As EF Language skipper Paul Cayard said after winning the 1997-98 Whitbread Race, victory in this field of endeavour is 90 percent preparation and 10 percent perspiration. Kostecki’s three-year build-up to this event is shining through and the results show it: two legs, two wins.
That said, it’s unlikely Kostecki had a predetermined plan of action for a leaky bow. “We got on to a slow start the first night,” recalled Kostecki. “We took on so much water and at times we thought we were sinking. We were coming back to shore at one point and we managed to stop the leak and bailed the water out, it took us an hour and a half and we gave them a twenty-mile headstart.
“I was actually up on the bow pulling down the new sail and the bow kept going under water. I came back to settle things down, starting talking to Stu Bannatyne, and I said to him “This doesn’t look right.” And he said, “No, and it doesn’t feel right, either.” Then we thought the bow was filling up with water and we sent Roscoe down to check.
“Water was coming in, but we didn’t know how and where and it took a long time to figure it out, to stop it and then get the water out. We couldn’t manoeuvre the boat, couldn’t sail the boat at all – it was very much out of control.
“An inspection hole blew right off and the water was funnelling right in. When we were able to see it, we put a sail bag over it to stop it and we started bailing the water out and we were able to do some temporary fixes for that first night so we wouldn’t take on more water.
“Once we got everything under control, we could get racing. But for two hours, we weren’t thinking anything about racing, we were surviving.”
To make matters that first night worse, they lost their instruments. “It was just rotten that first night and I don’t know when we just hit a few waves when we finished bailing the boat out fixing the bow,” said Kostecki. “It was just a terrible night and all of a sudden, looking at the mast, instruments and everything went blank. The next morning, you looked up, all things gone. And then we sent somebody in when we got calm and the whole bracket broke off. So we couldn’t put our spare wand up there.
“We had to definitely rely on our seat of our pants sailing and fortunately we have a lot of great sailors on board and we are able to deal with that difficult situation and we lost. Even earlier on in the race we kept loosing and it took us a while to adjust sailing without instruments. Eventually, we got better at it, but the stop at Eclipse Island really helped us getting the masthead instruments going again.”
Once they began racing, the illbruck crew showed every minute of the three years they have spent training. Having fallen 65 miles behind as the rest of the fleet took off at record speed in perfect conditions early in the leg, illbruck gathered herself and began to claw back lost ground despite her instrument problems. She led the fleet around Eclipse Island, having squeezed past Gurra Krantz’s SEB, fitted new masthead instruments and never looked back.
She finished at 0022 GMT this morning, 73 minutes ahead of second placed SEB. During a pause in the celebration, navigator Juan Vila paid tribute to his boat and crew. “The boat is very fast and we have got a good team and basically, there are hours between the top boats, so it’s also a matter of pushing the boat and the whole crew did a very good job of that, I’m lucky to have them! That’s probably the secret!”
Volvo Ocean Race: Second Leg Finishers
Finish times (GMT)1. illbruck – 4 Dec 01 – 00222. SEB – 4 Dec 01 – 01353. News Corp – 4 Dec 01 – 02174. djuice – 4 Dec 01 – 06435. Amer Sports One – 4 Dec 01 – 0650Still Racing (ETAs)6. Assa Abloy – 4 Dec 01 – 09327. Amer Sports Too – 6 Dec 01 2008Retired