TEAM ABN AMRO | VOLVO OCEAN RACE | Leg 4 | Wellington - Rio de Janeiro
Displaying ABN AMRO ONE WIN GRUELLING SOUTHERN OCEAN LEG11 March 2006: At 03.18 GMT today after 20 days, 01 hour, 48 minutes and 23 seconds ABN AMRO ONE, overall leaders in the Volvo Ocean Race, added a leg four victory to their impressive race record.
The Southern Ocean is notoriously the hardest and most challenging of legs for any round the world sailor – the extreme fatigue coupled with the intense cold, strong winds and large seas makes the arrivals here in Rio even more significant. For ABN AMRO ONE, who have worked hard to maintain their sometimes fragile lead, the finish here in Rio has come not a moment too soon. Mike Sanderson and his crew have now won 3 of the 4 legs in this race and continue to show that they are the team to beat in this race. However with half the points still available there is everything to play for in the remainder of this race and in a fleet that contains some of the world’s best sailors.
As Mike Sanderson commented on the dock side:
“I didn’t think we’d won this leg until this afternoon. That was when I allowed myself to believe that we might have pulled this off. And even in the harbour when at one stage it looked like we were going to swept past the finish by the current there were some pretty nervous times. It was amazing to watch the guys behind - I see there have been a few places changes today.
It’s been tough since we left Wellington, but some amazing sailing. All I can say is the guys did a fantastic job sailing this boat. I’m just so proud of the whole of TEAM ABN AMRO. The boat is immaculate, it never put a foot wrong - it did everything we asked it to do. We looked after it sometimes and then there was a couple of times we put the hammer down and showed a bit of pace, so that was fun.
I’m very excited to be in Rio. This is a pretty big milestone in the Volvo Ocean Race. We’re now roaring back into the Atlantic and there are some pretty exciting times for this boat coming up. This is one of the legs we were most worried about, perhaps for one or two of the short ones are going to be interesting too but the situation in the last thousand miles has been really tough, but we’ve been mentally preparing for that for about a year. I think the guys behind thought they might catch us up, but the boat went well and I think it surprised people how well it went in the light airs.
For now, this moment right here is the high point of this leg - having scored the results, being part of a team that I’m so proud of. This is the moment for me, for sure.”
ABN AMRO TWO finishes in third place after a 'fantastic' Leg 411 March 2006 - 07:36 GMT
In sleek succession, ABN AMRO TWO pulled in to the harbour in Rio de Janeiro in third place at 04:06 local time, only 30 minutes behind second-place winner Pirates of the Caribbean. After almost 7,000 miles at sea, the second, third and fourth place finishes were within an hour of one another.
Brasil 1 followed closely on the tail of ABN AMRO TWO, coming fourth only 25 minutes later despite being in second position earlier the previous evening. Crew TWO member Lucas Brun had the distinction of being the first Brazilian to enter Rio, and a local boy at that.
"I couldn't ask for anything more right now!" said navigator Simon Fisher. "It was a really tough few days, we were slower than Brazil for a while. We pushed really hard, blew a Code 4 sail, and thought it could be over! Losing a bearing on our daggerboard didn't help. It was a massive effort. It was amazing!"
A local boy does good
Local 'carioca' Lucas Brun was delighted to be the first Brazilian in port. "I did not expect this. This result came from teamwork, no doubt about that! To have all those things happen to us, and ripping all those sails, and still come in third was fantastic. To sail home was a dream come true."
ABN AMRO ONE finishes Leg 4 in first place as crew is 'over the moon' 11 March 2006 - 03:18 GMT
After a nail-biting last few miles into port, ABN AMRO ONE makes it into first place at about 03:18 GMT in Rio de Janeiro's Guanabara Bay after 6,700 nautical miles. They now have a healthy lead over their rivals, with 49 total points in the Volvo Ocean Race.
"We are over the moon!" said a jubilant skipper Mike Sanderson after 20 days, one hour, 48 minutes and 3 seconds. The crew collected seven points for the leg win, and three and a half points for crossing the scoring gate of Cape Horn in first position.
Coming into the Bay of Guanabara in the dark of night and surrounded by spectator boats playing live samba music, the sailors took advantage of every knot of wind to pull into first position ahead of the competition nipping at their heels less than 50 miles behind. The last half mile of the race course, after almost 7,000 miles at sea, took them about an hour to complete.
Looking tired yet triumphant, skipper Mike Sanderson gently steered the boat into the port in the shadow of Sugarloaf Mountain as a large crowed awaited him and his men. Samba music was playing loudly, and the crowd were given whistles so they could do a typical carnival welcome to the crew. The whistling turned to drumming, and the sailors had a tough time being heard, even over a loudspeaker system.
Navigator Stan Honey leaned down to hug his wife Sally whilst Sidney Gavignet lept off the boat to give a huge bear hug to his wife Caroline and bid a welcome to his sleepy younger daughter.
Sanderson and his crew were pretty philosophical about the leg, considering how tough it was physically and mentally. All but race newcomers Honey and Greenhalgh said it was by far not the hardest Southern Ocean legs they had ever done in terms of racing. Sanderson said the race was 'stressful' yet 'exhilarating' as he and his crew gambled daily how hard they could push their boat.
For first-timer Honey, "this leg is the essence of the race, and is one of the reasons why I am taking part." The second, he said, was to finally complete a round-the-world race and the "honour of sailing with some of the best guys I have ever sailed with all on one boat."
