So near yet so far

There's still plenty of work for the Volvo fleet to do before the finish of leg eight

Wednesday May 29th 2002, Author: Peter Bentley, Location: Transoceanic
Positions at 04.00 GMT 29 May 2002 .
Latitude Longitude DTF SMG DTL DTL-C PO
1 Assa Abloy 58 04.40N 008 06.84E 140 6.7 0 0 49
2 illbruck 58 04.44N 008 05.68E 141 6.7 1 0 56
3 Tyco 58 03.16N 008 05.56E 142 6.6 2 1 39
4 News 58 02.84N 008 04.16E 142 6.5 2 0 39
5 Amer One 58 02.72N 008 01.20E 144 7.6 4 -2 40
6 SEB 58 01.52N 007 58.56E 145 6.2 5 1 29
7 djuice 57 45.68N 007 51.64E 160 9 20 -7 25
8 Amer Too 56 32.16N 005 56.72E 256 11.4 116 -14 11

"We have nearly completed three full days of leg eight and it is shaping up to be the closest leg yet," reports Kevin Shoebridge from aboard Tyco. "Yesterday afternoon saw the front six boats all within a one-mile radius, looked more like a 20-mile fleet race than an ocean race."

The leaders are currently close tacking off the island strewn coast of Norway with twenty six nautical miles still to go to the lighthouse waypoint at Arendal.

Though Assa Abloy continues to lead, her advantage is a tenuous one. illbruck, Tyco and News Corp are breathing down her neck with Amer Sports One and SEB both ready to pounce if it all turns to custard at the end.

With the wind now firmly into the northeast and somewhat stronger then expected the penultimate section of the leg has turned once again into a beat. With the leaders all in sight of one another the opportunities for passing are limited. Once around the Island Waypoint at Arendal things will change again with a reach in decent breeze for at least the first part of the trip to Gothenburg.

As is so often the case at the end of a leg, things are not as simple as they seem with the wind forecast to die as the fleet approaches the finish. And yet there is so much to play for. Assa Abloy must win the leg if they are to keep open even a mathematical possibility of winning the race overall. Unless they can improve their position by at least two places, Amer Sports One are destined to finish no higher than third. Perversely, the boat with the most to gain is also under the least pressure. A leg win for illbruck would see the race wrapped up with a leg to spare.

Despite the undoubted pressure for those behind, no one has given up. Roger Nilson sums up the mood well from aboard Amer Sports One."Coming out from the island tomorrow, we expect a beat into Gothenburg," he says. "Another situation when we could have a chance to split with the leaders. We keep our fingers crossed."

Tyco skipper Kevin Shoebridge agrees. "Code zeros will come into play later today. It remains to be seen what conditions we will have for the final 100 miles from Norway to Gothenburg. But whatever they are will have a large impact on who comes in first. We are all within striking distance of the lead and all capable of pulling this one off."

Champagne sailing for Assa Abloy

Page two.... An e-mail from John Kostecki aboard illbruck

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