East or West?

illbruck leads to the west, but will the east pay?

Tuesday February 12th 2002, Author: John Greenland, Location: Transoceanic
Volvo Ocean Race position report 0409GMT
1 illbruck 1,830 10.6 - -
2 Amer One 1,870 11.5 40 -3
3 Tyco 1,896 9.7 66 +5
4 djuice 1,905 11.3 75 -1
5 News Corp 1,914, 9.5 84 +6
6 Assa Abloy 1,922 9.5 92 +6
7 Amer Too 2,354 11.3 524 -4
8 SEB 2,833 6.6 1003 +25
    In the last 24 hours the fleet has split, the main pack led by John Kostecki's illbruck Challenge is routed to the west of the Falklands, and the renegade duo of Grant Dalton's Amer Sports One and Knut Frostad's djuice have broken right and planned a course to the east in the Volvo Ocean Race.

    The question is - who will come out on top?

    At present the teams to the east seem to have made up some ground, Amer Sports One has taken 30 miles off illbruck's lead and djuice has gained 40 miles on top of climbing two places overall. The next 12-24 hours will be telling. While some forecasts predict lighter breeze on the nose for the eastern pair, others predict relatively stronger winds compared to the conditions expected for the rest of the leaders.

    It seems, however, the biggest gains and loses occur when boats manage to sail into, or avoid, the large kelp beds that riddle the area. "The kelp we got on the rudder was like a tree," explained Amer Sports One's Paul Cayard. "We have stopped and backed down twice in the last 36 hours to clear kelp from our keel and rudder.  We have backed down twice more this morning so far."

    At one point Neal McDonald's ASSA ABLOY was fast catching Jez Fanstone's News Corp, however just as the team were closing to within two miles of News Corp they were dogged with tonnes of Kelp on their foils. The team attempted to reverse out of the entanglement, but to no avail, leaving skipper McDonald with no option other than to dive in and manually pull it away. News Corp's gains were only brief as it wasn't long before they too were towing some seaweed. "Dawn broke this morning and we found we were pulling miles of weed along with us so after a few back downs [sailing backwards] we are under way again," explained co-skipper Ross Field.

    The battle for second place continues between Grant Dalton and Kevin Shoebridge, skipper of Team Tyco. At present the Amer Sports One team are pulling away, however with the teams now separated by the Falkland Islands it is difficult to tell who really has the advantage. Shoebridge yesterday reported in a close encounter with the British military. Even though a third of Tyco's crew is made up from British sailors the Royal Air Force still felt obliged to investigate as the team approached the British governed Islands. "We have just been buzzed by two RAF [Royal Air Force] Harriers, flown out from the Falklands. They must have only been 50 feet above the mast, very impressive," said Shoebridge.

    In the next 24 hours we are likely to see which side of the Islands paid. John Kostecki's illbruck Challenge is likely to hold her lead, however with the pack so evenly matched even after some 3,000 miles of sailing there could be some changes further down the results table.

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