With just five days remaining before the start of the 2001 Volvo Ocean Race, the pressure is on for the eight teams entered to make those final preparations for what could be the toughest time of their lives.

One team cutting it fine as far as preparation is concerned is Nautor Challenge who, with just one week to go, has only just made the decision as to which boats to sail. Grant Dalton and Lisa McDonald – Nautor Challenge syndicate skippers – only decided two days ago who’d be skippering which of the two syndicate boats, with Dalton eventually opting for the Frers design and McDonald taking the Farr.

While both skippers are confident they know each of the two boats inside out, these last minute decisions must have an effect on the initial overall performance of the team. Chatting to Stepano Rizzi, trimmer aboard Amer Sport One (Dalton’s boat) it’s clear that the first leg of the race to Cape Town will be used as a tune-up session against the other Farrs. “We know the boat will go fast,” said Rizzi, ” but because we’ve not raced against the rest of the fleet we will use the first leg to judge our performance.”

Grant Dalton , skipper of the Frers-designed ‘Amer Sport One’ chatted to Sue Pelling about his decision on choice of boat and his greatest round the world yacht race fears?

So you went for the fast option, the Frers design instead of the Farr. What made you make the decision?We think it’s faster in certain weather conditions. We looked at the weather study and bearing in mind that every one has a different number we decided that if the result was under 15 per cent then we would take the Frers boat. If it was over 15 per cent we’d take the Farr. The Frers won. It was, however, a very close call and there really is not a lot to choose between the two.

When do you think you are going to achieve optimum performance from the Frers?

There is no doubt that in any powered conditions, when we’re using water ballast, we’ll be fast. We are also pretty fast in the lighter stuff. It’s just the smooth water downwind when we’ll suffer the most because the boat has more wetted surface.

Was Lisa McDonald involved in the choice of boat?

No, she was going to get what I didn’t take.

With less that a week to go how prepared do you feel?

We’re getting there. It’s been a hell of a rush to get to this point but every day that goes by now will allow us to feel more prepared.

Are you looking forward to the start?

Well, yes and no really. I can’t say I look forward to thrashing my body for 30 days at a time but it’s just part of the process. When it happens it happens and we’ll just get on with it.

With not much team sailing preparation what are your chances of success on the first leg?

It’s hard to tell really but I think we have to expect to be slower as we sail out of the Solent in to the Channel. If we’re not, then we’ve done some really good work. Although we’ve got some talented guys on board, we’ve got to analyse the first leg. Win, lose or draw, we’ve got to go faster after that.

How would you describe the living accommodation on board the Frers?

Adequate but spartan. Not too sure about the galley next to the toilet [he says with a smile].

What’s your greatest fear?

Losing – something that I know all about.

How do you cope with losing?

Not well. It’s one of the toughest things about the race.

What plans do you have after the race?

I’ll have done two round the world races, The Race and Volvo, in a year and a half which was a full-on programme. However, as you know, I like speed so I’d quite like to break the world sailing speed record. I’ve been thinking about this for a while so maybe I’ll do that and then think about something else.