"We had a chance to put the hammer down, and that was fun! It was a pretty exciting time," said Sanderson. "I was worried there for a bit, but this boat was fast when we needed it to be! It was amazing." He made sure to thank the whole crew again, as he did in his last log before reaching shore.
Volvo veteran Mark Christensen admitted that "for the Southern Ocean, it was easy. It was perhaps the most uncomfortable. We were always aware the wind could shift and someone would catch us. Sometimes you have to accept a loss (in miles) to get the next gain." He said that they learned sometimes to ease off the power at night to get some rest and then power up again first thing in the morning, to spare both boat and crew any potential damage. Caution was the order of the day - and the leg. In the last stretch, the boat sailed in lighter winds that the boat was not really built for.
Southern Ocean newcomer Rob Greenhalgh said he was knackered, or very tired. “It was a long time out there, as essentially the leg started in Melbourne.”
Sanderson admitted he was not as stressed finishing this leg as the others. He said he and his men were focused on getting the boat into port in one piece. The maturity of the sailors perhaps showed in that Sanderson and Honey "talked about it a lot, and decided to just put our best foot forward and not react to what the other boats were doing." Looking forward, not backward, served them well, he said.
Sanderson and Jackson didn't look too mature, however, when they decided to have a champagne versus beer fizz fight on the podium to see who could spray each other and the crowd the most. After celebrations, the crew went to the TEAM pavillion for some well-deserved hamburgers and rest until the arrival of their sister boat ABN AMRO TWO.
Meanwhile, back on the water, navigator Simon Fisher of crew TWO says it will be a fight 'till the bitter end' as the next three boats in position vie for the coveted second slot. The Pirates of the Caribbean and Brasil 1 are fighting neck and neck, with 'the Kids' not far behind.
For hometown heroes Brasil 1, the fight has special meaning. Also on board ABN AMRO TWO is Rio native - or Carioca - Lucas Brun, whose family anxiously awaits his arrival on the dock.
Log 87 Navigator Simon Fisher: Putting up a fight 10 March 2006, 01:09 UTC
It is all go here on ABN AMRO TWO. With Brasil 1 just next to us the race is on for the finish just under 48 hours out. It has been tough for us today as they have been a tiny bit faster and it is hard to imagine anyone more driven towards a podium finish in his home town than Torben Grael.
However we are putting up a fight, anything we can do to squeeze and extra fraction of a knot out the boat has been done. People have given up their bunks for sails in an effort to increase righting moment, extra halyards have gone up the mast to reduce windage and weight aloft. Small things yes, but if it makes a difference then we have done it. No matter where we finish I want to be able to say we did everything we could.
This is now the order of things for the next two days - tack on every shift, trim to every gust anything we can do to get ahead. I'm sure little sleep looms ahead and with light winds plenty of stress and frustration but after 7000 miles it worth fighting for every metre.
With the wind direction swinging again it is time to tack, move all the gear downstairs and drag the sails across. Here's hoping Brasil haven't seen us and there is a gain here...
Log 31 Helmsman Trimmer Sidney Gavignet: Wise decisions and expanding time 9 March 2006, 05:54 UTC
The sea is almost flat, with little breeze. At less than 10 knots, we are sailing with head winds at a 20 degree angle on the route to Rio.
There is nothing particular to talk about at this moment, only that we have our biggest advance over the others since we rounded Cape Horn. Nothing was as nice as when, about 30 hours ago when making direct head to Rio, Stan Honey, our navigator, asked us to tack and to go at more than 90 degrees from the route.
At the next sched we had lost some 20 miles on the rest of the fleet…Today, thanks to this move to the west, we have clearly reinforced our advance. It is not the first time in this race that Stan puts us in just the right place. We feel really confident with his directions. Our lack of speed in light winds is compensated by the wisdom of these decisions.
The conditions are very agreeable right now and that makes a lot of us feel worn out. The sailing conditions before arriving at Cape Horn have really taken their toll, we are sensing it now.
There are not more than 300 miles until Rio. This is almost nothing in normal times, but the lack of wind is here making the time schedule seem bigger. Now the food on board is boring us. Certain dishes much appreciated at the beginning of the race became odorous and tasteless…
The last miles are long!
Our position at the head of the board is not totally secure because we know that there will be very little wind at the arrival. This is an ideal scenario for a last minute regrouping of the fleet!
Map © Volvo Ocean Race 2005 - 2006
Log 100 Skipper Mike Sanderson: A special thanks to the Duty Officer team9 March 2006, 06:29 UTC
I had been putting off writing today's daily log due to it being a little bumpy out here, that’s kind of a good news/bad news situation. The good news is that it means that we have got wind. During the night in fact up to 22 knots which seems like a storm after the last few days. The bad news is that there is nothing quite like bashing upwind into a lumpy sea when it is really hot and you have to have the boat all shut up.
Still pretty slow going though as we are pretty much directly downwind from Rio, with still 390 miles to go and a forecast that only holds upwind sailing and very light air reaching, we are still going to be out here
until some time on the 11th as being my best guess.
Over the last 24 hours we have in fact managed to extend a bit on the guys behind, we know have an 80-mile gap back to the Pirates and if the conditions were to be plain sailing, that would be a pretty comfortable lead. But as we know only too well after losing a 30 mile lead with 90 miles to go to the finish just in the last leg into Wellington, this one is far from over.
