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VOLVO OCEAN RACE / Rio de Janeiro

Last minute crew change at start to Volvo Ocean Race leg five

samedi 9 mars 2002Information Volvo Ocean Race

In the searing heat of Rio de Janeiro, Lisa McDonald, the skipper of Amer Sports Too, made a last minute change to her crew for leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race. Bridget Suckling, one of the two crew working the bow, was already onboard the boat and intending to race, but medics recommended that she should stay ashore to recover from influenza. Britain’s Eleanor Hay was quick to take her place. Hay, who sailed with the team on leg one, was delighted to have the chance to race again, having filled the role of shore manager more recently.

As the crews bade their final farewells, the Marina da Gloria was full to capacity, with people crammed under the trees searching for respite from the heat as temperatures soared into the 30s. The military band of the Marine Marine Marine nationale Corps, appearing impervious to the heat, and striking in their white uniforms, marched up and down, their music applauded by an enthusiastic crowd. They were followed by a parade of over 70 members of the Brazilian Marine Marine Marine nationale Band, the second oldest marine band in the world, founded in 1808. This colourful farewell to the fleet had an atmosphere of excitement and celebration, which reflected the whole of the stopover in Rio de Janeiro.

A lively blessing of the fleet was given by Father Henrique Kessel from the Church of Saint Teresa, during which he enthusiastically tossed holy water towards the teams, who were more than ready to slip their lines and make their way out towards the start line, situated off Villegagnon Island, the home of the Brazilian Naval College.

With high water here in the Guanabara Bay at 1230, the teams were at least sure that the tide would push them out past the forts that guard the entrance to the Bay. Light and flukey winds are expected throughout the rest of the day and tonight, as the current light easterly gradient conflicts with the expected sea breeze.

There were two starting course options ; course one, a longer course which would have taken the fleet out of the Bay and down to a turning mark of the Copacabana beach, or course two, the eventual course chosen in view of the light conditions, which took the fleet straight out of the Bay with only one real turning mark set approximately four miles from the starting line.

A constant stream of helicopters, adapted for filming with their doors removed, landed and took off from the race village. Five hovered, waiting to land to collect cameramen and photographers at the sound of the10 minute signal.

Ten to 12 knots of breeze on the nose meant an upwind start for the fleet, and the huge raft of spectator boats was kept back from the start area by a fleet of Brazilian Navy patrol boats.

At the start signal, the fleet split with Amer Sports One leading the fleet off the line to a clean start. Amer Sports One, Amer Sports Too, djuice and Assa Abloy split to the left, while the rest of the fleet went right, avoiding spectator craft by inches.

Djuice led the fleet through the forts in a breeze now shifting left. Amer Sports One and Too were conducting a tight battle for second place, the ladies on Amer Sports Too having their best start yet. In the middle, in a tight group, were Assa Abloy, illbruck, News Corp and Tyco. SEB was showing a less than sparkling performance in these conditions, bringing up the rear.

Djuice led illbruck past the Sugar Loaf Mountain, where she hoisted her code zero sail, followed swiftly by rest of the fleet. News Corp’s move to the right did not pay off, and she dropped back through the fleet, along with Assa Abloy, and there was chaos as the huge armada of spectator boats got in the way of the fleet.

Djuice continued to lead the fleet round the turning mark, set four and a half miles from the start line, followed by illbruck, Amer Sports One, Amer Sports Too, Tyco, SEB and Assa Abloy just a boat length apart, followed by News Corp.

The wind then dropped completely leaving the fleet wallowing in the wake of the biggest spectator fleet the Volvo Ocean Race has seen so far in this nine-stage event. Amer Sports Too continued to stay with the leading pack, as they tacked up the shore to avoid the worst of the current with Amer Sports One in the lead, followed by djuice, Tyco, illbruck and Amer Sports Too in a very close fight, the rest of the fleet struggling in the light conditions, hauling their huge code zero sails in on every tack.

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