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9 November 2001, 09:51 am
Leg Two Starts Sunday
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illbruck ©Rick Tomlinson

Volvo Ocean Race
Cape Town

The eight Volvo Ocean 60s are again united on jetty one as they await the start of leg two, set for 1100 GMT Sunday, which will take them deep into the inhospitable Southern Ocean on a course west towards Sydney.
It has been a relatively short stopover for the seven syndicates, with the late finishers contending with only ten days to prepare their boats for this second leg. Though the process has involved several 'all-nighters' the competing teams and shore crews have only small lists to complete over the next three days.

There were three major problems - headboard cars, halyard locks, and Satcom B communication systems - that occurred during leg one that needed urgent attention during this stopover. All but one of these seem to have been fixed. "Our Satcom B basically doesn't work at the moment," said News Corp meteorologist Nick White.

Many of the teams suffered from failing Satcom B systems, however all but News Corp appear to have the problems resolved. "It [the Satcom B] broke during the second half of leg one. We've had trouble tracing the problem," explained White. "If today's attempts fail then the next option is to replace the whole unit."

Fortunately the communications engineers attempting to find the fault have a spare system available to replace the current installation. "We're concerned but confident that it will be working," said White. If the system's replacement fails to deliver the functionality required then, as so accurately described by White, the team will have "a little bit on". The Satcom B provides the teams with the controversial Internet access used by the navigators to access crucial weather data.

Both djuice and SEB quite dramatically lost their headboard cars during the early stages of leg one. Though they had been sailing with the headboard cars for several months before starting the race, the conclusion has been that the headboard cars were not built with enough strength. "We've had guys working on it ever since being in Cape Town; it looks good so I'm pretty confident it will work," explained Knut Frostad, skipper of djuice. The two teams have increased the strength and durability of the headboard cars mainly by making them larger with the addition of diagonal struts across the object, which has only slightly increased the weight.

As the boats are heading into potentially the strongest and steadiest wind conditions of the race it is important that these headboard cars are not going to fall apart again. Climbing the mast in the Southern Ocean is not a job that any sailor enjoys.

Grant Dalton's Amer Sports One also suffered from masthead related problems in the form of failing halyard locks. These failures left the Amer Sports One crew unable to hoist their masthead spinnakers at the end of leg one. Both of the Nautor teams have replaced their halyard locks after several days of testing towards the end of last week.

The new locks, explained by Dalton, use stronger material and a slightly redesigned plunger. Amer Sports One have also added two more winches to their deck to enable them to permanently leave the spinnaker halyard loaded just in case similar breakages occurring en route to Sydney.

Though the general preparation required for the second leg is similar to leg one, there are several major changes that are required to keep the crew fit and healthy and the boat up to speed. "The biggest thing is the sail changes, we have a different inventory planned for this next leg," explained Kevin Shoebridge, skipper of Team Tyco.

The second leg is likely to have almost every sailing condition imaginable, with the first part routed through the Southern Ocean, and the second part into the Western Australian High and then back into strong and shifty winds. "The sails are generally more running orientated. However, you certainly need smaller sails - there's going to be a lot of breeze in the Southern Ocean," said Shoebridge. The most obvious addition to the team's inventory will be a storm spinnaker. Though many may think it would be crazy to fly a spinnaker in the gale-force winds, it's use can help to stabilise the boat in the difficult downwind conditions.

In the stronger breeze the crews use a lot more energy, which also needs to be catered to before the boats leave the dock. "It's a learning process. We look at the last leg and what we took, then just take account of where we went wrong", explained News Corp's Nick White. "You certainly need to take a lot more hot drinks to help cope with the cold. Last time we didn't take as much pasta as much as we should have." You even have to remember the little things, for example with more hot drinks you need more gas than for the last leg.

Though the addition of hot drinks helps with the cold the most important additions, in terms of fighting the cold, are the extra clothes the teams will be taking. "We'll have the extra thermals, some mid-layers [added wind protection and warmth], gloves and socks," described White. With some crewmembers from the race four years ago getting frostbite on this leg the teams will have carefully prepared their wardrobe prior to leaving for the start line on Sunday.


John Greenland/News Editor
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