Ready to race again

Amer Sports Too leaves for La Rochelle and leg eight of the Volvo Ocean Race

Saturday May 18th 2002, Author: Nigel Cherrie, Location: France
Lisa McDonald and her Amer Sports Too team have been engaging in another type of race over the last twenty-four hours. They have been battling against the clock and Mother Nature to get a new rig stepped in their Volvo Ocean 60 and leave for La Rochelle before a storm sweeps across the English Channel.

Following their dismasting and subsequent retirement to Halifax on leg seven, their Farr designed yacht was loaded on a ship bound for Liverpool. But unlike the recent Leopard episode, Amer Sport Too emerged from the container ship in relatively good shape after the Atlantic crossing.

"One of our boat builders has been in charge of ensuring that the boat has been travelled as well as possible. She was actually inside a ship coming across the Atlantic, so she had minimal wear and tear," explained Lisa. The Nautor Challenge yacht was then transferred to a coaster for the trip to Southampton, where she arrived yesterday, 24 hours later than expected. After unloading, her twin wheels attached so she could motor down Southampton water and through the Solent to Nautor Challenge’s UK base at the Camper and Nicholson yard in Gosport.

"It’s been a day of squalls going through, ships arriving, the boat unloading at the terminal in Southampton, charging round to Gosport, rods (rigging) being raced around the south coast to rig and, ultimately, be measured," said Lisa on Friday.

The Nautor Challenge team and rigging experts from Southern Spars had been working around the clock to prepare the spare mast for stepping in Amer Too as soon as she arrived in Portsmouth Harbour. Spreaders, the rod rigging, running backstays, the masthead antennae and radar all had to fitted to the new carbon mast.

Everything was ready for the new mast to be stepped at 6pm yesterday, but the team suffered another glitch. "Unfortunately we missed the tide, so we had to step the mast at 0400hrs this morning," admitted Lisa.

The all girl crew finally left Gosport at 1pm this afternoon after their hectic episode, but are now back to facing the elements in the English Channel. "We’re battling Mother Nature at the moment," explains Lisa, adding, "there’s a big storm looming off Ireland and we are hoping to get around the corner of Ushant (off the coast of France) before that storm comes through late on Monday."

Despite the succession of setbacks, McDonald and her team remain optimistic. "Everyone is really fired up. We feel like we can do just about anything at the moment."

On reaching La Rochelle, the crew will have to repair the hull and deck scrapes and bruises sustained in the Atlantic dismasting as well as completing all the rudimentary pre-leg checks. "There's cosmetic damage on the bow and a little bit down the side from where the mast came down. Then there's the routine maintenance - nothing has been done so we have to check all the systems. She looks like she's been through the war a bit.

"We're sailing ready, not race ready."

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