A fight to the finish

Assa Abloy takes the battle to illbruck

Thursday May 30th 2002, Author: Peter Bentley, Location: Transoceanic

A delighted Neal McDonald receives the leg eight trophy.

Leg eight results
Leg 3 pts Arrival Time Elapsed Time
1 Assa Abloy 8 5/29/02 22:06 004d 07h 06m 38s
2 Tyco 7 5/29/02 22:08 004d 07h 08m 54s
3 News Corp 6 5/29/02 22:10 004d 07h 10m 34s
4 illbruck 5 5/29/02 22:11 004d 07h 11m 55s
5 Amer One 4 5/29/02 22:13 004d 07h 13m 28s
6 SEB 3 5/29/02 22:57 004d 07h 57m 50s
7 Djuice 2 5/30/02 1:19 004d 10h 19m 58s

Leaderboard at the end of leg 8
1 illbruck 54
2 Assa Abloy 49
3 Amer One 40
4 News Corp 40
5 Tyco 40
6 SEB 29
7 djuice 25
8 Amer Too 11

With a close and thrilling victory on leg eight, Neal McDonald and his hard driving crew aboard Assa Abloy have kept the final outcome of the Volvo Ocean race alive until the very end. Finishing just over two minutes ahead of Tyco and four minutes ahead of News Corp, Assa Abloy still has a mathematical chance to take the top prize.

"Coming in here was just terrific," said a clearly elated McDonald immediately after the finish. "I've never seen such a welcome." Further good news came for Assa Abloy in the form of a disappointing fourth place finish for John Kostecki's illbruck. Though it will take some doing, Assa Abloy can still win the race overall. "The door's not shut yet," says McDonald. "We're going to go out there beginning of the next leg with a realistic, but obviously hard chance of catching up."

McDonald's delight was balanced by John Kostecki's disappointment. Though still ahead on points yet another poor (by their standards) finish in an inshore leg must have sowed the seeds of concern going into the final leg. "We made some tactical blunders," admitted Kostecki who also suggested that illbruck had a problem with sails. Down hearted but clearly not out of the race yet, Kostecki showed perhaps for the first time the pressure he is under as pre-race favourite and current race leader saying, "Everyone is really tired, it's hard, it's tough to be perfect all the time."

As a finish though, everything was a close to perfect as it gets in Gothenburg. Having match raced along the Norwegian, Danish and Swedish coats five boats finished within seven minutes of each other with a sixth coming in within the hour. Despite the darkness and the cold some 300 spectator boats (including a 505 dinghy!) came out in the dark to welcome the fleet home.

The points are now such that only Assa Abloy and illbruck can win or come second overall. If Assa Abloy win leg nine then illbruck need to be fifth or better to take the overall prize. If McDonald and his crew can only managed second on the next leg then seventh would be enough for illbruck to take victory on a tie break. Anything less than third will not be good enough for Assa Abloy whatever happens to illbruck

A similar is more highly charged situation exists for places three to five with Tyco, News Corp and Amer Sports One all tied on 40 points. Quite simply the finishing order of these boats will dictate who ends up where in the overall results.

In the case of Tyco the problem could be complicated by a well hidden piece of small print in the Race Rules regarding scoring. 'To be eligible for an overall Race Trophy, a boat shall start and complete all leg unless, in the view of the Race Committee, it was reasonable for a boat to have failed to start or finish as a result of an emergency.' Should Tyco finish third on points it will no doubt be a hotly contested question as to whether the loss of a rudder constitutes an emergency. As with so much of the race, djuice and SEB will be fighting for sixth and seventh place on the way to Kiel while Amer Sports Too can only now finish last overall.

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