Three ill crewmembers could not stop ASSA ABLOY from taking the victory in the third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race in a convincing manner at 17.20.42 GMT yesterday.
After taking the Sydney - Hobart Race with line honours, the yacht continued on how they had finished, sped up and never looked back. The day before they reached New Zealand's north coast, worrying news was sent back from the yacht. Three guys were reported ill and injured, with bowman Jason Carrington in his bunk under heavy medication. It seemed this just pushed the determination of the remaining nine to win this leg. They all pulled together and stormed along to a tremendous victory. When crossing the finish line, a weather front went through and not long after Skipper Neal McDonald was thrown into the water by his team-mates, surrounded by a bunch of spectator boats. Even though it was raining heavily several hundred spectators welcomed ASSA ABLOY into Viaduct Basin as they completed leg 3 in a elapsed time of 8 days 11 hours 50 minutes and 42 seconds.
For Magnus Olsson the victory was sweetened further by his kids holding a banner, saying `Happy Birthday Daddy'.
On arrival at the dock, skipper McDonald told the assembled media: `The most important part of it was the psychological advantage of being first into Hobart. It was a great team effort.'
ASSA ABLOY - Neal McDonald on the dockside after finishing first in Leg
Three of the Volvo Ocean Race
Q: An amazing victory Neal…
A: Yep, a little bit of luck occasionally goes our way!
Q: How did it feel to cross the line?
A: Very good, 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.
Q: When you made the call to go north you must have been on the edge of your seat?
A: Yeah, things happened very quickly and it felt right for us at the time. We always wanted to be north of the fleet, we probably separated quicker then we thought we had and we probably had slightly different winds. We ended up with the lead into Hobart and we just did what we wanted to do.
Q: Did you think that Amer One was going to catch you?
A; Well it was always a possibility, he's probably the worst man in the world to have behind you coming into Auckland, he's got a good reputation for being a come-back king. We were aware that if anyone was going to catch us it would have been him.
Q: What do you think made the difference?
A: I think we are a bit more settled - we're just getting more used to the boat and more used to each other. It all went smoothly.
Q: You had problems with illness on board?
A: Yes, we had lots of problems. We're all very tired as two of our top guys were down - Magnus Olsson, watch leader and most experienced guy on the boat was down and wasn't on deck from Hobart. Also Jason was down after a just a day out, so we were very short of manpower.
Q: How does it feel to cross the line?
A: Great, terrific.
Q; Being first in the Hobart, did that give you the mental leverage you needed?
A: I think the most important part of it was the psychological advantage it gave us, just being twenty minutes or so ahead didn't make a huge difference I don't think, but the psychological benefit of being first in and first out, and everything being settled, was very important for us.
Q: Were you happy going north after that?
A: From where we were it didn't feel like a gamble at all. I think that looking at it, it was more of a gamble going south, we stayed on the rhumb lines and they went away from it. Leaving the fleet as we did was perhaps a risk, we always wanted be north though and north was where we were.
Q: Why did you do that, what did you see?
A: 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.
Q: Were you surprised by the advantage it gave you?
A: By the extent of the advantage, we were surprised, yes. But we were comfortable as soon as we got north and we knew the gains were going to keep coming in.
Q: What was the most worrying time on the boat?
A: It was clear that the weather as we got nearer was going to be compression, and that everyone from behind was going to be catching up. Things were most tense when we came round the cape at the top, we completely ran out of wind and parked for a long time. We kept our heads cool and kept sailing hard. That was the toughest point - mentally and stress-wise. Everybody was tired at that stage as we had people down.
Q: Were you particularly keen to win this leg?
A: I think we'd obviously like to win any leg, but if I were to pick one, you know you are going to get a good reception in Auckland, so it was great.
Finishing Positions, Pending Protests, of Leg 3
Position - Yacht Name - Leg 3 Points - Arrival Time - Elapsed Time
1. ASSA ABLOY - 8 - 03 JAN 02 17:20:42 - 008d 11h 50m 42s 33m 46s - 15 - 4
2.Amer Sports One - 7 - 03 JAN 02 19:09:06 - 008d 13h 39m 06s
3. Tyco - 6 - 03 JAN 02 20:18:39 - 008d 14h 48m 39s - 12 - 5
4. illbruck - 5 - 03 JAN 02 20:22:41 - 008d 14h 52m 41s
5. News Corporation - 4 - 03 JAN 02 20:24:54 - 008d 14h 54m 54s
6. djuice - 3 - 03 JAN 02 23:16:49 - 008d 17h 46m 49s
7 . Amer Sports Too - 2 - STILL RACING - 5 - 8
8. SEB - Retired - Leg 3
1 illbruck 21
2 Amer Sports One 18
3 News Corporation 16
4 ASSA ABLOY 15
5 Tyco 12
6 SEB 11
7 djuice 10
8 Amer Sports Too 5