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26 May 2002, 11:03 am
Gale Force Winds For Start of Leg 8
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Amer Sports One Leading, photo:Rick Tomlinson

Volvo Ocean Race

Disaster struck Assa Abloy at the back of the fleet when they appeared to become entangled with the cable on the starting mark, which left them trailing in the wake of the fleet as it powered up and took off.
There were warnings of gales in the Plymouth and Biscay area, which indicate that the eight strong fleet racing in the penultimate leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, which started at 5pm local time yesterday from La Rochelle, France, could encounter heavy sailing conditions as they approach Ushant on the northwest tip of the Brittany coast this morning.

However, the ominous forecast did not deter large crowds from gathering in the crisp sunshine in La Rochelle yesterday, to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and bid farewell to the fleet as the boats departed the medieval dock of Bassin des Chalutiers. Pere Samoride of La Rochelle Cathedral, carried out the traditional blessing of the fleet, visiting each boat and anointing her with holy water.

As the lock gates opened, fireworks accompanied each team's theme music as the boats left the dock in what was probably the slickest departure of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet to date. The crew of Assa Abloy, departed with two crew aloft waving huge French Tricolore flags and a sign reading 'Merci La Rochelle' was emblazoned across the boat's transom.

La Rochelle has been an extremely popular stopover and a huge armada of boats, including windsurfers, braved the choppy sea and to watch the drama unfold. With an 18 to 22 knot southwesterly breeze, the fleet had a spectacular reaching start to the first mark.

The start line was laid approximately one mile offshore, and at the sound of the starting cannon, illbruck led off the line as the fleet charged up the track on a starboard two sail reach towards the first turning mark set two miles northwest up the track.

Disaster struck Assa Abloy at the back of the fleet when they appeared to become entangled with the cable on the starting mark, which left them trailing in the wake of the fleet as it powered up and took off. Within three minutes of the start, staysails were hoisted as overall race leader illbruck and News Corp raced neck and neck at the head of the fleet.

At the turning mark, it was News Corp two boats lengths ahead of Illbruck, as the fleet sheeted in their sails and beat hard upwind towards the gate. Amer Sports Too was forced to re-round the mark whilst Assa Abloy brought up the rear, rounding the mark approximately five minutes behind News Corp.

RIBS, jet skis and other small craft surrounded the boats enthusiastically as they tacked towards the gate, News Corp opting for the left hand side, whilst the rest of the fleet went to the right.

Grant Dalton's Amer Sports One pushed into the lead, three boat lengths ahead of illbruck as they approached the gate, followed closely by Tyco, News Corp and SEB. djuice was in sixth position and Assa Abloy finally managed to overtake Amer Sports Too leaving her in eighth position as the fleet headed out into open sea.

This 1150 nautical mile penultimate leg of the Volvo Ocean, has 30 marks of the course and will provide many challenges for the now tired crews as they race hard through one of the busiest shipping areas in the world, beset by fierce tides, shoals and islands. The fleet is set to arrive in Gothenburg at the end of May.

Volvo Ocean Race Position Report, Day 02, 0358 GMT

Amer Sports One is still managing to hang on to their slim lead on the rest of the Fleet.

The Volvo Ocean Fleet is approximately seventy-five nautical miles from Ushant, the island point off Breast on the northwest corner of mainland France. With a westerly wind and counter current it is going to be a rough ride for our crews. They are currently experiencing a five metre wave height.

Just before midnight the winds rose to forty five knots as a front passed across the fleet, now settled to a reasonably steady twenty five knots from WSW.

1 AONE 1000 311 9.7 0 0 44
2 NEWS 1002 314 9.9 0 2 41
3 ILBK 1002 316 10.1 0 2 55
4 TYCO 1002 313 9.9 0 2 38
5 TSEB 1003 313 9.9 0 3 30
6 AART 1005 312 9.8 0 5 44
7 DJCE 1005 313 9.6 0 5 25
8 ATOO 1013 309 9.2 0 13 11
Volvo Ocean Race Press/News Editor
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