To every New Zealander on the Volvo Ocean Race fleet, to be the first Kiwi into Auckland rates extremely high in their list of achievements for this leg.
Grant Dalton from Amer Sports One when asked how important for him personally to lead into Auckland, said in Hobart, "As important as any other Kiwi in this race, won the last two and I would like to win this one." Richard Mason from ASSA ABLOY having just achieved line honours for the Sydney to Hobart race said, "Let's see if we can win into Auckland as well, I would be the happiest man in the World!" He was.
With a total of 28 New Zealanders on this leg in the fleet, not all of them could win this accolade, but Richard Mason and Stu Wilson the two kiwis on board ASSA ABLOY along with the rest of the crew entered Viaduct Basin after they had crossed the finish line, to a heroes' welcome from the early morning cheering crowd. For McDonald and crew, this had been a great leg, having also led the fleet into Hobart for the pit stop. On leaving Tasmania they took a more northerly route across the Tasman Sea and had only lost the lead once, when they had had a problem with their spinnaker.
It was a remarkable achievement, considering that the crew of ASSA ABLOY had been sailing most of this leg with at least one crew-member sick or injured. Jason Carrington and Guillermo Altadill, both developed suspected internal infections and Magnus Olsson took a bad fall not long after the start, and injured his back. Mark Rudiger had reported worrying news the previous day, "Klas "Klabbe" Nylof, our senior onboard physician, has been a busy boy. Since departing Hobart, there have been daily calls for him to treat three onboard patients. First, Magnus took a bad fall coming into Hobart and injured his back and ribs. He has been confined to duties below deck, which has been a huge help for us always having food and hot drinks, as well as helping me in the Nav station," reported Mark Rudiger, and he continued, "If I had to pick an outstanding sailor for this leg it would be Dr. Nylof."
On arriving at the dock, in spite of his injury, for Magnus Olsson, there was a double celebration on this great victory, his children were holding a banner at the dock saying, "Happy Birthday Daddy." A further injury occurred to skipper Neal McDonald as they arrived, when fellow crew-mate Mike Joubert opened a bottle of champagne and the cork caught Neal in the face! At the dock, Mark Rudiger said about their win, "We finally got a podium place, which was great. The best part was coming round the North Cape and still not seeing Dalton - that was our biggest worry, that he would catch us up." Commenting further on how the boat managed without three of the crew, he said, "Basically we just all said that we have to grunt up, and pitch in a little bit more. Fortunately because of our position we didn't have to go boat-to-boat battling quite so much. It just goes to show what guys can do; and it helps when you're the winners; you can just get up and carry the load."
Neal McDonald was delighted over their victory, "It felt very good to cross the finish line, I could breathe for the first time in about 28 hours! I was pretty nervous I have to say with Dalts on our tail, we were very wary of wind changes and light air, so we are very pleased that it has ended the way it has." The crew made an early decision to follow a northerly route across the Tasman Sea, which had been a planned strategy for McDonald, "For days and days our weather guys in Sydney were telling us that the northerly would win through and if you try to buckle up in the south you'll lose. We had that in our mind when we left. By the extent of the advantage, we were surprised. But we were comfortable as soon as we got north and we knew the gains were going to keep coming in."
Restart date Auckland: January 27, 2002
Overall position after three legs pending protests:
PS Yacht Leg 3 points Arrival Time Elapsed Time Combined Time PO Overall
1 AART 8 03 JAN 02 17:20:42 008d 11h 50m 42s 066d 04h 33m 46s 15 4
2 AONE 7 03 JAN 02 19:09:06 008d 13h 39m 06s 062d 17h 50m 14s 18 2
3 TYCO 6 03 JAN 02 20:18:39 008d 14h 48m 39s - 12 5
4 ILBK 5 03 JAN 02 20:22:41 008d 14h 52m 41s 062d 10h 34m 56s 21 1
5 NEWS 4 03 JAN 02 20:24:54 008d 14h 54m 54s 063d 22h 09m 40s 16 3
6 DJCE 3 03 JAN 02 23:16:49 008d 17h 46m 49s 068d 18h 31m 17s 10 7
7 ATOO 2 05 JAN 02 11:27:52 010d 05h 57m 52s 073d 22h 17m 26s 5 8
8 SEB 1 - - 11 6