Probably the biggest question mark is, what will Rio have in store for us as the fleet approaches? Will it just simply let us sail in? History and the forecast would tell you probably not, so this one certainly isn't going to be over until it's over. Not only the Pirates are still in range though, the Kids and Brasil 1 are pushing hard. the Kids on ABN AMRO TWO of course with that never ending hunger to beat us, and of course Brasil 1, who are the local boys, as we race towards there home port. Even Ericsson is still in with a hunt if it really turns to custard.
I wanted to take this opportunity on what I am hoping is maybe my second to last daily report for the leg to say thank you to some people who truly are working behind the scenes to look after us out here. "Although they are primarily here for our safety" ( where have I heard that before), the Duty Officer team does an awesome job. They are there monitoring our every move on the screens in chilly old England at the moment, while the rest of there team is in the sun in Rio. We are in touch with them at least every couple of hours of the day about something; from things as important as our six hourly position reports and monitoring boats that could potentially be in trouble like when movistar had her issues on this leg, to them very kindly organising to send me pictures of my new Powerboat that has just been launched in Auckland.
So, to Debbie, Tamsin, Lisa Marie and Chloe, thank you very much from all of us out here. It is a huge relief to know you guys are watching when we are charging at 35 knots through the Southern Ocean.!And we, at TEAM ABN AMRO, and especially the boys off ABN AMRO ONE look forward to sharing a little ABN AMRO hospitality with you guys when we finally reach Portsmouth.
Until tomorrow from all of us out here.
See you later,
Log 99 Skipper Mike Sanderson: Snakes and ladders... 7 March 2006, 21:19 UTC
Snakes and ladders... a great family game that we often used to play with our parents often found on a kids paper menu at the family restaurant. A simple game where you worked you way towards a finish taking turns with the dice. You land on a ladder and you climb closer to the finish, you land on a snake and you slide back towards the start.. pretty simple really...
The finish between now and Rio is going to be one of the largest scale games of snakes and ladders that you could play... Yesterday we slid down a nasty snake and lost 29 miles on the fleet and 39 miles to Brazil. Then we made our play to the west again that we had tried earlier in the day and had chickened out of due to there just being no wind. And then, over the hours of darkness during last night, we gained back all that we had lost plus some nice interest on a good ladder as we shot out to the biggest lead that we have had for the whole leg.
No champagne cork popping sounds going through our heads here though, we are about to slide down another nasty ladder as we charge into a light spot and we just know we will lose miles. However the hope is that we can get back out in to the new breeze first and get some of it back while the guys behind sit there and try and wriggle there way through. This one will be a net loss though even at best, as we are going into it reaching with quite good speed and when we come back out it will be light airs upwind, so much slower boat-speeds. If we stumble and end up on a bigger snake or if the guys behind miss a snake all together, or if we don't get a ladder that they get, then we can expect to see them on the horizon in a very short time... It will be a very tough few days.
That brings me to the mileage. We are at one of those milestone distance's in an offshore sailor’s head, where the distance to the finish is the same as a Fastnet Race for the Northern Hemisphere guys, or for
those of us Antipodeans, a similar length to the "Great Race" as the Aussie's call it or the Sydney Hobart to the rest of the world. And it's with that kind of race mentality that we are going to have to sail these last 560 nautical miles if we want to try and get all the ladders we can and dodge any unnecessary snakes.
Roll on Rio, we can't wait to get there, and if there is anyone reading this that can do something about the distinct lack of wind out here, then that would be much appreciated. We know these boats are capable of
getting there in a day and a half, it seems such a pity that we will be out here for another four....
Log 98 Skipper Mike Sanderson: ocean racing is getting hotter than ever5 March 2006, 04:56 GMT
Today has just been one of those days that the Volvo 70 was designed for, reaching along in breezes from 15 to 22 knots pretty much always at least matching wind speed.
As I am writing this we are doing 21.7 knots at 95 true wind angle in 19.5 knots of wind. Numbers like that a couple of years ago just weren't achievable in anything other than a multihull or a super Maxi such as Mari-Cha IV. Every now and then the rule makers stumble on a special boat, quite clearly just lots of things just must be in the right proportion.
Right now I think offshore racing has got three very cool classes that all fit in to that bracket: the TP 52, the Open 60 and now the new Volvo 70. The future of two out of the three is looking rock solid, with the 52's going crazy and over 10 new Open 60's being built for either the Barcelona world race or the Vendee Globe or in some cases both. I am yet to sail a TP 52, but I will be getting back into the Pindar Open 60 for this year’s Route de Rhum race which is a single handed (solo) race from St. Malo in France to Guadeloupe in the Caribbean.
I guess my point here is what will happen to the Volvo 70 which, in my opinion is the most special boat out there at the moment. It must be close to crunch time for when Volvo has to decide as to the future of their involvement in the race. Whatever happens, there is no doubt that there is needed a fully crewed professional race around the world with stops. What was the Whitbread and is now the Volvo is still the pinnacle of offshore racing. That, in my opinion, is pretty much undisputed. The new boats are fantastic, exciting and a real challenge to sail and the racing is getting hotter than ever.
An electric finish
There is no doubt in my mind that the last half of this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race is going to be electric. You will still get the footage off the boats roaring along at close to 40 knots of boat-speed while world records are being broken. You will still get the excitement and the spectator opportunities of the inshore races but what is now quite clear is that the boats are close in speed in a lot of the conditions.
Right now we have five boats pretty much within 50 miles of each other after 6,100 miles of racing through the water since leaving Wellington and that is exciting in anyone's book. I for one am looking forward to many more years of racing Volvo 70's. Now that the excitement level is proven and the new class is proven, I think we should be looking forward to getting twice as many boats on the start line for the next edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.
