At 11.22 local time on Tuesday 4th December, illbruck Challenge sailed through the shadow of the world famous Sydney Opera House and across the finish line, taking line honours and eight points for the second time in as many Volvo Ocean Race legs.
Burying the gremlins of their leg one performance, Gurra Krantz and his SEB crew sailed into Sydney Harbour a little over one hour and thirteen minutes behind illbruck after 24 days at sea to clinch second position.
SEB only relinquished the lead to illbruck in the dying stages of the leg in Bass Strait when a major broach and then flooding in the bow section allowed John Kostecki's team to sneak past SEB, sail away and clinch victory.
illbruck's three year work-up to the event is now evidently paying dividends as the crew believes there is no secret edge to their performance, just a well-rounded campaign with a fast boat, good crew work and excellent routing. "I don't think it is just my success, it is the success of everyone on the boat. The boat is very fast and we have got a good team," said navigator Juan Vila after docking at Darling Harbour.
The question now on everybody's lips is whether the illbruck Challenge can carry forward their momentum and dominate the race. Even after their opening night problems when the boat took on serious amounts of water through a broken bow inspection hatch and instantly lost 20 miles, Kostecki was always confident about their leg winning prospects. "I've never really ever worried about falling off the tracks," he said.
illbruck and SEB worked their way through the calms and storms over the final 48 hours of the leg to the best effect to open up a small lead over the pursuing five-boat fleet. But a near flooding of the first bow compartment in the watertight bulkhead on SEB temporarily put the brakes on Gurra Krantz's challenge for the lead 24 hours from Sydney.
After a sail change, the crew found that boat speeds were low and an inspection revealed that a deck hatch had accidentally opened when a sail was dragged over it, letting in over a ton of sea water.
This mixed with all the crew's rubbish from three weeks at sea, creating a smelly broth that had to be sieved before being emptied into the Tasman Sea.
"Woos [Gareth Cooke] was standing in the mess in his shorts and bailing and sending the buckets out on a chain of crew hands. The water was looking more like a soup and smelled like rotten lobster tail soup," skipper Krantz explained.
Third for the second leg in a row, News Corp crossed the finish line at 13.17hrs local time the same day.
While they were 31 miles down on SEB just 18 hours before the finish, Fanstone and navigator Ross Field pushed for every possible inch over the final 236 miles to Sydney, not accepting their position until SEB completed the leg.
Being the sole Australian flagged yacht in the race, a good finishing position in Sydney was always going to be high on their priority list.
That morning, they cut inshore to within half a mile of the New South Wales coast in order to cheat the worst of the southbound current. While they were not rewarded with an extra position, they did cut their deficit on second placed SEB to just 7.6 miles by the finish line.
"We're definitely going better than we were on the first leg. Third place is good, it puts us in second overall so we're happy with that," said Ross Field.
Four hours later, djuice snatched fourth place from Grant Dalton's grasp. djuice dragons slipped past Amer Sports One three hours out from Sydney.
Seven minutes after Knut Frostad's team finished, Amer Sports One was the fifth yacht to complete leg two.
But a late twist in the tale undoubtedly cost Grant Dalton's team valuable miles to djuice, as on Monday afternoon they suffered their second medical blow of the leg.
Skipper Grant Dalton was hurt after the Frers designed Volvo Ocean 60 crashed off a wave during a gale in the Bass Strait.
After crossing the Opera House finish line, the Nautor Challenge yacht detoured to the Sydney Customs Wharf and Dalton was taken off the yacht on a stretcher. He has suspected broken ribs and severe bruising.
Explaining the incident, Dalton said: "I was in the galley area and I was suddenly launched into space. I broke the stove and the fitting that held it to the bulkhead and slammed into the side of the boat.
"Roger [Nilson, navigator and doctor on Amer Sports One] suspects broken ribs and maybe some internal damage. It is very painful when I breathe," added the Kiwi, who is a veteran of five Whitbread races.
Nilson had confined Dalton to a bunk and administered pain-killers, "Grant is in severe pain and has massive bruising," he said. "Grant cannot move without severe distress."
For Knut Frostad, it had been a mixed second leg. The djuice crew led the fleet for several days through the Southern Ocean, but succumbed to the lighter breezes that engulfed the yachts as they reached western Australia.
Then, after several thousand miles of on-the-edge sailing in the Southern Ocean through fields of iceberg's, Frostad's crew nearly ran into major trouble with the Sydney skyline just over the horizon.
