TEAM ABN AMRO | VOLVO OCEAN RACE | Rotterdam - The Netherlands
Impressive in-port win for ABN AMRO ONE By James Boyd of the Daily Sail 11 June 2006
Mike Sanderson and his loyal band of men on board ABN AMRO ONE never cease to impress. This morning’s in-port race off the mouth of the river Maas was held in winds that rarely exceeded 10 knots. Previous form at the in-port races in Baltimore and Sanxenxo would suggest that these conditions are not what ABN AMRO ONE is good in. She prefers powered up reaching conditions in anything over 12-14 knots, so the theory goes.
Yet today, ABN AMRO ONE posted one of her strongest performances, winning the seventh and final in-port race of the 2005-6 Volvo Ocean Race, a series in which they have to date only lost two races.
After a delay at 1100 local time to re-set the line as the wind changed direction, so half an hour later ABN AMRO ONE, the ‘local’ Rotterdam boat nailed the start line perfectly much to the delight of the several hundred strong spectator fleet that had assembled, forsaking the World Cup football. The black boat crossed at the pin end (the left end, looking up the course) right on the gun, while Neal McDonald’s Ericsson, the only boat between them and the pin was over early and obliged to re-start.
“The guys did a beautiful job,” said Sanderson later. “Crusty [Mark Christensen] said ‘whoever wins the pin is probably going to win the race’, so we hung it in there. So it is great for me to start mixing it up on the start line without having to worry about it affecting the end result.”
In breeze that ranged from 6 to about 13 knots but was mainly closer to the former, it was a good day for the tactical team on board, today including Mark Christensen instead of regular in-port race tactician Tommaso Chieffi, Rob Greenhalgh and navigator Stan Honey.
From the pin, ABN AMRO ONE headed out to the left side of the course, a tactic they employed again on subsequent legs. This paid off handsomely. “We kept a pretty good eye on the cats yesterday and the left seemed to be working for them,” explained Sanderson. “We wanted to lead off the pin and commit to the left, so we kept going left.” While the current wasn’t as favourable on this side compared to heading out to the right, there was more wind and thus they were able to sail faster. As the Farr designed favourites Pirates and Brasil 1 played the middle, ABN AMRO ONE stayed left and extended, rounding the first mark with a 57 second advantage.
On the next lap the wind seemed to go light favouring the Farr designs and so by the second windward mark rounding ABN AMRO ONE was under serious attack from the winner of leg 8, Torben Grael’s Brasil 1, who rounded just 16 seconds behind them. By the next mark the Brazilian team had closed to within 12 seconds, but at this stage they and Paul Cayard’s Pirates of the Caribbean made a tactical error and tried out the right side of the course. At a time when the wind had dropped off and they should be putting distance on ABN AMRO ONE, in fact the opposite happened. The ABN AMRO ONE brains trust chose left once again and came out smelling of roses, reaching the weather mark for the third time, having pulled out a massive 1 min 20 seconds over Brasil 1. In the conditions this was too much for even the Farr boats to regain and the black boat went on to win with a 3 minutes 20 second advantage over Brasil 1.
“It was a great one for us today,” enthused Sanderson on his return. “We had a ball. The guys did an awesome job getting the boat around the course and keeping us in breeze. In conditions we had today we had no advantage. This was our most satisfying in-port race by miles.”
Once again ABN AMRO TWO fared less well. After a good start they were fifth to the weather mark with the late starter Ericsson behind them. But on the first run they started to make in roads when they were the first gybe off to the left side of the course. Unfortunately after rounding the leeward mark for the first time they had a problem with a headsail and were forced to drop it. Losing time in the process they were passed by Ericsson and were never able to get back into the race. “It is probably a one in a 1000 chance of it happening, but it happened to us today,” said navigator Simon Fisher of the technical problem that occurred.
Following this in-port race ABN AMRO ONE have launched themselves up the points table further still to 94 points, to second placed Pirates of the Caribbean on 66. However ABN AMRO TWO are now just hanging on to fourth place with 52.5 while Ericsson is on 52. This place will be decided on the final leg of the race starting this Thursday into Gothenberg.