the water, a misplaced boot resulted in the
contents of one of the fire extinguishers ending up all over the inside of the boat. Before we knew it people were filing out of the hatch covered in white powder and the hatches had to be opened in order to get some
fresh air in!!
Log 112 Mike Sanderson: Happy Easter! 14 April 2006, 21:24 UTC
It's been an interesting 24 hours of sailing, the crossing of this massive stationary front was always going to be a major feature of the last 1000 miles of the leg. It went pretty nicely for us and movistar with us putting some good distances between the two of us and the rest of the pack.
Between us it was about even, firstly we were losing for over a day as we approached the lighter airs, then we hooked onto a new breeze and found ourselves un-expectantly running in up to 27 knots of wind.. cool, we gained 18 miles on movistar in that sched. Then we started to sail out of the breeze, however got the wind shift we were hoping for and gybed.
Movistar must have then been in geographically the same bit of water and hooked into the same breeze as us, then in the next sched, she had taken exactly the same distance back out of us.... weird...
Then we sailed into the new building Easterly and in the last two position reports have gained around 18 miles back in total, most of that will be the fact that we led her back in to the new breeze, some of it though will be that this is reaching in breeze which is ABN AMRO ONE's strongest condition. The next position report will be interesting to see if the guys behind movistar have escaped it's clutches yet, from some of our routing experiments it looked like they were going to have some grief with it yet.
While there still hasn't been a whole lot of wildlife still to report on, one natural feature which has been amazing over the last 24 hrs has been the power of the weather, to see the images from the satellite and then to see first hand the cloud formations that were in this front and how they could change the conditions so quickly was truly amazing. And then there was the rain... man could it bucket down in some of the clouds, I would hate to think how many millimeters of rain would have fallen in one half hour period, but the drops were so big they almost hurt. I always think that it rains a lot in New Zealand, but it never rains like it did out here yesterday in some of the squalls.
Right now we have 818 miles to go to the finish line, of which the last 100 are up the Chesapeake Bay. We still have a few good obstacles between here and the finish. Firstly starting in the early hours of Saturday morning with a ridge of high pressure where it will get all the way down to 4 knots of wind, then on Sunday we will have 27 knots of breeze at times when we are crossing the Gulf Stream. Then the final hurdle will in fact be trying to get up the Chesapeake with the light airs that are forecasted. So plenty to play for yet, and those are the ones we know about!!!
Talk tomorrow and from all of us out here on ABN AMRO ONE.. Happy Easter!!!
Navigating the minefieldBy Andy Rice of Sailing Intelligence
13 April 2006
It has been a good day for both ABN AMRO boats. As she enters the minefield of uncertain breezes, ABN AMRO ONE has clung on to more of her lead than Mike Sanderson had dared believed possible, while ABN AMRO TWO has clawed back some useful miles on fifth-placed Ericsson, now just a matter of 50 miles away.
“Life’s ticking along,” said a chirpy Mike Sanderson. “We’re pleased with the skeds over the past day. We’ve won a few, lost a few, so pretty happy. Since yesterday, the forecast has changed quite drastically. Hopefully now, touching wood and fingers crossed, we can come through here relatively unscathed."
Sanderson also has some predictions. "The router says we’re going to have to gybe – which could be expensive on the boats behind - but then it says the guys behind will have to gybe too. So hopefully it won’t hurt too much. It’s nice to have stopped the rot for the time being, although we definitely have one more park-up after that and then the threat of Chesapeake Bay. There’s a lot more golf in this hole yet.”
The mood is confident on board ABN AMRO TWO, the self-styled ‘pesky kids’ looking to upset their older rivals on the other boats. Despite the high-profile change of skippers, with Neal MacDonald replaced by winning skipper from the last Volvo Ocean Race, John Kostecki, the Swedish entry continues to look vulnerable in some conditions.
