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3 February 2006, 01:13 pm
Talking The Talk
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Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006
Melbourne, Australia

The pre-In Port race press conference in Melbourne, Australia yesterday more closely resembled a meeting of weathermen than a group of the world's finest sailors. It was talk of ABN AMRO's dominance in the strong stuff that continued to occupy the assembled throng of Volvo Ocean Race fanatics.
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With all the In Port races so far, weather has been the decisive factor considering the two ABN AMRO boats' dominance in anything above twelve knots of wind. In the Cape Town In Port race in South African, the black boat tore the field to pieces in the kite-flying weather and in the offshore legs they have notched up one-two positioning on the podiums in both Cape Town and Melbourne. There is also the matter of another sort of performance to consider, however; what about the last and next to last in the light winds of Sanxenxo?

Should the early predictions of a 17 knot sea breeze prove correct, doubtless further interest will be paid to the Dutch bank's twin pace setters in this race so far. Though if Saturday's gusts cannot blow the seeds off a dandelion, some sources reckon it could be as low as ten knots, then it will be pay-back time.

Nothing Is Certain

But no one's crystal ball is ever clear enough and no prediction is certain. Indeed, Andrew CAPE (AUS), the movistar navigator charged with finding the best strategy to tackle Port Phillip bay, has it on good authority the breeze will be 15 knots. Stan HONEY (USA), his opposite number on ABN AMRO ONE, has heard that only twelve knots will be filling their sails.

'We are a bit afraid that it will be twelve knots on Saturday, but I'm delighted to hear Capey [Andrew CAPE] say that he thinks it will be 15!' HONEY said.

Mike SANDERSON (NZL), the ABN AMRO ONE skipper, revealed that his team has been working on increasing their effectiveness in all conditions, not just the stiff breeze. 'We have been doing some good stuff recently trying to improve our boat across the conditions. We want to do well right across the track. The use of our sails has been a key area and we are confident we are finding the right sails for the right conditions, and I'm sure that will start to take effect.'

Pirates And Movistar Favoured

Pirates of the Caribbean, who along with movistar are being considered favourites around the dock provided the wind sock sits limp on Saturday, is in good shape according to general manager Kimo WORTHINGTON (USA), speaking after the boat measured within the legal limits following work on their keel.

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The Pirates are one of the favourites to get
the better of the ABN AMRO teams tomorrow
© Jon NASH
WORTHINGTON said, 'We have done a lot of work on the boat, put in 1,000 man hours this week, now we are ready to go and confident.'

Earlier this week skipper Paul CAYARD (USA) revealed the slow cant of their keel, which wrecked their In Port race in South Africa, had been fixed. WORTHINGTON added, 'With that working well I think we can challenge here.'

Brasil 1, who were only reunited with their boat yesterday, face a race against time to be ready for the race start. Skipper Torben GRAEL (BRA) is, however, confident his team will make the start line in Port Phillip bay on Saturday, but has doubts over how competitive his team will be in the notoriously tricky conditions.

'All our time has been spent waiting for the boat. One third of our stopover time has been spent waiting. We have had no chance to go out sailing so it is going to be very difficult as we do not know these conditions very well.

'Alan ADLER won a world title [the J/24 Worlds] out here just a few weeks ago so he will be a great benefit as the eleventh man onboard.'

The Hot Topic

Preparation time for the inshore course has been a hot topic of conversation after the bruising the teams took crossing the Southern Ocean to get here. None of the teams have had extensive time to figure out the shifty conditions of the bay and Ericsson skipper Neal MCDONALD (GBR) believes that could prove problematic.

'It will be tough. These are unusual conditions here, but we have got to get going again. Our recent results have been less than ideal so we have got to get started.'

As ever John KOSTECKI (USA) will be onboard calling the tactics, providing a welcome relief for MCDONALD. 'It is great for John to take the strain,' MCDONALD said. 'He is always a great help. He hasn't a huge amount of knowledge in these waters, but we have both done some dinghy sailing around here. We can, hopefully, do well.'

Grant WHARINGTON (AUS), whose Brunel crew will sail this Saturday, but then look likely to cease their participation in the race until the fleet reaches Baltimore, USA, was the only skipper to announce a crew change at the press conference.

Will OXLEY (AUS) will return to the crew in the navigator's station having been involved in the boat's development, though has not sailed a leg, and replaces Fraser BROWN (NZL) who has sustained an elbow injury. Matt HUMPHRIES (GBR) stays on, but as watch leader.

For a full preview and the complete crew lists for In Port race 3 CLICK HERE.

Overall Leaderboard
(Up to and including Leg Two)

Pos Team Nation Skippers Pts
3 movistar ESP Bouwe BEKKING (NED) 15.5
4 Brasil 1 BRA Torben GRAEL (BRA) 14.5
5 Pirates of the Caribbean USA Paul CAYARD (USA) 13.5
6 Ericsson Racing Team SWE Neal MCDONALD (GBR) 12.5
7 Brunel AUS Grant WHARINGTON (AUS) 11

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

Event Media (As Amended By ISAF). Image, The man to beat, ABN AMRO ONE skipper Mike SANDERSON:© Oskar KIHLBORG
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