Log 81 Navigator Simon Fisher: Back to laughing and joking 3 March 2006, 21:26 UTC
About 24 hours ago we rounded Cape Horn and returned back into the Atlantic Ocean once more. It was almost like as soon as we rounded things started to improve for us and life started to return to some sort of normality - what ever that is here out at sea??
No wonder it has such a fearsome reputation. As we hurtled past the famous Cape Horn doing 30+ knots of boat speed, diving down massive waves and struggling to control the boat in gusts of up to 48 knots, we thought the pain was never going to end. However, within a few hours the winds had eased, the seas had flattened leaving us to start to head more northwards in somewhat more pleasant conditions.
You could see the relief in the faces of all the crew, finally some sleep was on the horizon, lying huddled on the floor in a survival suit was no longer necessary as the urgency of getting everyone on deck immediately became less of a reality. As the water ceased to come pounding over the deck, the hatches opened up and the inside of the boat started to dry out.
You could see everyone's spirits rise as grins grew across their faces. Laughing and joking was again the order of the day and it was onto the back of the boat for a few Cape Horn happy snaps, the relief that we were all feeling was very real and the realisation of what we've achieved started to sink in.
The race has really started to get interesting too and finally we are starting to feel that we can have a crack at the leaders. It has been a tough leg psychologically for us at the back of the boat, once you are behind you feel like you are always on the back foot and it is pretty hard to make any tactical plan work just the way you want it.
However, with the news that the leaders had parked just round the Horn, we realised this leg is a long way from over. It is quite an uplifting feeling when you have ten times as much wind as the leader! With third place now only 15 miles away everyone is attacking the sailing with renewed vigour.
Downstairs there is a hive of activity too. Hans Horrevoets has been going at the code zero like a man possessed, he has put down more sticky back sailcloth and spray glue than probably most sail makers do in weeks!
Even now, after a full day at it, he is sitting at the sewing machine, plodding away in order that we have a complete sail inventory. Likewise Bicey (Nick Bice) has been hard at work on our faltering generator which is now purring away again as good as the day it was new.
The boat may look a bit weather beaten, not least because of the mass of bent metal the surrounds the boat which once was a neat row of stanchions. But we are almost back to full strength and ready to take on the race up the Atlantic that no doubt be the closest one we have had yet!
Log 96 Skipper Mike Sanderson: The history of Cape Horn 2 March 2006, 15:34 UTC
In an hour or so we will pass the legendary Cape Horn. As one of the two Dutch boats that are part of Team ABN AMRO, I felt it was my job to maybe share a little bit of information about this famous landmark and what the strong connection that we as sailors on Dutch registered ships have had as Cape Horn rounders.
Cape Horn is the southernmost point of land closely associated with South America; it is located in the Hermite Islands, at the southern end of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. It marks the north edge of the Drake Passage. One of the main reasons for the Cape's fame is the strong winds and the massive seas that often run there, The strong winds are often due to the Westerlies that run across the Southern Ocean, which then hit the Andes Mountain range in Chile and are forced to accelerate around the Horn. With big winds often come big waves, but they have two good reasons to get even bigger right here, the vast expanse of the Southern Ocean that is so often pushed by the Westerly regime of winds is forced through Drakes Passage that is only 440 nm wide and then it also shallows up drastically so it is a narrow gap between South America and Antarctica.
Cape Horn was originally given the Dutch name Kaap Hoorn, in honour of the Dutch city of Hoorn. It is commonly known to sailors simply as The Horn.
Founded in 1357, Hoorn rapidly grew to become a major harbour town. During Holland's 'Golden Century', Hoorn was an important home base for the Dutch East India Company ( VOC ) and a very prosperous center of trade. Even though I am not a great novel reader, I have become pretty familiar with the VOC thanks mainly to Wilbur Smith and the Courtney Family. With their skill in trade and seafaring, sons of Hoorn established the town's name far and wide. Jan Pieterszoon Coen (1587-1629) is famous for having founded the city of Batavia in 1619 (now Jakarta). In 1616, (31 January) the explorer Willem Corneliszoon Schouten (born in Hoorn) braved furious storms as he rounded the southernmost tip of South America. He named it Kaap Hoorn (Cape Horn) in honour of his hometown. So it is with a great amount of pride that we will be Flying our Dutch Flag off the back of ABN AMRO 1 as we round the Horn in less then an hour. If only Willem Corneliszoon Schouten could see us now I think he would be more amazed at the fact that we are closing in on this amazing landmark at 23 knots of boat speed, rather then the fact that we are actually going around it..
Thank you Southern Ocean for a safe Passage.. we know you have treated us kindly..
Mike Sanderson skipper
On Behalf of Stan , Brad, Mark, Sidney, Tony, Rob, Dave, Jan and Justin team ABN AMRO 1
Log 95 Skipper Mike Sanderson: 257 anxious miles to the Horn 2 March 2006, 01:29 UTC
With 257 miles to the Horn, there are some pretty anxious people to get there as quickly as possible, namely me... Once again we are found in a situation on approaching any sort of point scoring scenario where the guys from behind have brought up more breeze. This time though it's not that welcome!! With a forecast wind speed of 39 knots as we approach what is famous for being known as one of the roughest parts of ocean in the world, it is with quite some concern as we watch the wind speed slowly climb and the wave height build to match it..
