A look at the second week of the first leg of the 2001/2 Volvo Ocean Race

  • Desperate crews fight off boredom – Crews are praying for wind after a spell of total calm in the mid Atlantic

  • Lack of food concern – Are Dalton’s crew really lining up who to eat first?

  • Designs – In the light airs all three designs are showing similar performance. Dalton’s downwind flyer could be one to watch in the Southern Ocean

  • Clever move puts illbruck in pole position once again – From fifth to first in a matter of hours has got to be one of the smartest moves of the week

  • SEB’s speedy recovery – big risk takers come out smelling of roses.

  • Girls show boys a thing or two – the all-girl crew aboard Amer Sports Too recorded the fastest 24-hour run

After the initial battering in to the wind across the Bay of Biscay, crews were relieved to reach lighter winds from astern as they approached the Azores high pressure zone early in the week.

‘As the sea built with the breeze,’ explained Stu Bannatyne, watch captain aboard illbruck, ‘sleep became almost impossible. The chances of getting knocked unconscious in your bunk by slamming the ceiling was more likely than falling asleep!’ Needless to say, crews were relieved to reach the lighter downwind breeze which allowed them to enjoy a taste of downwind sailing with their huge masthead spinnakers.

But it wasn’t to last. Despite efforts to navigate round the Atlantic high pressure zone in preparation for the forthcoming doldrums, the fleet found itself in an unusual situation floundering for the best part of a week in the mid Atlantic. ‘For me,’ said Ross Field (Team News Corp) ‘this is the most stressful part of ocean racing. Give me 35 knots, dodging icebergs in the Southern Ocean anytime!’ Knut Frostad (Djuice Dragons) expressed his feelings saying: ‘Never in my life has my patience been tested harder.’

With so many days lost to light, fickle winds there are growing concerns about lack of food. And, with an estimated extra five days added to the leg, several teams are starting to ration in an effort to make the 20 days of remaining food last for 25. Dalton, however, thinks the food will last the distance. ‘We didn’t eat much for the first few days and that food has been stashed away. The daily ration is quite large so there’s a bit of slack there. I don’t think anyone on board has anything to worry about. They’re all too tough!” The crew on the other hand have different ideas: ‘We’re presently discussing who to eat first!’ said Dee Smith [with a grin]. Trimmer Keith Kilpatrick reckons the crew has him on top of the list, so he says, “Don’t be surprised if I don’t show up in Cape Town.”

The light winds that the fleet has experienced so far has not only been a test of patience but also a test boat performance. Having never sailed together as a fleet before the start of the race two weeks ago, no one really knew how these Volvo Ocean 60s, with three different design in the fleet, were likely to perform against each other. Interestingly, the racing has been so close that there’s no real speed difference. During some of the recent light air doom and gloom days, however, Dalton expressed his concern about having the wrong design for the conditions – the Frers as opposed to the Farr design: ‘It is very stressful knowing that we are sailing the ‘fat’ boat compared to the others,’ but looking at the positions today (Friday) Amer Sports One is well up in the pack and there’s not a lot to chose between them. In Dalton’s favour, the one thing it does show is that if the beamy, high wetted surface Frers design can hold her own in the light airs where, if anything, she’s supposed be slower, how will she perform in the Southern Ocean where she’s designed to fly.

One of the highlights of the week in the light airs was the smart bit of sailing by team illbruck which took them to the front of the flee