ABN AMRO TWO navigator Simon Fisher commented of Ericsson: “They’re in front of us, which is an improvement, but they’re still back in fifth. I certainly don’t think JK [John Kostecki] is the answer to all their problems. Brasil have been showing good speed when the wind angles were tighter, but they don’t look as fast as Pirates in downwind conditions.”
Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats
The steady trade winds of the past week have afforded ample opportunity for each team to do a SWOT analysis of their rivals. “We look very closely at each sked to see who’s going well and who’s not,” explained Si Fi. “Pirates seem to go very well now, very similar to us. Whenever we go well they seem to go well, and that’s probably because their sail inventory is a little closer to ours than the other guys.”
It will be interesting to see which teams are busy building new sails in Baltimore for the remainder of the race. Having been through an intensive two-boat testing programme in the months leading up to the start last November, there isn’t much call for change in the ABN AMRO camp. It is more a matter of the other teams playing catch-up, where sail design is concerned.
With such a limited number of sails allowed for this race, it was crucial to get them right from the start. And having done that, the two ABN AMRO boats have sails yet to be measured in. “I think we’ve got five slots left,” said Si Fi. “We’re pretty happy with what we’ve got. We’re in good shape. We’ve got enough sails to see us through to the end of the race, and a spare slot for a specialist light air sail for the closing stages in Europe. We don’t feel we need to drastically redesign anything else. The two-boat testing has been so valuable, it was really constructive testing.”
It is this confidence in their equipment that gives Si Fi hope that he can further close the gap on the pack. “On recent skeds we’ve made some reasonable inroads into Ericsson and Brasil. Hopefully we can keep on getting further into them. Within a day or so it starts to get a bit funky, with light airs and pretty big shifts. We’ll take all that quite happily, being in the position that we are. The rest of the leg will be quite tricky, which is good when you’re at the back! We’re just going to keep pushing as hard as we can to the end. You never know what can happen between now and the finish.”
The final hurdle in this leg is the sail up to Baltimore through the Chesapeake Bay. With so many more immediate obstacles to negotiate, Mike Sanderson hasn’t yet turned his full attention to the Chesapeake. But having seen it in the race eight years ago, he knows how tricky it can be. “It’s a very long, skinny and land-locked piece of water, and at times it can be like sailing on a lake. Hopefully at this time of year with the weather systems rolling through we’ll get some wind to travel up the Chesapeake. At least the water is likely to be flat though, which means we should be able to keep the boat moving even in light airs.”
In the mean time, Sanderson is remembering to enjoy the conditions as the fleet sails along at Caribbean latitudes. “It’s beautiful sailing – shorts and T-shirt weather. It’s more pleasant on deck now, and a million times more pleasant down below.”
He is beginning to run out of clean shirts, although as a responsible skipper Sanderson always remembers to keep one spare for the arrival. “I have to save one in case I have to hug people when I get into dock, so it’s not quite so rugged for the people welcoming me home. It’s a responsibility I’ve bestowed on myself,” says the skipper, ever mindful of other people’s feelings – not to mention their sense of smell. Suffice it to say that an offshore sailor is capable of generating odours previously believed to have been the exclusive domain of the animal kingdom.
Log 34 Sidney Gavignet: First shower since Rio! 10 April 2006
It’s all go out here!
We crossed the gate at Fernando da Noronha last night, only a couple of lengths behind movistar. We yielded half a point to the them, but we are not complaining, it has been a good run still.
A few minutes after we crossed the imaginary line, we took the wind from movistar and left them in our wake, and this morning they are just a speck on the horizon.
In 30 miles we will be back in the Northern hemisphere! What an achievement in such a short amount of time! We complain from time to time about the monotony, but here, we are all really excited!
Yesterday, before we passed the island, we sailed through a huge rain cloud. Within seconds all the crew was in shorts taking their first shower since Rio. Helming the boat, and wrapped up in my oil skins, I couldn’t take advantage of the shower but the spectacle was quite funny. Bob had also stayed stuck in his bunk. An hour later, another cloud was approaching and Bob was ready with the soap so as not to miss it. After an intense soaping, the rain never came our way in the end, but stayed away… shame!