Once around the Cape it looks like we should have some fairly fast sailing up until at least the Falkland Islands. That's a good thing as the last time I came around here in 1998 on "Merit Cup", we parked inside the Falklands for 3 or 4 days, and boats that where 1000 miles behind us went around the outside of the Islands and beat us in. Again this time one of the big decisions will be as to which side teams go. We have pretty much made up our mind and so now are setting ourselves up already as it changes the way in which you approach the Cape. We could be in for another big split in the fleet a lot like the approach to the 1st Ice Gate.
Life on board is a little grim at the moment, the boat is absolutely soaking wet, it wouldn't be any wetter down here if you came down here first with a fire hose and gave it a quick hose out. However, the light is on at the end of the tunnel, all things going well we will be out of the Southern Ocean in 12 hours time, this time not to come back in this version of the race. I have to confess that I will be a relieved man.
Looking forward to writing to you this time tomorrow.
Mike Sanderson and the guys on ABN AMRO ONE
Breaking the 40 knot speed barrier and striving for a new record
By Andy Rice of Sailing Intelligence
27 February 2006
After the frustrations of going north to pass the compulsory ice gates, the weekend saw the fleet head south again into proper Southern Ocean conditions - fast, furious, and just a wee bit scary.
"We've had a pretty wild couple of days," said ABN AMRO ONE skipper Mike Sanderson. "It feels like a Southern Ocean leg again. It's that familiar old feeling of wishing you were there, and once you get there you just look forward to getting out!" But ask him whether he would have the high-speed rollercoaster ride of today or the painfully slow slog through the light winds of last week, and he'd take the rollercoaster every time.
The same goes for the boys on ABN AMRO TWO. They've not had a good time of it recently with the metre-long rip in their mainsail forcing them to yield miles to the fleet, as they sailed with a precautionary two reefs in the sail. "We didn't have the conditions to repair it last night," explained navigator Simon Fisher. "We probably lost 20 miles or more while we were sailing along with the two reefs. Before that we were beginning to close in on the fleet, so hopefully we'll start doing that again."
It's not that they've even been that slow with the reduced sail area. Si Fi reports that at times they've been averaging 22.5 knots, but when the wind drops slightly it has left them very exposed. Having now patched up the rip with every available material at their disposal - sail cloth, tape, glue - they're back up to full sail area again and hoping it will hold together for the three-and-a-half-thousand miles to Rio.
"The sail is getting quite tired," said Si Fi, "because we have to make this sail last for more than half way round the world." With the number of sails strictly limited by the race rules, ABN AMRO TWO is running a two-mainsail programme, with the second one due to come out fresh out of its bag for the In Port race in Rio. Si Fi says the damage to the first mainsail is inevitable. "You've got a lot of water going over the boat and into the reefs in the mainsail, and you get some chafe where the sheets wear on it. So we have to be very careful not to damage it anymore on this leg."
Si Fi says the mainsail setback has done nothing to damage spirits on board. "Everyone has kept their chin up. We might be in last place but everyone's battling on. We've been holding the distance to the next boats with one arm tied behind our back, so now hopefully we can get back on the offensive and start catching these guys. And the weather shows there is every opportunity for the fleet to compress. We've got 1,600 miles to the Horn, about three-and-a-bit days sailing, and if we get the right weather there's every chance we could overtake at least one boat by then. Right now Ericsson is looking the most likely target."
Ericsson's navigator Steve Hayles reported a nightmare night for the boat after it wiped out in dramatic fashion, culminating in a 'Chinese gybe'. Quite why it is called a 'Chinese' gybe is not clear, but it is the term used to describe an involuntary manoeuvre where the boat loses control and ends up laying on its side with the mast nearly touching the water. Very often this results in gear breaking, perhaps even the mast snapping under the extreme loads, but on this occasion Ericsson were lucky to get away with no damage.
It's quite possible it could happen to one of the ABN AMRO boats - although with two rudders compared with Ericsson's one - it is less likely. "We're so glad to have two rudders," said Si Fi. "They get you out of so much bother. We've never laid her flat and had to get the sails down to get going again. And with the two rudders, if you do spin out it's a bit easier getting going again. It certainly reduces the risk of chinese gybing."
Things are difficult enough without the worry of involuntarily gybing. ABN AMRO TWO exceeded 40 knots for the first time ever yesterday, but Si Fi says no one knows when it happened. "It was pretty windy, 35-40 knots squalls, and we were blast reaching. Normally you pick up a lot of pace then crash into the wave in front, but on the angle we were sailing you could keep going. No one knows who was steering at the time we hit 40 knots. You've got your eyes closed most of the time, with all the water coming over the boat. Everyone who was driving got knocked off a couple of times. When I was steering, Bicey [Nick Bice] got washed back into the wheel with his legs through the spokes. It's pretty difficult to steer like that!"
ABN AMRO ONE has also been enjoying bursts of record-breaking pace. With Pirates and movistar closing in on their lead during a couple of skeds, Sanderson was concerned. "I was a bit worried the guys were going a bit faster than us, so we put the hammer down for one six-hour period and we banged out 143 miles, which I think might be the biggest six-hour run yet. It was a nice time to check in and say, 'hey we've got something left in the tank'. Quite often you have to play this cat and mouse game with your opposition, to test each other."
If they could string four consecutive 143-mile skeds together then maybe ABN AMRO ONE could seize back that 24-hour record from their team mates. "Certainly we've had some stints where we averaged over 25 knots for an hour, and then you're up to the 600-mile day scenario," Sanderson observed. "A lot of the guys here were the first to do 500 miles, and it would be nice to get the 600 but as always we're here to win points. We keep reminding ourselves that we don't need to win this leg where perhaps other boats do, and so we mustn't allow ourselves to be pressured into pushing the boat too hard."
