The 2004 Volvo Baltic Race went down to the wire yesterday in an exciting climax to the series. After a mixture of inshore and offshore races comprising eight legs, and some 1200 nautical miles, over three weeks.
The winner was not decided until the three windward/leeward races held off Sandhamn in the Stockholm archipelago had been completed.
The exciting finale, which began in a light breeze and culminated in a perfect 18-20 knots, provided some champagne sailing. The racing was hot and intense, as predicted, and protests were many and varied throughout the fleet, keeping the jury busy for several hours after the racing had finished.
There were a number of incidents for the jury to consider and after a long period of deliberation, the jury disqualified Team Elanders from all three of today's races. They also disqualified Sony Ericsson from race three. But this was not enough and Blixt, who started yesterday with a half point lead, increased his lead and won the series by 2.5 points. Avant (M Lundh/SWE) was the overall winner of yesterday's racing, with JMS Next Generation (KI Heiberg) second.
"We were the best,"
said a delighted Thomas BLIXT. "We were the under dogs and it feels really good to beat them. We have the best team, the best team spirit. We did it and it's so beautiful."
Winning the Round Gotland part of the series was a milestone for Blixt, "We're celebrating that today as well. I'm a Swede and winning that was really important to me,"
Humphries stuck to his strategy yesterday. "We had to go out there all guns blazing the way we did. We put ourselves in close situations, but we had to do that. What happened, happened. If we hadn't have pushed so hard, we wouldn't have stood a chance. We've been sailing on a knife edge. It's sad for us because we sailed really well. When we finished today, we felt really satisfied. We felt we had shown our true colours."
Mikael LUNDH (SWE) with his young team on Avant won yesterday's racing and finished in third place overall, as well as being the best of the second generation Volvo 60s. "Our learning curve has been high, and we're really happy with the result,"
commented Lundh. "All the young guys were so focussed and so keen to learn. They are a role model in itself for learning,"
added Lundh who is only 31.
For Kjell Inge HEIBERG (NOR) in charge of JMS Next Generation, it has been a mixed event. They have been disqualified twice for pre-start rule infringements, the second DSQ coming last night. "That was a punch on the nose for us, losing that protest,"
Heiberg said. The team ripped their spinnaker during the last race today, but in spite of these setbacks, they still finished today's racing in second place and Heiberg and his team feel they have achieved a lot. "The sailing has been really great and the team building has been fantastic. We have achieved a lot without much training and I think we did well in the circumstances. Lots of the guys haven't sailed a big boat like this before."
For the part Croatian/part Swedish team racing AV-Teknik, this event has been challenging. "For us it was a very big experience,"
said owner and co-skipper Marko MURTIC, who will now take the boat to the UK and compete at Cowes Week in August. "Now we know more about the boat and our boat handling has got better. The competition was very, very strong, especially for us. We didn't think it would be so professional - we are amateurs here. But we are happy that in the last few races we have been so close to the others - it gave us the strength to finish."
Results from Leg 8 Windward/Leeward Races
2 JMS Next Generation
3 Sony Ericsson
5 Team Elanders
1 Sony Ericsson 32.5 points
2 Team Elanders 30.0 points
3 Avant 21.0 points
4 JMS Next Generation 16.0 points
5 AV Teknik 10.5 points