The heat is on in Sandhamn. Just one point now separates Britain's Matthew HUMPHRIES from Sweden's Thomas BLIXT as the teams prepare for the last offshore race of the series.
JMS Next Generation has lost the protest to Avant over an incident at the start of the inshore race held in Sandhamn on Wednesday. Avant is now is just half a point behind with everything to play for.
With just one point separating the two teams, the Volvo Baltic Race for the SEB trophy is still wide open and, depending on the result from the Gant Round Gotland Race, the winner of the series could not be decided until the final day of inshore racing on Wednesday, July 7.
Matthew HUMPHRIES with Team Elanders, now leads Sweden's Thomas BLIXT by just one point, while the Norwegian/Swedish team of JMS Next Generation is just half a point ahead of Mikkael LUNDH and Avant. "It's the most exciting racing I've ever done,"
said Matthew. Blixt is determined to win the Gant Round Gotland Race. "I want the Volvo Baltic Race to be decided on the final windward leeward races,"
he said today in Sandhamn.
AV-Teknik has been out practising all day with some new crewmembers including a new co-skipper. The new skipper is reported to be Sweden's Oskar KARLSSON, who sailed with Gurra KRANTZ on Swedish Match in the 1997-98 Whitbread Race.
The island of Sandhamn, on Sweden's outer archipelago, glistened this morning as the crews made their final preparation for tomorrow's Gant Round Gotland Race. This 364 nautical mile (nm) race is the last offshore race in the series, and will be followed by three windward/leeward races on Wednesday July 7.
The Gant Round Gotland Race is a well- known offshore event, with a history of over fifty years and many previous Whitbread and Volvo teams have competed successfully in the past. In 1996, the all-female team sailing EF Education won the Round Gotland Open Race, causing a sensation throughout the sailing world. Ocean sailing is one of the few sports where men and woman can compete on equal terms, and EF Education's victory clearly demonstrated that women sailors are at least as good as their male counterparts.
In 1998, the 'Open' class was won by EF Language (the winner of the Whitbread in 1997-98) with Swedish Match as the runner up. EF Education was fourth. In 1999, the former Rothmans (Whitbread 1989-90) was the winner of the Open class.
The Volvo Baltic Race fleet will have their own class start at 1300, keeping the fleet separate from the 250-odd boats taking part in this classic event, which was first held in 1937. The course this year has been changed to create a more a varied race and the course has been extended by 30 nm.
It will be upwind for the first 60 or 70 miles to the first mark, followed by a tight spinnaker reach to the island of Gotland, and a genoa reach on the eastern side of Gotland. After rounding the southern tip of the island, the fleet will have a beat to the east coast of Sweden finally, after this mark, the sailors can hoist some spinnakers for the trip home.
At the start, south 8 - 12 knots increasing during the day to 12 - 16 knots. On Monday, a front will bring south-west 18 - 20 knots building 20 -25 during the day. Clouds will be important for strategy.
Positions overall after leg 6 (now including race 4)
1 Team Elanders 23.0 points
2 Sony Ericsson 22 points
3 JMS Next Generation 12 points
4 Avant 11.5 points
5 AV Teknik 5.5 points