Log 93 Skipper Mike Sanderson: How hard to push? 27 February 2006, 03:57 UTC
Ok... who can lend me their crystal ball ??? man this is extreme yachting. As I am bouncing along here the speedo beside me clicks over 32 knots and sits over 30 for over 30 seconds!!! Once back at a leisurely 27 knots, life seems safe again... How hard to push??? What are the other guys doing? Is going as fast as Movistar was in the last sched good enough to hang on? Wait a minute, we don't have to beat them in this leg nor the other teams either, we just have to keep this thing in one piece.... but there are 3.5 bonus points waiting at Cape Horn for the leader... those points would make our lives a little easier... but what if we push too hard and break? Then we will be feeling silly. Yeah, but the boat is fine we have done this for so many hours before... let’s stay on the pace and keep our noses in front, it's going to moderate soon...hmmm moderate, will it be forward so we can gain some miles with our extra reaching speed? Or will it be aft and the guys will bring up the better breeze from behind as the low catches us up??
When I saw it was time for my daily report, I couldn't imagine how I was going to write about life on board, as I just have so much going on in my head, so I thought I would just let you go through all my thoughts with me.. maybe you can help in some way?? Anybody keen to swap?? Andy Rice's idea of the weekend off was a good one, but what we are doing here isn't typical Sunday afternoon leisure. I think this time next year I will probably be on my way back from the Bay of Islands in my launch. Now that is a Sunday afternoon pastime, or maybe just feet up on the couch watching a bit of weekend sport..
In all seriousness though, I wouldn't miss this for the world. Just hour after hour of unbelievable yachting. For the last 5 hours we have averaged just a bit under 24 knots so incredibly quick. In the last 6 hourly report Movistar did a 140 nm run which is impressive as we are running with gennakers up and we normally do the really quick runs with reaching jibs on. We managed just 2.5 miles less. We did have a sail change in there which would account for a loss like that, we don't know though that they didn't as well. We can only wait with baited breath for the next one [sked]. We have gone bow up and are pointing closer to the mark, have got a safer sail on and have decided to let the guys behind do the pushing. If I was them now, I would push really hard and try and convince us to match. Even though we would still be leading if we didn't finish this leg, we would still have plenty on to make the start of the next one and that would for sure make our lives a lot tougher then a mid pack finish now..
So... it has been good to talk to you, it has been good to write all these thoughts down. Once again as darkness rapidly approaches and the risk of breaking something goes up so much as we are unable to steer the boat through the waves. The only sensible approach is a conservative one and let’s just see how it all plays out..
Thanks for your ear...
Log 76 Navigator Simon Fisher: The best of times and the worst of times25 February 2006, 22:06 UTC
To quote Charles Dickens, it has been the best of times and the worst of times over the last 24 hours. We have finally started to make inroads into the leads of the rest of the fleet, with a little more wind than the others and an angle that is a little more favourable we have been doing some really, really fast sailing. I looked at the max speed on the GPS earlier and we have broken the mythical 40 knots barrier. At some point last night no doubt careering down a wave with the driver unable to see where he's going we topped out at 40.6 Knots.
Guided by only a few numbers on the back face of the mast it is like some sort of crazy roller coaster, only there are no tracks and you are in control. As you accelerate of down a wave the spray starts coming at you
hard. You hear it beating against your visor and as you put your head down to avoid the worst of it. When you look up you cannot see the numbers, just a blur of lights. You hope for the next wave of spray to
clear your visor and that you are on track as you come to the bottom of the wave. By now you are ducking down, knowing the bottom of the wave isimminent and you are praying you are not going to land too hard. Before you crash into the bottom you catch a glimpse of you course, you're OK, on track, speed 30 something then bang! The wave comes charging back at you grip the wheel hoping you don't get washed off the wheel again. Then, it's over, you dust yourself off and set off to repeat the whole cycle again...
However all this speed has come at a price, with the wind angle at 110 there is a lot of water over the boat, even with waterproofs, mid layers, gaiters on your boots the water manages to get in and we are wet to the
skin. Wave after wave punishes you as you stand there at the helm. Sadly the water has been punishing the mainsail too. With the sunrise this morning we were able to access the extend of the damage and it looks
pretty bad - over a metre long tear in the film near the leech and no way of sewing it back up again. We will have to wait until conditions get dryer before we can stick it up. Easier said than done in the Southern
Ocean with a 25 knot forecast for the next 5 days. Until we can effect a repair we are forced to sail with 2 reefs. Already we are seeing a difference in performance and it makes my guts churn - so close and yet so
far to get back into the race. However we are still charging hard, it's not over yet - we will get back in this race.
Log 91 Skipper Mike Sanderson: Reaching at last.... 25 February 2006 03:00 UTC
ahhhhh.... during the hours of darkness last night after our fair share of crawling along in 5 and 6 knots of wind, finally the breeze built and came aft and we where able to get some reaching sails on and point directly at the mark!! What a revelation after days of never actually making course and it was a welcome sight. Once this happened, we closed on the first of the two Ice gates really quickly. The first four boats all choosing the eastern end of the first gate as if it was a top mark of an inshore race, quite literally counting down to it and then bearing away around our imaginary mark.
