Ready to rock

The leading boats in the Volvo fleet are getting a sniff of the big breeze to come

Wednesday January 30th 2002, Author: Peter Bentley, Location: United Kingdom

Amer Sports Too - delayed by a broken water balast system

Nick White, the meteorologist on News Corp thinks he has the answer but isn't telling. "I have been trying to figure out when to gybe out of the high and have a few ideas, but unfortunately I can't share them with you since our fellow competitors may read it. Every one will be pondering this question right now." White goes on to say that pleasant as it is at the moment, it is going to be good to finally start making some real miles towards Cape Horn. White expects the fleet to be into good running conditions in a day and a half. "I expect we'll see forty plus knots down there and the wind is a lot harder in the Southern Ocean as it is so much colder than we're used to. At least we'll be going in the right direction."

The situation is complicated by two cold fronts passing east across the fleet over the next two days. Assa Abloy's navigator Mark Rudiger is hoping that sailing the extra distance will pay off. "We have set up to the west of the fleet and seem to be gaining to the south which is where we believe the best passage through the ridge will be. Currently we are gaining bearing on the boats we can see. Also, all signs indicate new pressure will come from the west, so we have that covered as well. The question is, will the extra miles we have to sail pay off before they get the pressure as well? I think so," reports Rudiger. The answer will be clear for all to see by the weekend.

From Amer Sports Too comes news of problems shortly after the start which go some way to explaining their initially slow progress. "We suffered ballast problems through the first night and day," reports Skipper," Lisa McDonald. The lack of water ballast and an inability to pump water from one side to the other severely hindered the women in the early stages of the leg.

"We ended up sailing along the coast at the top of the North Island, and found a local breeze off the land, which was good for us at the time, but held us close to the coast instead of going out to sea. It would have paid off if the others had run out of breeze offshore, but this was not the case," says McDonald.

Though there is still plenty to play for, the loss of mile so early in the leg could prove expensive for Amer Sports Too. Should one or two of the leading boat get into strong westerlies just a few hours ahead of them, the current 25 mile deficit could easily multiply to more than a hundred in just half a day. And that would be a hard psychological barrier to overcome for a crew who have so far shown no propensity to close up the gap once they are behind.

Page three.... e-mail from Grant Dalton

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