In a turbulent battle in turbulent seas, churned by thousands of spectators, LG Flatron pulled off an 11th-hour victory over TeamSpirIT and Norwich Union to cross the Southampton finish line at 14:06:13 GMT and take the overall
The crew seemed dazed by the spectacle of so many boats and helicopters as they approached the line. Finally, skipper Conrad Humphreys hugged tactician Cian McCarthy and handed over the helm. He leaned wistfully against the running backstay as they counted down to the finish. As they crossed the line, the crew erupted into hugs and tears. LG Flatron had steadily moved up the leaderboard during the 700-mile Leg Seven, but only today stepped into the lead for the first time.
Leg Seven was by far the most aggressive of the BT Global Challenge 2000/01, beginning with the start in La Rochelle, France. After nearly 30,000 miles the sailors had a feel for their boats, and the skippers were feeling their oats. They jockeyed tightly in the pre-start area and then, bang! They were off on the final leg home. Bang, again! Four yachts were over the start line prematurely. Burdened with On Course Side penalties, the quartet stood off for the required hour. These boats - Quadstone, Veritas, Spirit of Hong Kong and Save the Children - would struggle to make up for this setback during the entire 700-mile leg. Unlike prior legs, the final La Rochelle to Southampton stretch delivered non-stop breeze to the fleet. No wind holes snared Manley Hopkinson and Olympic Group: the team had been cursed with a magnetic appeal to wind holes and had several back-of-the-fleet finishes. Becalmed at the end of the Leg Seven, they ultimately turned on their engine and retired from that leg in order to prepare for this one. It was a clear-sighted move as the team were vindicated with a stellar performance today, finishing the Challenge on a high note.
TeamSpirIT had taken an early lead in Leg Seven. They held that lead from Wednesday morning until Saturday morning, when Norwich Union advanced to the front slot. Still, TeamSpirIT, Norwich Union and LG Flatron were just within one mile of each other at daybreak on Saturday, and trading places. Logica and BP continued to the wire with a battle for third place overall. Logica skipper Jeremy Troughton said, "We spent the first two days trying to get away from BP, who made no qualms about the fact that they were going to stick to us like glue. "They have done a good job in sailing us both down the fleet - but it doesn't matter to them, as they only need to finish within five places of us to guarantee a third overall." Another vicious battle for overall position between LG Flatron and Compaq was doomed to follow the same course. LG Flatron began harassing Compaq even before the start gun in La Rochelle.
With just five points separating the two, LG Flatron skipper Conrad Humphreys would keep a keen eye on Compaq's Will Oxley throughout the entire 700-mile leg, and ensure the Aussie skipper didn't get the point spread required. At the end of the first day of the leg Isle of Man had begun lagging behind the fleet. A route close to the French shoreline found them without wind as night fell - by Thursday they had fallen 58 miles behind the leader. "Becky [Legg] said it was the worst day of the race. Nobody disagreed," said Rob Peake. Strong words, after a last-minute stumble to BP at the end of Leg Six - but spirits sustained them. "We're left playing catch up with the rest of the fleet ... but in times like this old maxims like 'anything can happen in a yacht race' seem to come in handy." Isle of Man subsequently discovered their folding propeller hadn't closed properly and was causing excess drag. Juan Walters went overboard to secure it - they continued to bring up the rear but logged the best 24-hour run of the leg (234.86 miles) in their efforts to catch up.
Along the way from La Rochelle to Southampton, the crews crossed their outbound track from 10 months ago, and celebrated the feat of circumnavigating the globe - the wrong way - on the world's toughest yacht race
La Rochelle to Southampton / Day 6
1. LG Flatron - FINISHED
2. TeamSpirIT - FINISHED
3. Norwich Union - FINISHED
4. Olympic Group - FINISHED
5. Compaq - FINISHED
6. BP - FINISHED
Final Overall Positions:
1. LG Flatron
6. Spirit of Hong Kong
7. Norwich Union
8. Isle of Man
10. Save the Children
10. Olympic Group