Six boats over

Action-packed start to leg six of the Volvo Ocean Race

Sunday April 14th 2002, Author: James Boyd, Location: United States
In an extraordinary start to leg six of the Volvo Ocean Race from Miami to Baltimore today, six of the eight boats were OCS at the sound of the starting cannon and had to return and re-cross the line.

As the fleet charged towards the start line at 1300 local time, all but Amer Sports Too and Assa Abloy were on the wrong side of the course. VHF radio, a gun signal and flag X recalled the boats OCS. A 13-knot southeasterly breeze had kicked up a one-metre swell as the countdown began and the incidents occurred.

Lisa McDonald's team on board Amer Sports Too made a perfect start and led the fleet under spinnaker from Assa Abloy, reaching the first turning mark 200 hundred metres ahead.

Illbruck was the first boat to realise her error and made a quick correction, returned to the line, re-crossed and passed the first turning mark in third position, immediately chipping away at Assa Abloy in second.

In fourth place was Amer Sports One, also very quick to understand what was going on and return to the line. SEB was in fifth, followed by djuice, the only boat to carry a 13th crewmember, allowed under the rules to sail for media purposes on this leg. This is the Norwgian chat show host HC Andersen.

Ironically it was the boats which had attempted to make the best starts who came out the worst off. News Corp made what appeared to be the best start and was the boat to have sailed the furthest before realising they had been over and turning back. Unfrtounately their mistake was compounded when in doing in manoeuvring to head back across the line they managed to get a serious wrap in their spinnaker.

Finally Amer Sport One have lodged a protest against Knut Frostad's djuicefor a start line incident. djuice was seen to complete a 720deg penalty turn. Assa has also filed an intention to protest illbruck for another pre-start incident, while Tyco are seeking redress from the Race Committee regarding the restart.

The race to Baltimore presents a challenging combination of weather, ocean current, and coastal inshore sailing, according to illbruck Challenge meteorologist Chris Bedford. "At the moment, the weather gods appear to be smiling on the fleet and promise to make this leg a relatively fast combination of reaching and running conditions", Bedford said. "A large high pressure area is parked over the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, and it is expected to remain in control of the weather almost to the finish. The circulation of air around the high will produce east-southeast winds at the start which will veer to the southeast and eventually the south as the boats head north toward Baltimore".

The first big tactical manoeuvre of the race will involve getting into the Gulf Stream current which runs from south to north just off the east coast of Florida. This current will give the fleet an additional three knots push up the coast. The Gulf Stream flows all the way to Cape Hatteras, but is not steady. The toss up will be between making the call over whether it pays more to stay in the Gulf Stream or leave it to go in search of more wind.

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