When we first picked up the Pirates on the radar after rounding we where 4.8 miles behind them, in just over two hours of reaching at 115 true wind angle we where alongside. Black Betty was in full flight. Upon our arrival, they changed to their sail as close to ours as they had and for sure they were closer in speed. We might have given away a little bit of a secret to our mates, the Pirates, but I am sure they will keep it too
themselves.... even so we pretty quickly dropped them in to the fog and I have done enough yachting with Mr Cayard to know that he won't have enjoyed that. We all know too well though that we haven't seen the last of them on this leg, or any of the boats for that matter.
One thing with this new class is that miles can be won and lost at a very hectic pace. I remember sitting in lots of design meeting's where we would be studying over weather routing stats, and normally after a while, Crusty (Mark Christensen), Brad (Jackson) and I would look at each other, then turn to Juan Kouyoumdjian (the designer of the yacht) and say: give us a the fastest boat at 115 true wind angle we can have over 15 knots of wind. What ever happens in this race from now until the finish, one of the highlights for me will be how Juan and his guys designed us exactly the boat we wanted.
Now I have to share a little laugh that I had after my daily chat to my mate Andy Rice, between him and James Boyd, I speak to one of them every day and then they write for the Team ABN AMRO website. Anyway last night, as we were wrapping up, I said ‘Okay Andy talk tomorrow’ and he said, ‘oh.. no. As far as I know, we’re not working this weekend!!!’ Awesome I thought. Anyway on telling the guys that we had the weekend off it was taken as great news. The bad news is that I am not sure how I am going to get them home!!!! Let alone back here for Monday morning. But I know the families will be pleased and we could do with the rest..
Anyway, from all of us here, Jan, Irish, Dave, Bob, Sid, Tone, Crusty, Skunk, Stan and I, we hope you are all having a good weekend, we’re thinking of you... yes even you Andy....
Light at the end of the tunnel?24 February 2006
By Andy Rice of Sailing Intelligence
It has been a soul-destroying few days for the boys on ABN AMRO TWO, not least for navigator Simon Fisher. “For me personally, this has been far and away the hardest bit of the race. We’ve spent the last few days watching us losing and losing, when we knew that this was avoidable five or six days back,” said Fisher.
The navigator and his skipper Sébastien Josse had agonised about whether to follow in ABN AMRO ONE’s wake and make that painful bail-out to the south. “We discussed it and talked about taking the gybe, which we knew would set us up at least a hundred miles behind the fleet. And this option to the north didn’t look that bad so we thought we’d stick with it. But unfortunately we got caught in that high pressure much worse than we could ever have anticipated.”
Speaking just after today’s 1600 hours sked - which saw another massive loss of 62 miles to current leader Pirates of the Caribbean, and extends their total deficit to 199 miles - Si Fi nevertheless sees light at the end of this very dark tunnel. “The last sked certainly wasn’t as good as we were hoping, but the next couple of days there look like opportunities to catch up. And in about five days’ time the leaders should park up as they hit a ridge of high pressure so we should be able to get right up the back of them.” ABN AMRO TWO could certainly do with a ‘Get out of jail free’ card to play right now, and maybe their wish will be granted.
There is much to be satisfied with on board ABN AMRO ONE, on the other hand, with the way the boat has matched pace with the more light-wind optimised boats around her. At 1600 hours, Mike Sanderson was just eight miles behind Paul Cayard’s Pirates and six miles in front of Bouwe Bekking’s movistar. Sanderson attributes some of that encouraging performance to the high work rate of the crew, because despite the light winds it is surprisingly gusty and shift, calling for almost constant trimming of the sails. “It’s the middle of the night and as dark as the inside of a cow,” said Sanderson earlier today. “The guys have a handful keeping the boat moving. It’s very gusty and shifty for some reason. We might not be a light air rocket, but it’s a matter of picking our ways through these conditions as best we can.”
At least in such quiet conditions the crew might get a chance to have chat with each other, as they’re not having to battle the sound of carbon bouncing off waves at high speed. But Sanderson says the conditions are hardly conducive to conversation. “It’s true, you do get a chance to have a chat without having to yell at people, but when the boat’s slow people aren’t in the highest of spirits. It’s one of the more stressful times because you’re going along quite slowly. There’s definitely tension in the air when the boatspeed is slow. We should be enjoying the serenity of it I suppose, because in a day or so it’s going to be blowing 55 knots in this part of the ocean, so we really don’t want to be there when that happens.”
The positioning of the ice waypoints continues to frustrate Sanderson and others in the fleet. “If you were going to put a waypoint in the wrong place, this one nails it. At the time, I thought it was a good idea but quite clearly it’s bitten us on the arse. We’ve done something like 2,200 miles to get to a waypoint that wasn’t even 1,500 miles away from Wellington. I didn’t quite realise the consequences could be this severe, but apparently this is not that untypical. I wish they [the race committee] had stuck to their guns and made the decision late, and made it right. That’s not what happened at all, it didn’t get revised in Wellington, and now we’re paying the price for that. As a team we had a window of opportunity [to review the waypoints] and we didn’t take it, and like they told us it would be offered to us. I’m kicking myself for not taking that opportunity.
“We’re here in 5 knots going upwind at a bearing of 110 degrees. It’s not what you read about Ceramco New Zealand when she went through the Southern Ocean in 1981. I’m wondering if it’s reached the stage where we’re starting to tangle too much with this race. It made Leg 2 tricky, it’s made this leg tricky.”
