A look at the seventh week of the first leg of the 2001/2002 Volvo Ocean Race

  • Calm between the storms – has illbruck’s staggering protest result planted doubts about the integrity of the VOR race committee?

Following last week’s staggering verdict on a protest which saw team illbruck receiving a mere £1,000 fine rather than a time penalty for breaking the rules, teams are concerned about the process of decision making over such a serious matter. However, in an effort not to let the issue affect the future of the race, VOR crews have spent the week concentrating on preparing their boats for leg 2 which starts this Sunday (11 November).

But it is clear that the dust has far from settled over the protest decision. In a statement published in the New Zealand Herald, Grant Dalton echoed the views of most of the fleet when he said: “If someone will give me 25 to 30 miles, I would gladly pay £1,000. If they would give me 10 times that I would pay £10,000. It’s a cheap win.” The reasons behind the protest decision are still unclear but there is no doubt that by letting illbruck off with ‘slap wrists’, the doors have effectively been opened and the chances of more similar rule-breaking issues developing, will be fairly high.

It has also been a monumental week for Assa Abloy’s skipper Roy Heiner who was kicked off the boat as skipper and replaced by Neal McDonald. Heiner was a key member of the team in the crucial build-up period and devoted four years of his life to the campaign. Hiding behind his professional exterior he said: “I guess it’s a product of the professionalising of the sport of sailing. The stakes are higher, the pressures are higher and you have to do what you think is best for performance.” But despite his cool exterior, Heiner is devastated about the decision which saw his life turned upside-down overnight. While it’s easy to understand that these are the sort of risks that come with a professional sport, you’d have to be a fairly tough nut not to let this one affect you.

With barely time for the dust to settle on Table Mountain, Heiner was snapped by the South Africans to join their bid to compete in the next VOR in 2005/6. Excellent news but little consolation to a man who’s just seen his four-year campaign go up in smoke. The question is, can Heiner really afford to wait another four years for his chance to skipper a VOR boat? Even if he does devote years to the project the chances of him actually taking control at the helm are very slim.

For British sailor, Neal McDonald, taking over the top spot on Assa Abloy it is a dream come true. However, he did admit: “I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about it. I am proud and pleased to have the confidence installed in me by our management team, but I am looking forward to getting stuck in and organising the next leg.”

With Roy Heiner and Guillermo Altadill off the boat the two crew spaces aboard Assa Abloy have been filled by Southern Ocean experts Frenchman Herve Jan and Roberto Bermudez de Castro from Spain.

Other crew changes for leg 2 include two aboard djuice dragons. Wouter Verbraak (assistant navigator) and Christen Horn Johannessen will be replaced by Terry Hutchinson who will fill the role as tactician, and Anthony Nossiter.

With just two days left before the start of leg 2, crews are frantically fine-tuning their racing machines for what is possibly the toughest leg of the race. Obviously those who arrived in Cape Town late have more pressure on them but most teams are now ready to go. Whether they are looking forward to it or not is, however, another matter. Grant Dalton, skipper of Amer Sports One, has admitted he’s not looking forward to it at all. “I hate it. These guys are masochists if they like it. I’ll be pleased when we get to Sydney frankly! Reliability will be the key to success in the Southern Ocean. In this part of the world it is very easy to break a yacht. We will be very car

  • Calm between the storms ? has illbruck?s staggering protest result planted doubts about the integrity of the VOR race committee?