First win for News Corp

Another good day for British Volvo skippers

Thursday April 18th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: United States
Finish times and potential ranking after leg six
Pstn Boat Finish time (GMT) Pnts Overall
1 News Corp 06:12 8 31 (4)
2 Amer One 06:38 7 32 (3)
3 Assa Abloy 06:58 6 34 (2)
4 illbruck 07:01 5 41 (1)
5 SEB 14:42 4 21 (6)
6 Tyco 18:00 3 28 (5)
7 djuice 18:10 2 9 (8)
8 Amer Too 18:50 1 21 (7)



One very happy Jez Fanstone

British skippers are having a field day in the Volvo Ocean Race at present. Following Neal McDonald's win on the previous leg into Miami, at 06:12 GMT this morning Portsmouth's own Jez Fanstone crossed the Baltimore finish line in first place to take leg six of the Volvo Ocean Race with his team on board News Corp.

"We didn't know we'd won it until we crossed the line," commented a delighted, but slightly shell shocked Fanstone when they reached the dock in Baltimore. "Literally, half a mile from the line we had stopped with no wind and it is certainly not over until the fat lady sings in this sport so I think the relief is only just setting in and I think the elation will follow".

The stress on board was not eased when Amer Sports One had overtaken them on the approach to the finish. "Physically, the actual conditions were very easy sailing," explained Fanstone. "Very, very close racing. The first half was relatively easy because there was wind and we had speed and we picked some good shifts and some good sides and had a few breaks, but the last 36 hours were hell. We came into the Bay last night with a four-mile lead, and this morning the whole fleet compressed, Amer Sports One over took us and everyone was flapping. We went off and left them alone, got a bit of a lead and managed to hold it on, but it was a pretty stressful time".

News Corp has shown great pace throughout the Volvo Ocean Race but opinion in the fleet (see Stu Bannatyne's recent article) was that former co-skipper/navigator Ross Field was unnecessarily hitting corners and had not grasped that the modern incarnation of this round the world grand prix is effectively a 32,700 mile fleet race, where 'staying in contact' with the opposition is vital.

In Miami Field stepped down from the sailing team for this leg for 'medical reasons', although he is still running the team as its campaign director and it is unclear whether he will rejoining the crew for subsequent legs. It can surely be no coincidence that Field's former Yamaha and America's Challenge henchmen Steve Cotton and Jeff Scott have also gotten off the boat. Scotty headed back to New Zealand with 'family troubles' in Rio with Cotton following suit in Miami.

How much of a contributing factor these crew changes played in News Corp's success on the short 875 mile sprint from Miami up to the eastern seaboard of the States to Baltimore is hard to judge. Maybe navigator/meteorologist Nick White being given free reign played a contributing factor? Also brought on in place of Steve Cotton was Fanstone's old mate Stuart Childerley. "I have sailed against Stuart in Finns and with him in Solings and keelboats and he is a fantastic sailor and he just slotted straight into it. It was never a problem".

Always part of the top four, on the approach to Cape Hatteras News Corp pulled out a narrow lead which she was able to hold on to and in the south westerly light running conditions she seemed able to sail deeper angles more effectively than the others. illbruck and Assa Abloy are known to be optimised more for reaching conditions, while Amer Sports One, the Frers designed VO60 which Dalton recently condemned in his interview with madforsailing also clearly likes light running conditions.

But it was no walk in the park. Sailing up to Baltimore involved tackling 120 miles of Chesapeake Bay and many navigational hazards such as shallows, fickle light breeze and is an area of water dotted with lobster pots. Assa Abloy, after dropping 30 miles astern of the front pack, managed an incredible come back and managed to overhaul illbruck into third, but it was a match race to the line - just three minutes separating the two boats.

The results for this leg have had slight bearing on the overall results. illbruck's lead has now dropped to seven points ahead of Assa Abloy, while it has gained News Corp a place, raising her to fourth overall, one point behind Amer One.

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