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Volvo Ocean Race / Leg 5

Pressure Builds On illbruck

dimanche 24 mars 2002Information Volvo Ocean Race

Race leader illbruck has been fending off constant challenges from ASSA ABLOY and Tyco successfully all week but in the last 12 hours has seen a respectable cushion of 37 miles dramatically cut back to just 25 miles.

This has coincided with the complete loss of their lightweight running gennaker when the crew of John Kostecki’s pacesetters were caught out by a squall which hit them mid-gybe. "We had a big squall come through and the wind speed went up 15 to 20 knots very quickly," Kostecki said this morning. "The gennaker broke in the middle of the gybe and it went into the water - we lost 100 per cent of the sail," he added.

Predictably, Kostecki downplayed the effect the loss would have on the armoury of their sail wardrobe - and their downwind speed in lighter airs. "It’d be nice to have it," he admitted. "At this time we don’t think it’s going to be too detrimental."

Nevertheless, having barely put a foot wrong all race Kostecki will be looking back over his shoulder at the chasing pack as they close down on him. "It’s looking like it’s going to be light from here on out," he said. "The fleet has been catching up, but that’s the name of the game. Time will tell."

Talking to Tyco’s shore manager Ian Stewart, the situation looks entirely different as he is convinced that "the light downwind gennaker is the toughest gap to fill with other sails. In two boat testing, when one boat is using this sail at its optimum and the other one uses a wrong one, the difference can be a couple of hundred metres in ten minutes. With a 30 mile lead and 600 miles to go it is a very critical situation, I’d be nervous."

North UK’s sail-maker Richard Hinde-Smith had similar thoughts about the situation, saying : "Kostecki might have taken a second sail with him, he is that smart. Otherwise they could have a problem. He should be looking over his shoulder and hope that the weather stays in his favour. It is hard to calculate how big the difference is, but 30 miles is not a lot. If you have to use a flatter asymmetric instead, you miss the angle and if you are five degrees out of the optimum, the other guys get away." North Sails has made the sails for all boats.

ASSA ABLOY and Tyco, meanwhile, are locked together in their long-running scrap for second place separated by only a mile. Some 50 miles astern SEB has maintained a breathing space back to Amer Sports One who are in turn locked into a nip and tuck tussle with News Corp.

All the navigators will now be looking ahead down the course at the succession of waypoints, which they have to follow through the Bahamas. The fleet is currently passing East Caicos, which is left to port, as are San Salvador and Eleuthera Island the next two waypoints. On the final run in to the finish the boats have to pass between Great Abaco Island, to the right, and the Great Isaac Light, which is left to port.

Meanwhile, at the back of the fleet djuice dragons are on the brink of passing Lisa McDonalds all-women crew on Amer Sports Too, just two miles behind. And, in a reflection of developments at the front of the fleet, sail choices - or the lack of them - could be at the root of the issue.

Amer Sports Too crew Emma Westmacott reported : ’I am going to quote Miranda [Merron] now, our navigator, who yesterday, in a fit of rage, (which as anyone who knows Miranda will know is very unlike her), and say that out of two and a half tonnes of sails on board, we do not have one that is right for our crew, the wind angle and wind speed that we need to go right now.

’The sails have been great for the other part of the leg, but now when djuice is breathing down our necks and we need to stay between them and the mark, we are struggling.

"No doubt everyone is in the same cross-over between Code 3 and 5, but at slightly different points, it is just unfortunate that djuice is obviously not in their cross-over right now... and we are. Anyway we have got these sail changes down to a fine art and continue to roll through them. ’If we don’t keep up the speed and do allow djuice two miles per sked, they will overtake us by the end of the leg. So there is no slacking, dozing, lack of concentration. We have got this far ; it would be gutting to lose it now. So drag out the extra coffee and keep going."


Volvo Ocean Race Position Report, Day 16, 1000 GMT

PS Yacht Latitude Longitude DTF CMG SMG TFHR DTL DTL-C ETA PO
- 1 ILBK 21 41.76N 068 53.96W 675 302 8 217 0 0 26/03/02 20:40 37
- 2 TYCO 21 10.56N 068 43.36W 700 268 10 226 25 -2 26/03/02 22:48 25
- 3 AART 21 10.08N 068 41.92W 701 269 10 226 26 -3 26/03/02 22:53 26
- 4 TSEB 20 58.72N 067 52.16W 747 280 9.9 235 72 -8 27/03/02 02:54 17
- 5 AONE 20 46.88N 067 33.84W 768 275 11 245 93 -11 27/03/02 04:41 26
- 6 NEWS 20 29.88N 067 41.32W 771 275 11.2 248 96 -11 27/03/02 04:57 22
- 7 ATOO 21 07.68N 065 57.96W 836 297 9.3 229 161 -7 27/03/02 10:34 9
- 8 DJCE 21 00.04N 066 00.28W 838 283 10.1 232 163 -10 27/03/02 10:46 18


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