The boat is in good shape, we have no damage. We are getting preparing to make the best of the critical passage through the doldrums, the critical transition zone between the trade winds of the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The crossing doesn’t look to be posing to big a problem at the moment, but it is a risky zone where the race can be thrown wide open.
Until next time,
Log 16 Watch Captain Mark Christensen: Out of the Doldrums9 April 2006 15:04 UTC
Well it looks like we are out of the Doldrums and on our way in a building North Easterly trade wind. Pretty painless Doldrums compared with some I have been through. The lightest wind we saw was 6kts and only had to deal with one small cloud. The sea way was terrible, normally it is dead flat calm but not last night. Now as we are in the trades, the waves are more inline with the wind and boat speeds are building. 16kts for the last two hours, but with that comes the spray and the front hatch has been shut and the temperatures downstairs are soaring again. A couple of days ago it was impossible to sleep in the middle of the day downstairs, it is not quite there yet but as soon as we next need to turn the generator on it will be.
Things are looking great for ABN AMRO ONE, these are the conditions the boat excels in, 12-18kts of wind, 70-120 TWA. This is perhaps the first time in the race, apart from on the first leg that we have had these conditions for any extended period of time. Part of the reason for this is the ice waypoints, part because of a different time of year and course and probably most because after 3 and a 1/2 races, I am getting old, senile and begin most sentences with "on EF (or illbruck or Winston) I remember....." All three races I have done before this race seemed to have a large percentage of conditions like this, but this race has generally been more vmg (or upwind, downwind) and less reaching. In fact one of my shoreside roles is to evaluate the boat’s performance from a leg and update our polar curves from this.
During the Rio stopover Stan Honey and I went through all the legs again and updated the navigation polars. It was interesting to see then how little sailing we have done around 90 TWA. The other clue that we have done very little of this angle is that our genoa staysail looks brand new after sailing 2/3 of the way around the world, normally after a leg they are ready to be replaced. What a leg so far, very up and down emotionally.
Last out of the start, passing the fleet by out jigging them with some smart sail handling in a rain squall, losing first place by covering second and ignoring the routing software for the first time in the race, then watching the fleet sail away in 4-10kts of wind running - scary how much slower we were than the other boats - only to save the whole leg by deciding to play with a squall line and sailing along it all day(in more breeze) and getting back to third before it died out. I shudder to think what would have happened if we hadn't have caught the cloud and had still been 15 miles behind our sister ship when the trades filled in.
Things that have surprised me so far; We are much slower than the rest of the fleet downwind in under 10 kts (I thought we were similar or a little bit slower but it is more than I thought).
How much some of the other boats are still behind in their sail programmes. Small staysails (or none), radically different sails from previous legs. Difficulty with handling them, I have seen a number of slow or bare-headed sail changes on other boats.
How different clouds behave relative to your boat when the boat you are on is very fast relative to the wind speed. Last race if a squall line of rain got within a 100m of you, it would run over the top of the boat and the leave you becalmed for a period of time. On this leg we would happily sail in this zone and if the rain got too close just gybe and sail away for a few minutes before heading back for some more pre-rain squall breeze. Quite cool dicing with death so often.
How little the eight fans, wind scoop on the front hatch etc. cool a black boat down downstairs.
How quickly all bowel problems clear up after leaving Rio and then a new set re-occur with the freeze-dried food.
That no matter how much time you spend cleaning, washing, applying cream, talcum powder or other remedies, heat and salt water related problems still occur. You should see the spots on my left leg.
Where is all the wildlife? Apart from a lost finch (Justin told me it was a finch?) that was trying to nest on our wand, only the two sea birds that happily troll our wake waiting for the flying fish to take off so they can gobble them up (are these the same two birds from the first leg?), The ever present flying fish that take flight out of the path of the boat and the odd one that can count some Japanese heritage and launches itself at the boat or crew.
