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6 December 2001, 11:24 am
illbruck Leading On Maximum Points
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Volvo Ocean Race

While it is still too early to view the current points situation as a prediction of who will claim overall victory in the Volvo Ocean Race in Kiel next June, the illbruck Challenge team have so far lived up to their pre-event billing.

After two legs, illbruck has amassed the maximum 16 points on offer by winning the first two stages from Southampton to Cape Town, and then on to Sydney.

Their three year work-up to the event is now 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.

The question now on everybody's lips is whether the illbruck Challenge can carry forward their momentum and dominate the race. That particular feat was last achieved by Sir Peter Blake's big red ketch, Steinlager 2, in the six stage 1989-1990 Whitbread 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.

Showing early signs of real consistency, Team News Corp is next in the overall pecking order on twelve points, but Jez Fanstone and Ross Field believe the best is yet to come. "We will win this event and it's not going to be easy - we have illbruck as a yard stick - but we will be there, there is no doubt," said a confident Field.

Back in third overall is Grant Dalton's late entry, Amer Sports One from the Nautor Challenge. Their second placing from leg one has carried their performance from this leg, where the crew endured two medical problems - Keith Kilpatrick and then Dalton himself. They were crucially short of manpower when it mattered most.

Amer Sports One was hunted down and overtaken by djuice on the final sprint into Sydney with five points in their sights, but a last minute broach ended any chance of defending their potential fourth place from Knut Frostad's charging team.

Second position on this stage has gone some way to restoring SEB's hopes after their leg one debacle. While skipper Gurra Krantz is unhappy to have lost the lead to illbruck when it counted, a serious broach in Bass Strait and sailing the final few hundred miles without a navigator was never an ideal leg-winning scenario.

"The feeling was that we should have been first. But the feeling isn't good enough, we have to do it as well and this time we gave illbruck the opportunity to pass," reflected Krantz. "In a couple of days we'll get rid of the bittersweet taste and be very happy." SEB is now fourth overall with ten points.

Tied on seven points, djuice and ASSA ABLOY both have more to prove over the coming legs.

Knut Frostad believes that their performance in the Southern Ocean redeemed his campaign, even though they slipped back later in the leg. "I think we are very competitive, we definitely have the speed, we can sail well and the crew is good, so I'm looking forward to the next leg. There are seven more legs to go," commented Frostad.

The overall points for djuice and Amer Sports Too are still subject to an outstanding protest with the race committee for contravening the International Regulations For Preventing Collisions At Sea during the first hours of leg two.

It is alleged that both Amer Sports Too and djuice sailed into the traffic separation zones off Cape Town, in contravention of the Collision Regulations. This protest will be heard at the earliest opportunity next week.

"It will be devastating for us to get penalized. If that rule has a two place penalty then it would be devastating to our team, especially as there was no intention to cheat," added Frostad.

For ASSA ABLOY meanwhile, leg two was 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.

Meanwhile, with the prospect of strong southerly breezes around the corner, Lisa McDonald's team on Amer Sports Too are still pushing hard to break out of Bass Strait. At 10.00hrs GMT today they are 95 miles away from Cape Howe at Australia's southeast tip.

The forecast is for a 15-25 knot southerly to push their Farr designed Volvo Ocean 60 all the way up the Tasman Sea to Sydney Heads. This should bring forward their estimated time of arrival, which is currently 05.00hrs Sydney time on Saturday 8th December.
Volvo Ocean Race Press/News Editor
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