VOR – the week ahead – Monday 22 October, 2001

  • Pressure builds at front of fleet – will Amer Sport One break under the pressure?

  • The beat goes on – no way out for tail-enders who find themselves on the beat once again

  • Against all odds –Dalton prepares for victory in his downwind flyer

  • ETA for ASO – Amer Sports One is likely to arrive in Cape Town late Wednesday/early Thursday morning

An interesting situation is developing within the complex weather system as the VOR fleet heads for Cape Town. With the fleet now effectively in three separate races, Amer Sports One still holds the overall lead but with two damaged spinnakers in the last 48 hours, tension is beginning to rise as Illbruck continues to pile on the pressure just 15 miles astern.

While these two are currently powering downwind in 18-20 knots of breeze things are likely to change within the next few hours when the low pressure zone pushes through causing a short-term drop in the wind before it builds again from the south-west. Although Team News Corp, currently lying in third place – 270 miles behind the leader – is not an immediate threat, the leaders will undoubtedly be keeping a close check on her progress particularly if she upholds her threats of “having some moves up her sleeves.”

Team Tyco and Assa Abloy are currently tracking south away from the headwinds in the north, while back-of-the-fleet SEB, Djuice Dragons and Amer Sports Too (positioned furthest north) have no option but to continue to sail straight into the headwinds to avoid the building high to the south. However, things are likely get more exciting on the final approaches to Cape Town as the low pressure builds over the land and the weather systems reverts to its more usual pattern in that area.

There are not many people who would have coped so well with the huge amount of pressure that Grant Dalton’s has had to contend with throughout the first leg of the race. Despite his mass of experience in round the world yacht racing, Dalton and his Nautor Challenge Amer Sports One team were unquestionably the underdogs of the fleet before the start. They chose the relatively unproven Frers design (just one week before the start) and the team had very little build-up time. However, with everything against them, they led the fleet out of the Solent at the start and, despite much place changing and gear failure throughout the past four weeks, Amer Sports One has taken the lead once again on the final stretch to Cape Town.

But it’s not just down to luck. Dalton is a shrewd yachtsman. He knows what he wants, knows what his beamy Frers design is capable of and is willing to a take risk. In theory everything suggests that this design, with her high wetted surface area, should suffer in the light winds but as she has proved so far, there is very little speed difference between her and the Farr designs. Now in the lead with the wind from behind, it will be interesting to see how she performs in what should be, her optimum conditions. If she can pull off this one against all odds, who knows what she’ll do in the Southern Ocean!

With just 527 miles to go to the finish, Dalton and team is likely to finish late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning. This is however, assuming the wind continues to build from the south giving a beam reach in to Cape Town. If the wind drops off, which is highly unlikely, expect to see Illbruck taking her final fling.