How much water there is in the world!! When you sail over it endlessly, have it dump on you from a cloud for over an hour or have it come across the boat when you are sailing at more than 16 kts continuously, you realise just how much there is.
Finally, and there are some more but this will do, how much I miss my wife, Janelle, and two daughters, Maddy and Bronte when I am offshore and they are on. I wish I was with them even more when you hear how much fun the are having at "Mickey Mouse's House" in Orlando.
Any way life is all good aboard ABN AMRO ONE and should be that way for another 1700 miles of reaching at least.
Mark "Crusty" Christensen
Watch Captain and guest daily reporter
Stalking the movistarBy Andy Rice of Sailing Intelligence
7 April 2006
Bit by bit ABN AMRO ONE is grinding down movistar’s lead, but will it be enough to seize the maximum 3.5 points at the Scoring Gate of Fernando de Noronha? Travelling about a knot faster than the Spanish, Mike Sanderson reckons it might be close but believes rival skipper Bouwe Bekking has done enough to hang on to the lead at Fernando. “It will be quite entertaining if nothing else,” said Sanderson of the chase. “The boat’s going nicely. This is certainly what we believed to be our sweet spot, and the boat is hauling. So if we carry on the way we are now, we should see them [at Fernando], which should be fun.”
Bowling along in the moderate trade winds, Sanderson says they are in exactly the conditions the boat was designed for. It must be soul-destroying stuff for the other boats. “Most of them have seen us do this before in the race, but I know if I was trying to sail against us in this stuff, I wouldn’t be enjoying it too much!”
The broad beam and the heaviest lead bulb in the fleet are both useful factors in ABN AMRO ONE’s favour, but we shouldn’t forget the sail programme which appears to work well for the boat in a variety of windspeeds and wind angles. Having seen the ‘black boat’ sail past him yesterday, Paul Cayard was sounding a little resigned to his fate on board Pirates. “Sometimes it is ‘horses for courses’ out here with everyone having slightly different sails and each having their ‘sweet spot’ and each inventory having its ‘holes’ or areas that aren't covered so well.”
Cayard admitted that after “struggling with not having the best sail for the conditions, the fleet gained on us and ABN AMRO ONE came from a spec on the horizon at sunrise to within five miles by mid-afternoon. Then when the wind came up to a solid 8 knots, she just started marching on by. Now it is blowing 15 knots and she is just about out of sight.”
“It looks like our reaching wheels are in place,” said Sanderson of his battle with the Pirates. “All day yesterday I was really pleased how we went through five miles to leeward of them. As the breeze built they used up all their leverage in one hit, and sailed down to our line.” Cayard traded his dwindling advantage by closing up towards Sanderson, although by then the damage had been done. “If I’d have been in their situation I would have done the same. They minimised the loss to us during that sked, which is why we only gained by a couple of miles.” Since then, however, the gain has been considerably greater and instead of looking to regain 2nd place, Cayard could well be worrying about Ericsson breathing down his neck.
While ABN AMRO ONE has been making encouraging gains, ABN AMRO TWO has yielded more miles at the back. Skipper Sébastien Josse has given up any realistic hope of catching a boat before the Scoring Gate. “The last two skeds were not so good for us. The boats in front got the pressure a bit earlier,” he said. “So there is no hope before Fernando. That’s the reality.”
But now they are in the same trade winds, the young team should have the chance to at least close the gap on Brasil 1 and Ericsson, ready to pounce later in the leg. “There is lots of opportunity after the Scoring Gate, it’s a different race after Fernando. It’s more downwind with the masthead chute. We are only 60 miles off the lead – there is plenty of opportunity with so far to go to Baltimore.”
