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ASSA ABLOY First into Auckland !

jeudi 3 janvier 2002Information Volvo Ocean Race

What a fantastic day for the kiwis on ASSA ABLOY, to win Leg 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race into Auckland. New Zealanders, Richard Mason and Stu Wilson were heroes along with the rest of the crew of ASSA ABLOY, to the early morning cheering crowd, as they entered Viaduct Basin, after they had crossed the finish line.

It is even more remarkable, considering that Neal McDonald‚s crew have been sailing most of this leg with at least one crew-member sick or injured. Jason Carrington and Guillermo Altadill, both developed suspected internal infections and Magnus Olsson took a bad fall not long after leaving Sydney, and injured his back. For Magnus, in spite of his injury, there was a double celebration on this great victory, his children were holding a banner at the dock saying, "Happy Birthday Daddy." A further injury occurred to skipper Neal McDonald as they arrived at the dock, when fellow crew mate Mike Joubert opened a bottle of champagne and the cork caught Neal in the face ! At the dock, Mark Rudiger said about their win, "We finally got a podium place, which was great. The best part was coming round the North Cape and still not seeing [Grant] Dalton [Amer Sports One] - that was our biggest worry, that he would catch us up."

Roger Nilson on Amer Sports One was resigned to their second place earlier, and felt that ASSA ABLOY deserved their first position, "Even if we cut down the lead on ASSA ABLOY to 16 miles we feel, she will be more or less impossible to pass, as a front from the west is coming tonight with strong northwesterlies. They should benefit ASSA ABLOY first and she deserves her win after a perfectly sailed leg."

For McDonald and crew, however, this has been a great leg, having also led the fleet into Hobart for the pit stop. On leaving Tasmania they took a more northerly route across the Tasman Sea and only lost the lead once, when they had a problem with their spinnaker. Their afterguard had to really work hard yesterday, to keep the boat moving through the patches of light air into the next band of breeze, as the Volvo Ocean Race fleet came within sight of Cape Reinga, the most northern tip of New Zealand.

ASSA ABLOY was the first boat to make a landfall and once again took the most northerly route around the top of North Island, whereas the second boat Amer Sports One had an agonisingly hard time, tacking backwards and forwards at Cape Reinga against 3.5 knots of tide. From Cape Reinga, both ASSA ABLOY and Amer Sports One could only watch the fleet close up on them from behind at speed. Mark Christensen from illbruck predicted the change to lighter weather yesterday, "Not looking forward to a drift off down the New Zealand coast but it will happen, so positions may change yet."

Roger Nilson wrote from Amer Sports One, "we lost the nice northwesterly wind almost totally, four miles southwest from Cape Reinga and decided to go close to the corner, as there seemed to be more wind there then offshore. Had the bad luck to hit foul tide at its worst moment, full moon and max setting 3,5 kts against us. With only six knots of wind straight on the nose from northeast it looked bad. Hardly made any progress over ground, in spite of sailing as close as we dared, right into the infamous rocks just northwest of Reinga." After Amer Sports One turned south towards Auckland at the next point, he continued, "As we hoist the spinnaker right now at North Cape, the northeast corner of New Zealand, we cannot see ASSA ABLOY ahead or illbruck behind at Cape Reinga. Hopefully illbruck, News Corp and Tyco also will have to pay their duty getting around that tricky corner [Reinga]."

Illbruck, News Corp and Tyco closed on the fleet as they headed in towards North Island. Having passed North Cape, Kevin Shoebridge reported that they were still enjoying very close racing with illbruck and News Corp and was well aware that the winner of this battle would get a good result, the loser would end up with fewer points. This left the overall points standings, crucially dependent on the outcome, "A fantastic last night as we slide down the North Island coast just passing the Cavalli Islands on our starboard side. It’s been a pretty exciting day here on the Tyco ; we have made steady gains on illbruck and News Corp all day. The lighter conditions obviously more to our liking. I am looking at both of them on the radar screen ; news is 0.7 of a mile ahead, and illbruck 1.7 miles, not a lot after nearly 2000 miles of racing."

"Plenty to play for here tonight, there is only 1.7 miles between a good result and a not very pleasing result. Tight racing, that’s for sure ! let’s hope there are some passing opportunities."

Steve Hayles from Tyco reported not long after, "It has been a long battle getting into these guys and the three boats could now definitely finish in any order, and with only 50 miles remaining, this is shaping up to be one of the closest multiple boat finishes in the history of this race. Every move counts now and the boat that makes the fewest mistakes will probably come out on top."

"We are doing all that we can but there are 24 other sailors doing the same. It will be a nerve wracking few hours to the finish."

The three boats are still locked in a close duel with each other as they approach the finish, and are using every last ounce of effort. Any one of the three could still achieve third or fifth place. The next few hours will tell.

Volvo Ocean Race Position Report, Day 9, 1720 GMT

PS Yacht Latitude Longitude DTF CMG SMG TFHR DTL DTL-C ETA PO
- 1 AART 36 50.51S 174 48.81E 00 000 00.0 000 00000 +0 03 JAN 02 17:20:42 15
- 2 AONE 36 28.28S 174 53.92E 12 179 10.1 173 00000 -24 03 JAN 02 19:39 18
- 3 ILBK 36 10.64S 174 53.96E 22 175 12.4 183 00017 -25 03 JAN 02 21:26 22
- 4 NEWS 36 09.92S 174 52.48E 94 187 12.6 183 00018 -25 03 JAN 02 21:26 17
- 5 TYCO 36 09.64S 174 53.64E 97 184 12.8 182 00018 -25 03 JAN 02 21:30 10
- 6 DJCE 35 34.28S 174 38.80E 125 181 12.6 205 00055 -22 04 JAN 02 01:04 10
- 7 ATOO 35 43.20S 167 14.60E 690 046 17.5 304 00457 -26 05 JAN 02 13:00 5
- 8 TSEB 35 40.04S 174 38.16E Retired - - - - - - 11

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