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Volvo Ocean Race

First leg win for Mike Sanderson’s team

ABN Amro One wins Spain to South Africa leg

jeudi 1er décembre 2005Information Volvo Ocean Race

At 1324 GMT today, an ecstatic Mike Sanderson brought ABN AMRO ONE safely into Cape Town to claim leg one of Volvo Ocean Race. After 6,400 nautical miles, and 19 days, 24 minutes and 2 seconds at sea, this team, which also holds the new monohull 24-hour world record Record #sailingrecord , now leads the Volvo Ocean Race by one point, clocking up a total of 11.5 points so far.

“It’s unbelievable to be here,” said Sanderson as he brought the boat into the dock. “Team ABN AMRO has worked so hard on this. Before we started we were told by our designer Juan Kouyoumdjian, that we would average 16 knots on this leg and we a laughed. We have averaged 15.95 knots and put in nearly 400 miles almost every day of this leg. I am not sure if I could call it fun. It seemed very high stress but to see Table Mountain is always a pleasure and we are really looking forward to our time here.”

Huge crowds packed the quayside in Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred waterfront, host of the Volvo Ocean Race and its predecessor, The Whitbread, for many years, to welcome the very first Volvo Open 70 to arrive in the harbour and watch Sanderson and his team hold aloft the Waterford Crystal leg trophy.

New Zealand’s Mike Sanderson, who has twice raced around the world alongside his friend and mentor, Grant Dalton, is a first time skipper in this event, and what a start he has had. After a disappointing showing in the inaugural in-port race in Sanxenxo, Galicia, Spain, where, in the light conditions not suited to the boat, the team finished in sixth place, they had everything to prove in the first of the offshore legs of this nine-leg marathon.

After an eventful start, having worked the black boat into the lead, everything onboard seemed to be going smoothly, when, on day two, with the boat fully powered up the team was hit by a big gust of wind. “The boat took off, fully under control and then there was a loud bang and we did the most massive wipe out, “explained Sanderson at the time. The team then momentarily lost control wiping out their steering pedestal and the tiller arm on the port side and injuring two crew in the process.

This was followed on day three by a small fire onboard. A bolt had dropped into the battery box and lodged between a battery terminal and the carbon fibre structure. The resulting short circuit took out the wiring and systems in the navigation, communications and media stations onboard. Once the fire was controlled, navigator, Stan Honey (USA) managed to re-wire the damaged areas.

Recovering quickly from these incidents and pushing as hard as they could, ABN AMRO ONE reached the scoring gate at Fernando de Noronha in pole position, collecting the 3.5 points up for grabs.

The race south then began and Sanderson and his very experienced crew did not look back, apart from one worrying point on day 13 when the they ran out of wind and the chasing pack started to chip away at their lead.

Holding their nerve, the crew never swerved from the belief that their boat, from the drawing board of Argentinean designer, Juan Kouyoumdjian, and built by Killian Bushe, was the best boat. “Once again, I wouldn’t swap any part of what we have on ABN AMRO ONE for anything,“ wrote Sanderson that day.

The breeze filled in the following day, and ABN AMRO ONE picked up her skirts and flew towards Cape Town, collecting the monohull 24-hour world record Record #sailingrecord on day 16, when the team passed the magic barrier and sailed 546 nautical miles in 24 hours.

The team will now spend some time recuperating with their families before preparing the boat for the second in-port race to be held on December 26.

- ABN AMRO ONE Skipper, Mike Sanderson : “This is a great feeling and it’s been an unbelievable leg. There was a lot said about our boats, especially after the in-port race, but this has proved to everyone that these machines are capable of something special. Tactically, it all went to plan - we knew we were taking a risk by heading so far west in the Southern Atlantic, but we picked up some great winds during the latter part of the leg and after some fairly stressful moments, it thankfully all paid off.”

“The team spirit has been fantastic and I’m so proud of all the guys. We’ve been pushed hard by our other boat, but it’s awesome to see how well they’ve done too. Between us we clocked some pretty amazing speeds out there and the world record was definitely the icing on the cake. The scary thing is that if you ask any of the crew they’ll all tell you that she is still capable of a lot more - and that’s the difficulty, knowing when to ease off. Although we’ve won this leg we’re all very conscious that there’s still a long way to go in this race, and as we’ve already seen, anything can happen. For the moment though, we’re just looking forward to seeing our families, getting some sleep and grabbing a cold beer !”

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