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19 October 2001, 11:39 am
Barter On Board
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Amer Sports One

Volvo Ocean Race

The weight of expectation is not the only pressure beginning to surface around the Volvo Ocean Race fleet.
While Grant Dalton is surpassing his wildest expectations as his continues to runaway with the lead, the rest are all starting to show chinks in their armour.

For illbruck in second position, a top three result into Cape Town will be the only vindication for a win at all costs four-year campaign.

In the top three for most of the leg, but now in the cheap seats, the decision makers on ASSA ABLOY must be currently sweating the most. Perhaps rubbing salt into the wounds, Amer Sports One skipper Grant Dalton noted: "Mark and Roy must be under enormous pressure right now. I've been there. It is absolutely soul destroying, and then there is the crew looking at you and you can tell what they are thinking 'So how are you going to get us out of this mess big guy?' And then there is the sponsor who you just know is watching".

Sponsors who are using the Volvo Ocean Race to develop internal corporate team building and brand awareness will be looking for results.

Dalton himself is part of a last minute effort and had literally only a few months to run a boat and sail test program for the two Nautor Challenge yachts, Amer Sports One and Too.

Even a man with five Whitbread races under his belt acknowledges this is the most competitive fleet ever and a few heads may roll before the finish in Kiel.

"There will be a lot of really, really upset people during next year, because they all go out there and expect to win, and only one is going to. Then the sparks are going to fly because all these boats expect to win," said Dalton.

Most of the pressure is being heaped on the navigators, with Ross Field (Team News Corp) likening his job to being inspected by the tax authorities every six hours. "You would have to be a brave soul to be a navigator these days," said one crewmember.

Meanwhile, sitting in the cheap seats, the crew of djuice is now coming to grips with their position, but over two weeks of sailing at the rear of the fleet since their initial headboard car failure has been a shock to the system. "Never in my life has my patience been tested harder," wrote skipper Knut Frostad on day ten.

Armchair spectators can understand the highs and lows onboard the troubled Team SEB with their 'mood on board' graphic on the syndicates website (www.teamseb.com).

There are obvious correlations with the daily position reports. Good moods peaked at 100% when Gunnar Krantz led the fleet out of the English channel while the 'mood on board' declined to only 45% as Team SEB were struck by the failure of their headboard car.

Some crews are finding light-hearted tension-busting solutions. When not thinking about pushing the boat to the limits (which they do almost subconsciously), their minds stray to other highlights in their day - mostly thoughts of food.

As the leg takes progressively longer, rationing has started again in earnest, although some are adapting to it better than others.

"Already we have a prowler, someone who keeps talking to himself, and lately Cheese's [Dirk de Ridder] fascination with food has turned from an obsession to more of a disorder," explained illbruck's Jamie Gale.

Some people have even been reduced to bribing the wind Gods! "What was really concerning was when Soapy (Ian Moore) threw his snickers bar (currently running a deck value of around USD100) 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 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," continued Gale.

"I have tried to overcome this potential short coming by counseling 'Cheese' [Dirk de Ridder]. I suggested the first part of overcoming his addiction is to admit he has a problem. A first step on the road to recovery would be to give me his share of the protein bar, " observed Mark Christensen.

On djuice, Christen Horn Johannessen traded his noodles for Wouter Verbraak's chocolate for the rest of the trip. It later transpired that there is no more chocolate, thus Christen has no lunch.

To top it all off, out on the track there are now effectively two races with several well financed, no excuses campaigns ironically chasing the two least prepared and hyped yachts in the race from Nautor Challenge. Interesting times lie ahead.
Volvo Ocean Race Press/News Editor
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