They think it's all over...
Saturday June 8th 2002, Author: Peter Bentley, Location: none selected
illbruck launches off
illbruck showed the huge crowd assembled in Gothenburg that she meant business on leg nine, powering off the starting line to take an early lead in the final 220 mile sprint. Escorted by an armada of spectator boats, illbruck led the fleet through the narrow channel to gain the initial advantage on the leg that will ultimately determine the overall winner of the nine-stage Volvo Ocean Race.
The start line was established a mile to the south east of the island of Alvsborgson, approximately two miles from the bridge marking the entrance to Gothenburg Harbour. The start gun was fired from the ramparts of the island fort at 1400 local time.
The incredible armada of spectator boats were kept under control by the patrol boats that did a marvellous job in preventing the spectators from straying into the path of the fleet. Initially, Illbruck was in the lead from SEB, with djuice, Amer Sports One and Tyco all in close contention at the head of the fleet, all making four gybes in eight minutes. This start was all about finding clear air, which was made very difficult in such a narrow channel. The fleet were constantly gibing down the track, followed by the enthusiastic flotilla of supporters in a dying breeze.
As the fleet made its way towards the Trubaduren light, at the outer limit of the archipelago, it was illbruck just over a mile ahead of SEB, the rest of the fleet locked together in a tight group, but all struggling for wind.
While the leg is the shortest in distance of the nine-stage around-the-world race, the course as well as the expected light winds will provide huge challenges for the race crews. "We knew these last few legs had the potential to be quite light, so we've made some changes to the boat, to the sail inventory, to the way we're sailing the boat, to adjust for lighter air," said illbruck skipper, John Kostecki. "We're all really focused and ready to go."
Once clear of Trubaduren light, the fleet will head south-southwest towards Storebaelt, which is the channel between the Danish island of Sjaelland, where the city of Copenhagen is located, and the island of Fyen.
The course of 220 nautical miles was lengthened by a further nine miles at 1100 local time today, although the Race Committee could decide shorten the course again once the lead boat reaches Kiel light tomorrow. The plan is to finish the fleet in Kiel sometime on Sunday. Quite what they plan to do if the breeze dies completely remains to be seen.
A sea breeze is expected today with an easterly gradient breeze of 10 knots, due to go light at the finish in Kiel.
Huge crowds for the start
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