In an interview yesterday, Neal McDonald, skipper of Assa Abloy, winner of the fifth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, reveals some interesting ideas about his approach to leg six
In an interview yesterday, Neal McDonald, skipper of Assa Abloy, winner of the fifth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, reveals some interesting ideas about his approach to leg six.
Q: Neal, how are you preparing for three days of tough racing – a totally different kind of leg from the previous one?
A: I’ve been looking at it since we got here, and the weather characteristics, although it is a very different part of the world, it’s not dissimilar to the Hobart. At Sydney you start in a sunny, warm, nice place with sea breezes and you get whacked as soon as you get into the Bass Strait. Here we start in the predictable south-east trades, so we start in light medium winds reaching, and by the time we get to Hatteras we start getting out of the trade wind belt, and into frontal systems, more like the weather we see in England. So what we normally would expect would be a change from running, reaching conditions to on the wind, and probably quite unpleasant conditions.
Q: Are you happy with your performance in those conditions?
A: Yeah, we’re pretty comfortable, we’ve invested some time and effort during the last few legs planning what we will do in terms of the light wind end that we’re likely to have. Chesapeake Bay is about 120 miles up the bay, and the odds are at some stage we’ll get some light airs, so we’ve had to specialise a couple of sails to look at that, we’ve got them here, and we’re pretty comfortable with what we’ve got. Other than that it’s a leg where we’re going to see quite a varied set of conditions, so we’re not setting up the boat particularly special.
Q: Is it important to get a good start on the next leg?
A: I think it is, I don’t think we have had a good start yet, or not what I would class as a good start. So we’re trying to home in on that part of the race, I think it is always important to try and get a good start, some legs it is less significant than others, but as the legs get shorter it generally is. So we want to get a better start this time.
Q: Is it very important now to get a podium place?
A: For sure, we need to keep getting some good results if we want to keep moving up the scoreboard, there’s not far for us to go up that scoreboard, so we’re hoping to get a good result. We know what sort of racing we’re likely to get, it’s going to be very difficult to be consistent, and any one of the boats could win this leg.
Q: How do you try to minimise mistakes?
A: We just have to try and keep on the ball, it’s a bit like the Hobart in that it’s a hard dilemma, three days is a difficult length of race. The tendency is to try and be on deck more, to try and push the boat harder, but it is important that the crew don’t tire themselves out, so it is a compromise that we’re going to have to work quite hard on.