After Fernando, the next phase of the leg is the Doldrums, the notoriously fickle weather system which lurks around the Equator. Again, Josse sees this as opportunity more than threat. “Just one squall and you can win 20 miles really quickly. We must wait for our moment.”
Hot and sweaty
As the fleet approaches the Equator, conditions become increasingly unpleasant. Now the breeze is up, water is washing across the deck and forcing all the ventilation hatches to be shut. Below decks is not a good place to be right now. Josse said: “When the generator is on, it gets really hot. There’s no fresh air, and the temperature is maybe 40 degrees or more.”
Before the breeze picked up, some of the off-watch crew preferred to sleep up on deck in the cooler air but now that is no longer an option. Interestingly that is never an option on board ABN AMRO ONE, where Sanderson operates a strict policy between above and below decks.
“We never sleep on deck. It’s a racing environment,” he explained. “We run a strict regime on deck. Upstairs is for racing, downstairs is for rest and eating. We don’t even allow hot drinks on deck, and the only conversation on deck is about the racing. It’s to keep the intensity up. We’re not out here for a joy ride, and in these conditions we don’t even like guys sitting around with their legs over the side [of their bunks]. We want them in their bunks, giving us the maximum leverage available. The boat is stacked so extremely that everything is hard out on the high side. But in any case the guys are keen to get to bed because any time sitting around is non-sleeping time. Bunk time at night is precious because it’s the only time it’s cool enough to sleep.”
The crew are sweating buckets in these humid conditions, and so water consumption is crucial. The downside is that with no refrigeration facilities, the desalinated water is warm. Sanderson hates this aspect of life on board. “I love cold drinks, but you get cold drinks in the Southern Ocean and you get warm drinks when you’re in the tropics, so it’s all a bit arse about face.” Generally, filtered sea water doesn’t taste too great either, but Sanderson says team mate Dave Endean has done a great job of providing them with good quality water – albeit at a less-than-satisfactory temperature. “Our water is better than most cities. Dave does a great job of changing the filters and keeping the thing well maintained.” While life is far from comfortable in such searing heat, the team has worked hard on the little details, which all add up to making life on board that little bit more bearable.
Log 105 Skipper Mike Sanderson: The word of the day is "clouds" 6 April 2006 02:28 UTC
The word for the day on board "Black Betty" (AKA ABN AMRO ONE) is "CLOUDS".
Today more then any of the previous few days, has been all about picking your way through or, more to the point, working the clouds. Previously we had considered on average to be pretty cautious with them. Yes there were gains to be made if you got yourself positioned just right, but generally speaking it was better to stay away as often the gain from a cloud was paid for by an even bigger light spot after it.
Today however as we where analysing our situation from the back of the pack, we decided that maybe our approach was just too conservative. The day before we had seen both Ericsson and Brasil 1 come from a long way behind us and by the end of the day pretty much on the horizon in front, so today we decided would be all about attacking the clouds... taking them on head to head...going into them as far as we dared to pick up the stronger breezes. At times getting it wrong and having the wind do a 180 degree shift on us and we would have the gennaker all wrapped up in the rig. Then once right in the middle of this huge cloud, we were faced with a water spout, a mini tornado that was spinning on the water, sucking sea water all the way up into the cloud, looking more like something out of the movie Twister or maybe even the Wizard of Oz than an ocean racing scene.
Anyway I would hate to think how many sail changes we did, or how many gybes even more the point, as at times we would gybe just for as short a distance as 100 meters, just looking to stay in a very narrow corridor of wind. Right now though it looks like all our hard work and our new approach has paid off as on the latest position report we are in 3rd place!! Having passed ABN AMRO 2, Brazil 1 and Ericsson and having made some nice gains on the Pirates and movistar.
