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5 February 2006, 10:27 am
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Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006
Melbourne, Australia

ABN AMRO ONE continued its domination of the Volvo Ocean Race when a strengthening sea breeze in Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay provided ideal conditions for the heavy weather boat and helped the team to a spectacular win in the Melbourne In Port race in Australia.
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In contrast to the rest of the fleet, the Dutch team made no mistakes on the course, on a perfect Australian summer day where incidents and mistakes came aplenty.

Ericsson was touted as the boat to beat today with tactician and last Volvo Ocean Race winner John KOSTECKI (USA) calling the shots, but she blew her chances by jumping the start and had to return to begin again, losing almost two minutes. The team doubts the validity of the recall.

Despite that setback, Ericsson just missed a podium finish, crossing the finish line in fourth place behind Pirates of the Caribbean and movistar.

By winning again today, Mike SANDERSON's (NZL) ABN AMRO ONE has stretched her overall lead over junior partner ABN AMRO TWO to 7.5 points. ABN AMRO ONE has now won both offshore legs, all the points at the mid-ocean waypoints and the Cape Town In Port race.

Almost A Fairy Tale Ending

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Brasil 1 fought bravely in
© Luiz DORONETO/adorofoto

It was, however, almost a fairy tale ending for Brasil 1, the sentimental favourite in Melbourne. She had arrived at the stopover on the back of a truck only last Wednesday after being dismasted in the Southern Ocean in mid-January on the leg from Cape Town. She limped 1,500 nautical miles to the sanctuary of Fremantle in Western Australia and then was carted 4,000 kilometres across the Australian desert in under five days to make the start line today.

Despite initial doubts that she would even go out onto the race course, for more than half the race today Brasil 1 was in front. Skipper Torben GRAEL (BRA) had made a wise but gutsy decision before the boats left the Waterfront City docks this morning as his crew continued to adjust the rigging holding up the mast. It had been stepped in the early hours of the morning after the new rig was airfreighted from Southampton, Great Britain, but had not been tuned or adjusted with the boat in the water.

GRAEL said they would go to the start, they would race, but if the breeze rose above about 18 knots he would drop his sails. His rationale was that without the correct tension on all the various shrouds and stays supporting the carbon fibre mast, it would be susceptible to sudden shock loads threatening another dismasting. The next offshore leg, to Wellington, New Zealand begins next Sunday, and they do not want to risk missing the start.

The Start

Hundreds of spectator craft were on the bay for yesterday's 1400 hours local time start. The predicted southerly was blowing about ten knots at the start - absolutely ideal for a city start to windward at the northern end of the bay and a downwind finish at the same mark, after four laps of the windward-leeward course, in effect four 'sausages'.

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The VO 70s get away

Ericsson and ABN AMRO TWO each blew the start, crossing seconds ahead of the gun.

Ericsson skipper Neal MCDONALD (GBR) said later, 'We didn't know we were over the line at all and we weren't told until rather late. It couldn't have been very far, we were sure we got the timing just right.

'What ifs don't exist in sailing but we sailed well and we would have done better. John put us in just the right position and a chance of doing well if we had nailed the start, but that's sailing.'

With Ericsson out of the reckoning, eyes turned to ABN AMRO ONE, movistar and Pirates for the pace, but from the middle of the pack emerged the Queen of the Desert - unimaginable but true. Brasil 1, after all her ordeals, had stolen the march on her tweaked and prepared sisters and she was lunging to the windward mark.

GRAEL opened up a significant lead on ABN AMRO ONE and movistar, which were separated by a boat length. Then followed Pirates, ABN AMRO TWO, Brunel and Ericsson closing in.

Bottom Mark

At the second mark - the end of the first downwind run - Brasil nearly blew it. She dropped her spinnaker with great care but the new jib wrapped around the forestay and formed a wine glass. She lost valuable time unwinding the jib but maintained her lead, which she again built on the second beat.

At the windward mark for the second time, movistar had the better of ABN AMRO ONE but Ericsson was the boat to watch. She was already making inroads on Pirates. movistar gybed early on the second downwind run, obviously deciding it was not going to gain on the Brazilian boat if it followed a soldier's course to the bottom mark.