Hardly surprisingly, Si Fi is not overly enamoured with the conditions either. “A Southern Ocean leg where you go upwind for two days, it’s not really what you come out here to do. It makes it all a bit frustrating. But it’s still a yacht race, and he who sails smartest wins, so there isn’t too much cause for complaint. It’s a catch 22 for the race committee really. I guess they’re in a tough situation. The tropical low has really affected the weather in this part of the world - so I suppose without that the waypoints wouldn’t have been too bad. Once we get past the ice gates, it will be cold, it will be windy, it should be everything that this leg promises to be.”
Of course the simple answer to the waypoints is that it is the same for everybody, but as Sanderson points out, it’s not quite as straightforward as that when you’re talking about the Volvo Ocean Race. “Too much is at stake. It would be fine if we were out here racing one-design boats but we’re not. There have been millions spent on R&D, designing the right boat for the race. If it was one-design I wouldn’t have a problem, but we’re entered in the Volvo Ocean Race and these ice gates were not part of the routing when we were doing the research to design the boat. All I’m saying is that we should have gone to greater lengths to ensure that the waypoints didn’t have this big an impact on the course.
“But I’m trying not to waste too much emotional energy on any of this, because it is what it is. It doesn’t look like anyone is going to run away with this leg at the moment. It looks like we’re going to have some awesome sailing once we get past this waypoint and then when we get close to the Horn, the leader could park up and everyone could race up behind. I think we’re going to see a number of restarts on this leg. I think there’s not much point in worrying until you get to the last 500 miles before Rio.” That is certainly what the boys on ABN AMRO TWO will be hoping, as they wait for the wind to deal them a better hand.
Log 74 Navigator Simon Fisher: A troublesome past and present but a windy future23 February 2006. 23:47 UTC
After another 24 hours of pretty much no wind at all I am slowly coming to terms with the fact that we'll be last as we pass this first ice gate. To be honest it has been some of the most painful yachting I have done to date, watching the fleet get further and further ahead each sched as we sit becalmed in what is probably the biggest hole in the Southern Ocean.
Every time the wind has hinted at building we have been becalmed a couple of hours later. I think now we are on our way out though which gives us a little hope, the wind is finally building slowly although not nearly quick enough for my liking.
Over the past 24 hours we have had plenty of time to think of ways in which to escape this situation - unfortunately the plan which involved re-wiring the fleet 77 to work as a "time machine" in order to tell the past me not to go this way didn't quite work out despite knowing most of the lines from the Bill and Ted movies and having watched Back to the Future during the Melbourne stop over. It all comes down to patience in the end.
Fortunately for all on board the fat lady is a long way from singing at this stage, with about 3000 miles to the Horn we are preparing for the big comeback. We know the big breeze is round the corner and we'll be lapping it up when it finally arrives. A few of the boys have dug out their dry suits ready for a wet ride. The general consensus on board is that having had a pretty dry trip so far the second half of the southern ocean is going to more than make up for the lack of water over the deck so far.
Right now we are all saying bring it on as we plod along impatiently in 6 knots of breeze...
Log 90 Skipper Mike Sanderson: Isn't hindsight a wonderful thing? 23 February 2006
The first of our two beloved ice gates is making life pretty interesting out here. When we were designing the boat, our average speed expected over hundreds and Hundreds of runs between Wellington and Cape Horn was an Incredible 20 knot average... yes averaging 480 mile days. Until only a few years ago that would have been a world 24 hour record every day! What the router wasn’t expecting in all those runs though was that an ice gate would be situated so close to an old Tropical Storm and that one day would be spent in under eight knots of breeze like today has been, nearly going ninety degrees to Cape Horn...
Lemon... Our play to hang in the south is hanging in tender hooks at the moment. In hindsight I probably should have cashed in and got up in front of the Pirates and Movistar, but isn't hindsight a wonderful thing? If the weather had done what it was forecast to do it would have been a nice little gain down here, now we need just a hint of it to go into the east and then we will tack over and hopefully still cross those guys.
All in all, we certainly can't complain what being south of the fleet has done for us. One of the reasons that it is worth hurrying to the gate apart from the result is the fact that there is a chance that it will blow 50 knots there within 12 hours of us getting there... So the race is on, against the competitors and Mother Nature.
Thermals and wooly hats
Life on board is pretty chilly at the moment, the boat is starting to get a bit wet below with condensation, I now have managed to get Dave Endean to give me instructions on how to turn the heater on though, so I am expecting down below will be a little warmer than the freezing temperatures that it was at 2 am this morning. Maybe we should even consider using all our heater fuel up at once and have a shorts and T shirt day down below, would make for a nice change from all the thermals and woolly hats.
For sure one of our highlights from this programme has been our fleece lined sleeping bags and fleece pillow cases. This all started from my single handed qualifier that I was doing last year. I was out there, toughing it out in full Volvo 60 mode, with my wet camping sleeping bag and my wet jacket rolled up under my head pretty much freezing to death. Anyway out there in my wisdom I decided since there was only going to be one of me for my Northern Trans Atlantic race that I would give myself the luxury of some fleece. On Emma's little sewing machine on my return back to England, I made myself for the trip a fleece pillow case and a fleece fitted blanket. The difference this made to life in general on board was just night and day. So, of course on suggesting it when we started sailing the ABN AMRO 70's everyone thought I was joking, until Bob did a great job getting custom sleeping bags made and custom fleece pillow cases and now all the boys are totally convinced. So if that is one thing which the ABN AMRO programme can give to the rest of the world’s offshore sailors... don't take it lightly!
The 97-98 race was famous for re-lighting the Code 0 sail; I think the fleecy pillow could be seen as one of the great break through's of 2005/6 Volvo Ocean race.