Today has been Brad's (Jackson) birthday. He turned 38 today which has seen him be the brunt of a few jokes on board. In the last Volvo which Brad and I did together on Merit Cup, we had Brad' 30th Birthday during the Miami stop over and it doesn't seem that long ago. Brad and I have now done a huge amount of our yachting together, this will be the 3rd time around the world together as well as an America's Cup. He is a key member of the Mari-Cha team and also was my right hand man when I was getting ready to do my Solo Transat race last year on "Pindar". Brad was the first call that I made when I got the job to skipper ABN AMRO 1 and will be my best man at my wedding next month, so it is pretty cool to be celebrating another birthday with him at sea. Although next year and even more so the year after, for the big 40, I hope we will be on land somewhere, as I know his three sons, Liam, Cole and Finn and his wife Marlene as well as his mum Robin and his brother Scott would much rather have him at home for a birthday or two... but for now he has a yacht race to try and win, so we need him out here, you guys will just have to have a little party for him when he comes home from Baltimore..
Talk tomorrow and happy birthday Brad,
Log 104 Skipper Mike Sanderson: On the bumpy road to Baltimore5 April 2006 01:00 UTC
Another mixed day of snakes and ladders for the fleet, running down wind all day in under 10 knots. The biggest danger out here today has been the risk of getting sun stroke. It is days like today that you dreamt about in the last leg, but now that it is upon us, all you are constantly wishing for is more breeze.
We have had a mixed day on "Black Betty", although we lost to the guys behind us, we have all gained on the guys in front, so the fleet is much closer together again now. Just as it was getting dark we could see everyone except movistar. She still has a nice little lead and this lead could pretty easily turn into 3.5 points for her. If she is able to be the first one to break out into the South Easterly trades, there is a very good chance that she will just extend all the way to Fernando, as the leader could well end up sailing into a constantly building breeze. If the fleet is all bunched, then it will be a drag race. It won't take much separation though for it to turn into a "rich getting richer" scenario, something that we have been hoping for on all the previous legs but without it happening, and now when it is looking like it won't be us at the front, there is a very good chance that it will be the case.
However that is yacht racing, and there is no point dwelling on it, we just have to get on with the little bumps in the road that we are going to have to face and just give it 150% and see what happens. We know we have got good pace when the breeze does finally fill in, and I know that the boys are really going to rise to the challenge of trying to pass some boats.
I just wanted to take this opportunity, since there isn't a lot of warp speed sailing going on to thank everyone for all the kind messages that I got when I got into Rio about my poor old dog Nikita dying. I guess one of the biggest eye openers for me was how many people read these reports that come off the Volvo boats!! Anyway, it was good to get home to New Zealand and to be able to really get my head around it and make it all real.
Log 103 Skipper Mike Sanderson: On breakage and ‘tight racing’ 4 April 2006 00:46 UTC
Well it's great to be back out here and racing on the good ship ABN AMRO ONE. Rio was a great stopover for us though, what an amazing reception that we got when we arrived to win the leg and an even more exciting one again when everybody came out to watch the in-port race.
To be honest, we didn't expect great things from the in-port race in Rio, but man what a day it turned on. Without a doubt the best sailing day that we had for the whole three weeks that we where there, and it was a very nice feeling to win the race. I guess mainly due to all the dock talk about how our boat suffers in light airs, which is the case in eight or nine knots. But she is just fine it is blowing ten or eleven knots and we managed to lead from start to finish.
The start to Leg 5
Yesterday for the leg start it was looking like it was going to be a total drifter, then by some divine intervention in between the ten min and five minute gun a lovely ten knot sea breeze came rolling down the harbour. Brasil 1 were over early, but apart from that everyone got away cleanly and started working their way upwind out towards the Volvo mark off Copacabana Beach (just so we could get one last look...).
Unfortunately for us the equilite fitting on our jib lock failed and the sail came crashing to the deck. Under Volvo rules you are only allowed to use designated jib halyards for hoisting jibs, so we had to go with our #4 Solent Jib on it's separate headstay while Jan (Dekker) spliced a new strop onto the lock. But that was only after we had pulled him up the rig to retrieve it!! So, not the greatest of first half hours of a race for the black boat.