It was a sound idea, as she reached the bottom mark retaining second place. Then she had a disastrous rounding, keeping the spinnaker up too long, which allowed both ABN AMRO ONE and Pirates to slip through.

ABN AMRO ONE Takes The Lead

It was on the fifth leg, the third beat to windward, that the race changed. The seabreeze continued to strengthen. It went above 15 knots, which not only meant Brasil 1 was sailing into dangerous country, it also meant that the conditions would begin to favour the wider Kouyoumdjian-design boats, notably ABN AMRO ONE.

She was the first to the windward mark and after that, was never headed.

Problems For Brasil 1

Brasil 1 rounded second but halfway down the course she ran into trouble.

'As soon as the wind increased we had problems with the hydraulic systems, with a leak of the fluid, then we had to tack when the boat wanted to tack and we had to sail the boat with the keel only half canted,' GRAEL commented.

'We had a bad [spinnaker] hoist because people, instead of packing the spinnaker, were trying to solve the hydraulic problems. We also had in the back of our mind that we couldn't push too hard and we had to respect the mast.'

Brasil 1's difficulties allowed Pirates, Ericsson and movistar to slip through. ABN AMRO ONE rounded the bottom mark with a lead of almost a minute on Pirates.

SANDERSON and his crew continued to build their lead as attention turned to the other places on the podium - could Ericsson, which was going like a steam train, recover enough to keep movistar out? Both overstood the final windward mark, taking the pressure off Pirates in second place, However, on the final leg, Pirates ripped their spinnaker and had to hoist a replacement running headsail.


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Celebration time

In the end, ABN AMRO ONE crossed the line 1 minute and 31 seconds ahead of Pirates with a further 13 seconds to movistar and 15 seconds then to Ericsson. Brasil 1 finished a further three minutes back followed by ABN AMRO TWO and then Brunel, which was twelve minutes off the pace.

'It was an unbelievable yacht race, no doubt about that,' SANDERSON said. 'I got a shocking start and had to dig our way out of that and we were on the pace on the first beat.

'I told the guys it was going to be a long race and that we would have to dig in.'

Pirates skipper Paul CAYARD (USA) was full of praise for his crew, and was pleased with the canting of their keel. 'It goes a little faster than it used to. Faster would be better but it's better. I don't know if we can make it go faster with the systems that we have.'

CAYARD commented on the spinnaker problem on the last run. 'I think the spinnaker got stuck on the leech of the jib, like on a batten, and tore obviously. The guys did a nice job to scramble around and get another one up.

'Second is our best score and it's a good thing. We almost snatched defeat from the jaws of victory but we managed to save ourselves!'

movistar's Bouwe BEKKING (NED) was happy with result but regretted the mess up at the second leeward mark. 'We had a shocker on the mark. We kept the spinnaker up!' he said.

'It was probably the best In Port race so far. We made a mistake and did a good job of righting it.'

In Port Race 3 Results

Pos Team Nation Skippers Elapsed Time
2 Pirates of the Caribbean USA Paul CAYARD (USA) + 01m 31s
3 movistar ESP Bouwe BEKKING (NED) + 01m 44s
4 Ericsson Racing Team SWE Neal MCDONALD (GBR) + 01m 59s
5 Brasil 1 BRA Torben GRAEL (BRA) + 05m 08s
6 ABN AMRO TWO NED Sebastien JOSSE (FRA) + 06m 53s
7 Brunel AUS Grant WHARINGTON (AUS) + 12m 48s

Overall Leaderboard
(Up to and including Leg 3 In Port race)

Pos Team Nation Skippers Pts
3 movistar ESP Bouwe BEKKING (NED) 18
4 Pirates of the Caribbean USA Paul CAYARD (USA) 16.5
5 Brasil 1 BRA Torben GRAEL (BRA) 16
6 Ericsson Racing Team SWE Neal MCDONALD (GBR) 14.5
7 Brunel AUS Grant WHARINGTON (AUS) 11.5

For a complete list of all the news about the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006 CLICK HERE.

Event Media (As Amended By ISAF). Image, Can anybody stop them?:© Oskar KIHLBORG
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