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4 December 2001, 11:47 am
Interview With John Kostecki
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Volvo Ocean Race
Sydney

Interview with John Kostecki, skipper of illbruck, on the dockside after winning Leg Two of The Volvo Ocean Race.

We got on to a slow start the first night. We took on so much water and at times we thought we were sinking. We were coming back to shore at one point and we managed to stop the leak and bailed the water out, it took us an hour and a half and we gave them a twenty mile headstart. Yeah, it was tough, but we battled back and we have a great team and we were able to come out with a victory.

Q: How did you make up your ground with no wind instruments?

We have a very positive attitude on board, you know, we just keep racing the boat and working hard all the way to the finish.

Q: At what point did you think we have actually got there?

Not really until we got into Sydney heads, because anything can happen in yacht racing and so just a few miles away, I knew we were in.

Q: What came to your mind when you had those problems twenty miles into the leg?

Well, first of all you worry about the safety of the crew and the boat. That's the number one priority. Once we got everything under control, we could get racing. But for two hours, we weren't thinking anything about racing, we were surviving.

Q: How difficult was this leg for the crew. You all look like you've lost a lot of weight. How difficult was it physically, the e-mails were pretty tough.

Yes, it was a tough leg. It was definitely the toughest leg in the Volvo or former Whitbread race that I've ever done and it's a brutal race that takes a toll on your body.

Q: What do you think that you have that the others don't have that's given you this edge?

We're a great team.

Q: Your first time in the Southern Ocean, how was it for you?

Cold - very cold. I just warmed up about yesterday when we got into some of the warmer waters.

Q: How difficult was it to lead in those conditions?

You work day by day and just keep pushing. You know you're racing against your competitors so you just have to keep on pushing, no matter what the conditions are.

Q: Are you glad it's over?

I'm very glad it's over and I know everybody on board is glad we're here at the dock with our families and friends. And we look forward to the stopover here in Sydney.

Q: What's your worst memory of the Southern Ocean?

Probably just the cold. I mean it was very cold day after day, wet. It was pretty brutal. Lots of icebergs, for sure we never got real close to one and fortunately, we never encountered them at night - we saw them all during the day.

Q: Are you looking forward to the next leg and being part of the Sydney to Hobart?

We raced the Sydney - Hobart last year and it's an important part of this race sowe're looking forward to it. It's going to be a tough leg. It was a tough race last year for us and hopefully it won't be as quite as tough and upwind, hopefully it will be downwind this time.

Q: John, going back to that awful moment. What was your first reaction when you thought you were going down?

You know, we just changed sails, I was actually up on the bow pulling down the new sail and the bow kept going under water. I came back to settle things down, starting talking to Stu Bannatyne, and I said to him "This doesn't look right." And he said, "No, and it doesn't feel right, either." Then we thought the bow was filling up with water and we sent Roscoe down to check. He opened one of the hatches and water was just gushing through the water tank hatch. We said, if we don't instantly shut it, we'll have a big problem so we didn't know what to do. Water was coming in, but we didn't know how and where and it took a long time to figure it out, to stop it and then get the water out. We couldn't manoeuvre the boat, couldn't sail the boat at all - it was very much out of control.

Q: Did you think you were gone?

No, because the forward bulkhead is watertight and the water didn't make it through, so we were very fortunate to have great rules with the Volvo safety rules. These boats are great for that reason.

Q: Did you think your race might have been over then?

For sure. At one point we started coming back to shore and, like I said, we couldn't even sail. So that wasn't doing us any good, we had to solve the problem out there. Eventualle, we got the water out and started sailing and two hours later, we were able to start racing.

Q: How far from land were you when that happened?

43 miles.

Q: What had happened?

An inspection hole blew right off and the water was funnelling right in. When we were able to see it, we put a sail bag over it to stop it and we started bailing the water out and we were able to do some temporary fixes for that first night so we wouldn't take on more water.

Q: You had some other problems out there?

We were on port tack in the Southern Ocean, 45 knots of wind with huge waves. Waves came over and knocked Crusty who was driving at the time. Incredible forces out there with the waves.

Q: When did you actually loose your wind instruments?

We lost them that first night. That made sailing our boat to high performance very, very difficult. We ended up putting some instruments back up on the instrument bracket back here, just a metre high. It helped us a little bit, but nothing like having it at the top of the mast.

Q: How did you loose them?

It was just rotten that first night and I don't know when we just hit a few waves when we finished bailing the boat out fixing the bow. It was just a terrible night and all of a sudden, looking at the mast, instruments and everything went blank. The next morning, you looked up, all things gone. And then we sent somebody in when we got calm and the whole bracket broke off. So we couldn't put our spare wand up there.

We had to definitely rely on our seat of our pants sailing and fortunately we have a lot of great sailors on board and we are able to deal with that difficult situation and we lost. Even earlier on in the race we kept loosing and it took us a while to adjust sailing without instruments. Eventually, we got better at it, but the stop at Eclipse Island really helped us getting the masthead instruments going again.

Q: When did you feel confident you had won this leg?

Not until we got inside Sydney Harbour . Anything can happen. We had some good breezes coming up the coast here, we had to gybe several times. I was quite confident once we got inside the harbour.

After Eclipse Island was a tough point for us because there was still a lot of racing to do, we had to go south again, it got cold again, mentally it was like two different legs in this race.

It was difficult being so cold and wet all the time, it was tough. That was the toughest part. A regular bed and a shower tonight will be nice.
Volvo Ocean Race Press/News Editor
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