The first night
Suddenly we found ourselves in last place by a good mile and had to set about catching up once around the Copacabana mark. The night was as tricky as we had discussed in all our pre-race strategy meetings, but we did have more breeze then expected. And for even one short burst through a black cloud we had the old girl doing 24 knots pointing straight for Fernando!!
I think everyone took their turn at leading at some stage through the hours of darkness. But as daylight broke it was nice that all our hard work had paid off and we had a couple of miles lead. With all the big black clouds to deal with during the day though, that was going to be pretty impossible to hold and in fact it during today we have been anywhere from first to fourth.
At one stage we had some amazing racing against the Pirates, the two boats surfing to 20 knots in only 14 knots of wind and us getting passed by them, only for us to re-pass them again, at times only a boat length away.
So it would be fair to say we are back into it, we are settling back into life on board well. Everyone is fit and healthy and the boat is in great shape after all the good work by our shore crew. If today is anything to go by boat speeds seem very even in these conditions and so it looks like we are in for some very tight racing...
Will keep you posted.
Log 89 Navigator Simon Fisher: Eventful 24 hours 3 April 2006, 07:36 p.m. GMT
We are approaching our first 24 hours at sea and they have been fairly eventful to say the least. Despite being thrown straight back into the usual routine of sleep deprivation it is great to be back out on the water and straight into some really close racing, no doubt this will be a full on sprint all the way to the first scoring gate at Fernando with all six boats craving those points. The boys are definitely fired up for this leg, and we are throwing as many people as we can at the first few days of the race as we negotiate some tricky conditions on the way up to the trades.
Although we have been lucky to have much more wind than forecast, we have also had our fair share of calms and squalls. This made for some pretty exciting sailing late last night when Pirates came rolling over the top of us in a gust doing 20 knots only to find the we were to do the same to them five minutes later! Five minutes after that we were both parked up!!
It's a risky business sailing through the big rain clouds that stretch along the coast here but some seem to be completely un-avoidable. Get on the right side of them and you get more wind, and a good push down the course. However, end up on the wrong side and all of a sudden you are sitting in no breeze, pointing in a direction you really don't want to go with torrential rain filling your boots as you try and get the boat going again. With that said, we are at our most vigilant right now, keeping a close watch on our competitors and the rain clouds that surround us at the moment. Luckily so far we have been getting a few more ladders than snakes but even still we are trying not to take too many risks!! For now we are happy to stay close to our competitors and wit for a moment to pounce.
Technical wrap-up: A troubled start for ABN AMRO ONE and TWO2 April 2006
For TEAM ABN AMRO the departure of leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race was not their finest hour, as both boats experienced sail handling difficulties resulting in their leaving Rio de Janeiro last in the six strong fleet.
Within the confines of the harbour prior to the start there seemed to be barely enough wind to get the boats away, causing several teams to send wind spotters aloft. However start time at 13:10 local time (16:10 GMT) saw the first glimpse of the southerly sea breeze, enough to get the boats away albeit in slow motion. The start itself was clean with the exception of an overly keen Brasil 1 who were over early. Fortunately the local heroes were able to respond quickly and only lost around six boat lengths as they dived back to the line to restart.
While movistar, fresh from sorting out the continued keel problems that befell them on the previous leg, made the best start, the early lead was taken by Ericsson Racing Team, now with 2001-2 Volvo Ocean Race winning skipper John Kostecki in the skipper role. With an upwind start the Swedish boat and ABN AMRO ONE headed off the start line on port tack towards the Rio de Janeiro shore. However the prospects for Mike Sanderson’s team turned sour when within five minutes of the start they experienced a problem with the halyard lock, holding their headsail up. The headsail dropped in the water leaving the Volvo Ocean Race leader floundering, as the competition sailed off into the horizon led by the Swedish team.
