Roll on Auckland

It's all over bar the shouting for Assa Abloy

Thursday January 3rd 2002, Author: Peter Bentley, Location: Australasia

Assa Abloy sends a man aloft to search for wind

Even the optimistic Grant Dalton is now clear that Assa Abloy will beat him into his home port of Auckland. "Even if we cut down the lead to Assa Abloy to 16 miles we feel, she will be more or less impossible to pass," he says. A front coming in later today with strong north-westerlies, should ensure that Assa Abloy holds her lead. "She deserves her win after a perfectly sailed leg," says Dalton.

Shortly after midnight the first five yachts had all rounded North Cape, the second of New Zealand's great landmarks. Assa Abloy, still holding a comfortable 20-mile lead had just passed Cavalli Island with the Bay of Islands coming into view.

Historically, the rounding of Cape Regina has proved the undoing of many crews, with Swedish Match losing a huge lead and eventually the entire race as the result of being becalmed here four years ago. For Amer Sports One the rounding was not without incident as Dalton reports.

"We lost the nice northwesterly wind almost totally four miles southwest from Cape Reinga and decided to go close to the corner, as it seemed to be more wind there then offshore. Had the bad luck to hit the foul tide at its worst moment, full moon and maximum tide setting 3.5 kts against us. With only six knots of wind straight on the nose from northeast it looked bad. We hardly made any progress over ground, in spite of sailing as close as we dared, right into the infamous rocks just northwest of Reinga. Two and a half hours felt like forever before we picked up a fresh breeze from north-northwest, just two miles north of Reinga. It was hard to enjoy the magnificent beauty of this area, with huge sandy hills and endless white beaches. No people, no houses but a few sheep could be spotted on the green hillsides."

Despite the slow passage around Cape Regina, Dalton predicts a fast passage in. "We should be finished by 8am tomorrow and all of us look forward to a long rest after a short, intense but fun leg," he says.

Behind, illbruck, News Corp and Tyco continue to battle for places three to five with barely a mile separating each of them as they reach down the north New Zealand coast.

Onboard News Corp, things are tense with the possibility that gains and losses of just a few yards might ad up to a place gained or lost come the finish line in Auckland. "The intensity on board is still the same," says Ross Field. "Change watch quickly so the off watch gets into the bunks and the new watch can get onto the rail with the legs over the side, all helping the stability of the boat. The front boats are getting into lighter wind and we're pulling good miles out of them. he may have been around this part of the world many times, but Field is still taken by the beauty of sailing along on a perfect night. "It's 1am, a beautiful night, full moon, smooth seas, cool wind, and we're very slowly putting a few metres on illbruck," he says. "It's nights like these that makes you forget the bashing and crashing over the past nine days, and appreciate the sailing."

Page two.... Assa Abloy's casualty ward
Page three... position report

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