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18 October 2001, 09:17 am
Divine Inspiration
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Volvo Ocean Race

They say that it is in times of need that we turn to God for help, and it seems the Volvo fleet has reached that time.

While Grant Dalton is thanking his lucky stars for the magic carpet that has hyperspaced him to the head of the fleet, illbruck's co-navigator Ian Moore has resorted to making food sacrifices to the wind gods, and making himself very unpopular with the rest of the crew in the process.

Jamie Gale relayed the unhappy story. "What was really concerning was when Soapy (Ian Moore) threw his Snickers bar (currently running a deck value of around US$100) over the side as an offering to the wind gods.

"While the rest of us were mentally putting a large question mark in the back of our minds regarding Soapy's own mental stability, a distressed Cheese[Dirk de Ridder] attempted to throw himself into the sea after the Snickers bar and it was only a good tackle from one of the blokes that prevented a serious man overboard drama. Tomorrow we will have to draw up a suicide watch roster."

While Ian Moore is looking for God, the skipper of Amer Sports One believes he has found God already, and is preaching the Gospel according to Saint Dalts. "In a situation like we find ourselves in now, a number of superlatives come to mind - luck has a habit of evening itself out, the lord giveth and the lord taketh away, and a couple of others as well - fortune favours the brave."

So what was the secret of Grant's success? Apparently, he saw the light four years ago, at this point in the last Whitbread Race when EF Language set off on a southerly course that was to see her skirt around Innovation Kvaerner and Dalton's Merit Cup, and romp off to an unassailable lead into Cape Town. For Grant it was a case of once bitten, twice shy.

St Dalts was humble in his appraisal of the last 48 hours. "There is a big element of luck in what has happened even if there was (is) a strategy in place. The basis of this strategy is that Roger [Nilson] and I have been burnt many times by boats getting south of us, picking up breeze and disappearing. In fact it happened to us on Merit Cup with EF in exactly the same place four years ago. So we came round Trindade headed south, no questions, no discussion - not making that mistake again."

But Dee Smith dared to question the wisdom of their southerly pilgrimage, as St Dalts went on to explain: "Then an interesting thing happened. News Corp and Tyco crossed our bow headed east... as the wind swung, favouring that side, we tacked with them after a one-and-a-half hour discussion, where Dee convinced us that it was the right short term thing to do. As soon as we could, we got back onto starboard to resume our original strategy - and shit, suddenly we ended up in the lead, be it a very fragile lead."

St Dalts is not counting his Easter chickens though. "We accept this gift at this stage with due humbleness. The next 24 hours will be most interesting, but we like the south...."

The irony of the situation is that it was Mark Rudiger who had shown Dalts the way, the truth and the light four years ago, when he made that daring move south with EF Language. Now he is paying the price for straying from the path of righteousness.

In duly repentant manner he writes: "Dear friends and fans, I must apologize for ASSA ABLOY's misfortune the last 24 hours. I know it must appear we are on some wild flyer and why didn't we stick with illbruck?

"The reason is that when we rounded Trinidade, we had carefully looked at all the options and decided the fastest highest percentage chance of success was going east and catch the north-easterly to carry us south-east to better pressure. Initially the other boats did the same, but because of being the furthest north-east, we missed a small shift they got which forced them on the other tack. That's when a small separation turned into a big one.

Rudiger summed up his predicament as "frustration with a capital 'F'. Now we must be patient and keep fighting for every inch and pray the wind comes to us and the other boats still have to slow up to get through their next transition."

The navigator is looking to the sky for divine inspiration but none is forthcoming. "It's hard to have fought so hard for over three weeks and been so close, and now we know there will be more bleeding before we can gain back the miles. Looks like this navigator may arrive in Cape Town with a few more grey hairs...(sorry Lori)."

One boat that veered from the straight and narrow but has not got herself back on track is Team News Corp, who now holds third place and is reasonably happy with her situation. But frustration abounds on Tyco, with Tim Powell summing up the dark mood. "We have had a very trying day and night which saw all the hard work of the previous week where we gained a position in the fleet destroyed. Amer Sports One took 50 miles out of us as they sailed past us two miles away to windward. ASSA ABLOY, who where 10 miles to leeward, took 20 miles out of us. This is where sailing is so cruel, for no reason that you can fathom, you have been totally and utterly fitted."

In fact the mood aboard the likes of Tyco and ASSA is darker than that of the three backmarkers, who have had more time to get used to their predicament. Gurra Krantz relays quite an upbeat message from Team SEB, although he acknowledges the growing difficulty of the conditions as they draw near to the waypoint. "Approaching Trinidade in very light and shifty winds we have djuice and Amer Sports Too still behind but the distance is shrinking as we sail into the fading breeze. Important for us here, as for the leading pack, is how to get to the new breeze."

In fact, there is all to play for with only four miles separating these three boats. And there is the tantalising but still distant prospect of passing ASSA stranded to the east.

While the navigators are praying to the skies, the boys on djuice are sending a little prayer to their ladies ashore. Mikael Lundh writes: "We are not communicating to our loved ones so you will have to read a little love letter from the djuice boys to their wives, girlfriends or 24 hour rule girls. We love and miss you fully max-ed out and we look forward seeing you all soon, sometimes we dream about food and proper drinks but most dreams are just about you. Not very poetic but it will have to do."

Surprisingly, the object of worship aboard illbruck was one of their close rivals aboard Amer Sports One. Jamie Gale said they had held a "Dee Smith appreciation day on illbruck. Amer Sports One has done incredibly well the last few days. Many of us onboard have had the pleasure of sailing with Dee in the past so this afternoon we had a few good laughs telling 'Dee stories' from the good old days. The highlight of the afternoon was several Dee impersonations, which brought down the house. Thanks Dee, you made our day."

"Soapy threw his Snickers bar over the side as an offering to the wind gods." Jamie Gale, illbruck

Andy Rice/News Editor
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