“We had a fitting break,” explained navigator Stan Honey. “We replaced the fitting but temporarily we had to go with a different jib. We fixed it before we got out of the bay, so it was probably 10 minutes or so until we put the other jib back up.” In the process bowman Jan Dekker was hoisted aloft to recover the halyard.
Within 30 minutes of the start the boats had exited Rio’s Guanabara Bay with some of the city’s famous landmarks like Copacabana Beach and the giant Sugar Loaf mountain off to their right and a giant spectator fleet in hot pursuit lavishing attention on Olympic medallist Torben Grael’s Brazilian team. With the sea breeze building to 10 knots, so Ericsson held a slender lead from her sistership, Paul Cayard’s Pirates of the Caribbean entry. But the Pirates benefitted from finding more wind offshore and by the turning mark had overhauled Ericsson, rounding 32 seconds ahead.
Not all smooth sailing for the sister ship
ABN AMRO Two rounded in third place 1 minute 6 seconds astern of the Pirates, but immediately her crew had problems with their spinnaker. The sail is hoisted in a snuffer, effectively a long sleeve or sock containing the sail. To use the sail the sleeve is hoisted to the masthead, but on this occasion the sock refused to budge up the sail and the crew were forced to drop it in order to sort it out, allowing movistar to overtake them in the process.
“We are catching up now,” commented navigator Simon Fisher later. “We are right on Ericsson’s stern with movistar a little bit to leeward of us and I think Pirates is a little further inshore and lighter. We are working our way down to Cabo Freo sailing a little bit high just to get clear of the shore and to be far enough offshore for when the sea breeze dies later on today. It seems like the whole fleet has got a common plan as we are all going out on the same angle.”
ABN AMRO ONE and TWO leave Rio for Baltimore 2 April 2006
Thousands of spectators lined the Marina da Gloria today in Rio de Janeiro to wave the boats off on their next leg to Baltimore, about 5,500 nautical miles away. A Navy band of drummers and bagpipers showed up to give them a formal sending-off.
ABN AMRO ONE and TWO made some signs in Portuguese to thank the city of Rio and all Brazilians for hosting them. The sign on ABN AMRO TWO read “Thanks Rio! We are taking a little bit of you with us, with Lucas Brun on board.” The sign on ABN AMRO ONE read: “Thanks Rio, you wonderful and unforgettable city!”
The leg is expected to take between 13 and 17 days. Skipper Mike Sanderson of ABN AMRO ONE predicted “It will be tricky getting out of the bay. But it is not life and death, if we are the last one out of the bay.”
At the dock, local boy Lucas Brun predicted that “This next leg will be hard, and we will see the positioning reports changing all the time. But we are ready for the challenge!”
An exciting start
At 13:10 local time, the fleet took off for the first marker just outside the bay. The national television channel Rede Globo decided to broadcast the first hour of the race, making it a high-profile start. Tens of thousands of spectators and dozens of spectator boats were watching from shore and on the water.
Despite a good start to Leg 5 today, ABN AMRO ONE had a broken halyard on her mast, which helps keep the sail up properly. ABN AMRO ONE recovered quickly but the maneuvre cost the boat a lot of time. She ended up trailing the fleet today as she headed out to the ocean.
With winds at approximately five to eight knots, the boats bunched up at times. Pirates of the Caribbean ended up leading the fleet, with movistar, Ericsson and ABN AMRO TWO following close behind. ABN AMRO TWO also had a bit of a problem with a reacher on its sail. ABN AMRO ONE rounded the first mark 13 minutes behind the Pirates of the Caribbean.
Sanderson said: “It is looking like a tricky first couple of days, light and shifty. For us it will be about just trying to hang with the pack. This leg should have lots of sailing which suits us. Today we have 5,500 miles to get it right. We'll try and do a good job for the rest of the race.”
The boats are now headed in the direction of Cabo Frio before heading north to the first scoring gate at the Brazilian island of Fernando de Noronha.