Fisher's form guide

Bob Fisher looks at the competition in the Gotland Runt

Sunday June 30th 2002, Author: Bob Fisher, Location: Scandinavia
Without a shot being fired from the starter's gun, the dust of battle is being laid among the competitors of the GR Open ORC class where there are more Volvo Ocean 60s taking part than there were in the recently completed epic around the world. There were eight boats in the Volvo Ocean Race, but nine of the class are gathered at Sandhamn preparing for the 335 mile circumnavigation of Gotland.

They come from three generations, the earlier two from Whitbread Round the World Races and three boats from the Volvo Ocean Race, while one was an identical sistership to a competitor and will provide it's own delicious inter-Nicene scrap. Assa Abloy skipper, Neal McDonald, in the race-boat, will take on his watch leader and general manager, Magnus Olsson, in the tune-up boat. The competition between the two promises to be fierce.

SEB skipper, Gurra Krantz, has a similar battle on his hands with Thomas Blixt in SEB II. Krantz, together with a few of his round the world crew, will be taking several members of the sponsoring bank for the race, including the President and CEO, Lars Thunell. Krantz has the new generation boat while Blixt will sail the former Toshiba, one owned by America's Cup icon, Dennis Conner.

Another of Conner's former boats, Winston, appears as the promotion boat for the Volvo Ocean Race and bears that name; she is skippered by Erik Lindgren. From that same, 1993/94 Whitbread, generation is Avant, formerly Intrum Justitia, while from the next is Semcon Red, once Chessie Racing. Hans Hamel's Atea competed in the '97/'98 Whitbread as Innovation Kvaerner.

All nine VO-60s will find the conditions a stark, and welcome, contrast to the Southern Ocean, as the weather forecasts indicate light winds. These were prevalent for Thursday's Harbour Race from Nacka Strand, when Bertil Soderberg's 100 foot Ron Holland designed Supermaxi, Next!, sailed away from the monohull opposition, and it would be only someone with inside knowledge that would bet against her being first back to Sandhamn.

One of those who might hazard a wager on himself is Ludde Ingvall, who races Royal Blue in IMS 1. It is not only because Royal Blue will start half an hour earlier, but because this is the Nicorette in which Ludde won the Fastnet Race by a margin of more than 24 hours from the next finisher. The boat that he rebuilt from a former Whitbread racer in a Fire House, is a sparkling performer in light winds and flat water.

Ben Blake from the United States, who races Atlantic, a J-160, came to Sandhamn with his father when he was seven years old, but was not allowed to race. He has returned to take part and will have his son racing with him.

Spare a thought for the smallest boat, which has to race with GR Open, the 6.5 metres long, Eskil Degsell Racing. This is the boat that Eskil intends to race singlehanded in the Mini-Transat, but for the Gotland Runt he will be sailing two-up.

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