Matthew Sheahan reports from the dock in a windswept Cape Town and talks to Illbruck's skipper John Kostecki as well as Grant Dalton who crossed the line two hours later to finish second aboard Amer Sports One.
A solid 25-30 knots greeted the winning boat in the final throes of Leg one of the Volvo Ocean Race as Illbruck crossed the finishing line at 20:19:49GMT after 31 days 6 hours 19 mins and 49 seconds after the start in Southampton.
Closed hauled and flying a number 4 jib with two reefs in the mainsail, John Kostecki’s crew fought their way in shifty and blustery conditions to the finish line just off the harbour wall. As they approached the dock, just a short distance from the finishing line, the look on the crews’ faces said it all as they waved to the crowds while eyeing up the hot pizzas and cold beers sitting on the pontoon.
Arriving fresh faced and apparently relaxed aboard a boat that showed few signs of the 7,000 miles it had covered, is now a familiar manner in which to arrive for modern ocean racers. Kostecki’s first comments about the team’s hard fought victory bore this out.
“We haven’t suffered much damage at all on this leg, we didn’t break any sails and didn’t get the sewing machine out once.”
Yet despite their victory Kostecki went on to confirm how much work still needs to be done, especially with their sail wardrobe.
“No matter how much time you have you can always improve your sails and we’ve got a long, long list of jobs to do before we head off on leg two.”
Apart from this, what else had they learned about the potential of the other teams?
“I don’t think there’s a whole lot of difference in the performance of the boats in the fleet. In the end a good result comes down to the sails, the hull and the crew.”
Just over two hours later at 22:20:56 GMT Dalton’s Amer Sports One crossed the line by which time the breeze had risen even further and swung slightly to produce a lively beat to the finish.
“We had a lot of problems with the boat,” said Dalton as he drew up alongside the dock, “and this leg was a huge learning process for us. “But we knew that from the start. We left Southampton with a target of getting into the top five for the first leg, to arrive second is fine by us.”
“As far as losing the lead was concerned, I knew that we were going to be passed two days ago. Because of the problems with the masthead locks and halyards, we haven’t got any masthead sails that we could hoist. And when you go into a gun fight with a knife, you know you’re going to lose.”
“I can look back at the last 2,000 miles and identify at least 50 miles that we threw away when we had to run downwind to sort out the problems.”
Yet despite such problems Dalton remains upbeat about the team’s prospects for the following legs.
“You’ve got to remember that this is just one leg and you could still win the race by shipping the boat here from Southampton and carrying on from here – It’d be a hell of a lot easier too!”
We’ll watch out for some interesting tactics on the next leg then Grant.