During the final morning at sea, the pink and black Laurie Davidson designed yacht struck an object in the water.
"As we gybed and crossed Amer's stern, about one mile behind them, we hit something very hard with the keel, doing about 15 knots boat speed," explained Frostad.
"It could have been a whale or a large sunfish. We almost stopped and nasty sounds came from around the rig and keel. A couple of guys fell over in the cockpit, but no one got injured. After a quick check of the boat, it looks like it has survived this one as well."
Later that night, ASSA ABLOY sailed into Sydney Harbour to finish sixth. Their leg had been a classic case of what could have been.
The gold and blue Farr design is certainly competitive but skipper Neal McDonald and navigator Mark Rudiger were punished for a small tactical blunder approaching Bass Strait.
"It's an easy thing to fix as we have a good boat and great crew, we just need to work on our side of things. It is amazing how close we were to nailing it," said Rudiger. Both are confident they can turn their fortunes around.
Finally, Lisa McDonald's team sailed into Sydney Harbour under the cover of darkness at 03.00hrs on Saturday morning (8th December) to become the final crew to complete the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race.
It had taken the all-women team on Amer Sports Too an extra three and a half days to sail the 6,550-mile leg from Cape Town, through the Southern Ocean and onto Sydney, Australia, than leg winners illbruck.
Lisa and her team now have 18 days to recuperate and replenish themselves before the fleet set sail on leg three of the nine-stage around the world race on Boxing Day.
On December 26th, the eight yachts will join the Sydney to Hobart race fleet. They will have a brief three-hour pit stop in Tasmania before setting off again across the Tasman Sea to Auckland, the City of Sails, New Zealand.
At a meeting on the previous Friday afternoon (7th December) in Sydney, the Race Committee presented Notice to Competitors No. 7 regarding the two protests against Amer Sports Too and djuice.
The Race Committee continued its investigation and was surprised to discover that the Table Bay Traffic Separation Scheme is not an International Maritime Organisation adopted scheme. The authority for this Separation Scheme comes from the South African 'Marine Traffic (Inshore Vessel Traffic Services) Regulations 2000' under the authority of the South African Marine Traffic Act 2 of 1981.
Further research brought to light new information from the South African Maritime Safety Authority that the Traffic Scheme does not apply to pleasure yachts involved in sport or recreation, as stated in "Marine Traffic (Inshore Vessel Traffic Services) Regulations 2000". Therefore the Race Committee has decided that because a protest based on non-compliance with Rule 10 of the Collision Regulations would fail in this case it would be inappropriate to proceed with these protests.
Also on Friday, Keith Kilpatrick, who was taken seriously ill during the second leg, decided not to continue in the race on medical advice.
Keith was taken off Amer Sports One at Eclipse Island off the coast of Western Australia during the final week of the leg after being diagnosed with an intestinal blockage, which has since cleared.
"After consulting several specialists it has been decided it is in my best interests to go home to California and recuperate," explained Keith. "It has become evident that the trauma experienced by my body is more severe than previously thought. After recuperating for about two months I will be totally fit.
"Obviously I will not be sailing on the next two legs (from Sydney to Auckland and Auckland to Rio de Janeiro) so in the best interests of the team I have decided to step aside so that a permanent replacement can be made."
With the fleet ashore, it was with great sadness that the Volvo Ocean Race learned that Sir Peter Blake, five-time Whitbread Round The World Race sailor and double America's Cup winner, was tragically killed in Amazonia.
Sir Peter, 53, was a major figure in the world of sailing and helped make the former Whitbread race the pinnacle of ocean racing it is today. As skipper, he made history a decade ago by winning all six legs and the overall prize in the 1989-1990 Whitbread Round The World Race on Steinlager 2.
Chief Executive of the Volvo Ocean Race, Helge Alten, said: "Everyone is shocked and saddened by this tragic news. Sir Peter Blake will always be remembered as one of the greatest sailors the world has seen through his achievements in all areas of the sport. His personal warmth and caring meant he was always an approachable figure and an inspiring personality. At this time our thoughts are with his family."
Elapsed time for leg 2 of the Volvo Ocean Race
Illbruck: 022d 13h 22m 26s
SEB: 022d 14h 35m 45s
News Corp 022d 15h 17m 29s
djuice 22d 19h 43m 35s
Amer Sports One 022d 19h 50m 12s
ASSA ABLOY 022d 22h 31m 05s
Amer Sports Too 026d 04h 59m 22s