Neal McDonald, skipper of Assa Abloy, chats about winning the fifth leg of the VOR

Neal McDonald, skipper of Assa Abloy, chats about winning the fifth leg of the VOR

Neal, how did it feel to finally win after such a tense week?

I’m actually coming back to earth here. I’ve been asleep on the boat on the way back from the finish line. I am a bit tired, it has been very intense during the past couple of days.

How much pressure have you been feeling over the last 24 hours?

It’s been quite troublesome. You don’t really know quite what was going to happen. The weather was pretty unpredictable. If it had been a nice steady wind to the finish, it would have been a lot easier. But with the clouds and the storms and all that nonsense, it was quite hard work.

At what point did you realise you’d taken control of illbruck?

To be perfectly honest, not until we crossed the line. We were drifting backwards and forwards. It could have been anybody’s game at that stage. When the wind first stopped and we saw them drifting out to sea, we were drifting backwards, too. But we felt we had just got out of the tide a bit earlier than they had, so we had a better chance of finishing.

How much of a handicap do you think illbruck’s torn spinnaker was?

I’ve no idea, really. I mean, we’ve got eight spinnakers and some people might say, one less isn’t that important. But in certain conditions, you really do need it, so it might have been a problem for them – I don’t know.

How hungry were you for this win?

We needed another good result, so we were keen to get a top three place, that’s what we were planning on, so coming first is a bonus.

You are the only boat to have won a leg so far other than illbruck. What do you think of them?They are a very well polished team, they are very cool, they sail smart, but there are a lot of opportunities in these races and I think they can be beaten.

We heard about all the sores and the heat and the saltwater and all the hardships of this leg. How hard was it physically?

It was fairly unpleasant. At least, if you’re cold, you can get warm. If you’re hot, there is no way you can change it.