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21 January 2002, 12:38 pm
Amer Sports Too New Recruits Talk
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Volvo Ocean Race

It’s not an easy task, jumping onto a boat you’ve never sailed before, with a crew you don’t know very well, and heading straight out into the Southern Ocean.

It's high expectation all round for Miranda Merron and Emma Richards, the two new recruits onboard Nautor Challenges' Amer Sports Too and we caught up with them shortly after their arrival in Auckland.

Miranda Merron

"I have taken on a very big job I think. I have navigated for double handed races before and the odd trans Atlantic, but never for this many people on a team. The level of navigation and skill within the fleet is incredibly high and I couldn't possibly think that I could be anywhere close to that. I am also not that familiar with navigating within the southern hemisphere, my speciality is the north Atlantic, so I've got rather a lot to learn.

"It's very much like being back at school. Not only do I have to remember that systems go the other way round in the southern hemisphere which is not too difficult, but it's learning all the systems that these boats use and all the routing programmes that we use, some of which I am familiar with already, and some of which is totally new to me. I'm very looking forward to it; it's quite a challenge.

"When there are only two of you onboard you take decisions together, one person will look at the weather maps and when there is a watch changeover, you look at them together and discuss situations. Another advantage is that we are quite often entitled to weather routing in those races, which helps us out a bit. But at the end of the day, there are only two of you. You are skipper and co-skipper and you are responsible for your own actions and you are not going to irritate anyone else if you make a mistake. When there are twelve or thirteen people onboard, it is quite a different matter.

"People have been very helpful so far. I know about half the crew and I have sailed with some of them before. In fact, Emma Westmacott, Emma Richards and I were on Royal & Sun Alliance a few years ago.

"I know I am supposed to be under a lot of pressure, but I have been steadfastly refusing to look at the press reports or listen to a great deal of what's being said outside of our team. I am just trying to get on with the job and not worry about it too much. There is a limited amount of time now and I am doing my very best to get up to speed and see what we can do with the race. Navigating is not a totally solo job, it is a shared task and you are not the only decision maker. Hopefully between us we will be able to do something good with it.

"When I was a youngster, the Volvo was always a race I wanted to do and certainly wanted to do four years ago, eight years ago. In the interim I have got very involved with shorthanded sailing and my future lies in the Open 60 class and I had rather forgotten about it. I'd very much hoped to do it sometime but it just didn't seem to fit in with my programme. I had a big race in November from France to Brazil and then suddenly Lisa called up and asked me to come along and I was delighted.

"I had to sort out with my own sponsor and some other races that I was supposed to be involved with that clashed, to be able to come here and a few phone calls and it was done.

Emma Richards

"Lisa just called up and asked if I fancied sailing round the southern Ocean and I could say yes immediately. I had been thinking about it for a while. Lisa had asked us in the summer when she first found the sponsorship, but both Miranda and I were taking part in the Jacques Vabre so it wasn't possible then. We were already set up, we both have our own sponsors and this is our rest period between our next events with our other sponsors so what better to do than go sailing in the southern Ocean.

"We are looking forward to the challenge. We have been down there before [Southern Ocean], so we might have a little experience to bring to the other girls. My forte is steering - I like steering in heavy winds. It is just going to be a case of getting used to this boat before we go down there.

"I know the girls that were on Royal & Sun Alliance, both Miranda and Emma (Westmacott) I know well. Miranda and I have spent the last three years doing double-handed races and crewed races with. Anna Drougge was my skipper at the beginning of 2001 on the sixty-foot trimaran and so I know her very well and various others I have met at other times, so I am really looking forward to it. I know it is a strong team and it is a privilege to be part of it.

"I think it can be taken that pressure will be handed to you. Everyone on the race at some point will be criticised. I think it is something you face when you take part in something that is in the public eye. You put yourself under your own pressure, but as long as you are aware of it and it is there and you know you are going to get a few digs, it is just part of life really.

"The boats look fantastic, they look grand prix. I am feeling really ready to go actually."
Volvo Ocean Race Press/News Editor
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