A slow but exciting day aboard ABN AMRO One, Sue Pelling reports 4/8/06

I couldn’t have chosen a worst day of the week, as far as the wind was concerned, to go for a blast aboard Mike Sanderson’s Volvo Ocean Race-winning VO70 ABN AMRO One. But knowing a thing or two about the performance of racy beasts I had the feeling that, despite the lack of wind, there was going to be no shortage of thrills.

Mike Sanderson and team have notched up a string of first places this week, including wins in the most prestigious trophy races of the week, the Britannia Cup and New York Yacht Club Challenge Cup and are unbeatable in Class 0.

Evidence of the boat’s extreme power became apparent as we worked our way up to the start. Fully sheeted with the huge spinnaker aloft, the boat accelerated away from a gaggle of TP52s on a course out to the east. However, in the lightest, most fluky day of the week, and on one of the shortest courses of the week, we were unable to make any significant gains. The shifty conditions in the central Solent were tricky and although we managed to retain the lead throughout, it was Colm Barrington and team on the sparkling Ker 46 who outshone the fleet with a class win. We had to settle for ninth.

Stressful is a word that would usually be associated navigating a 70ft ultra powerful yacht through a 1,000-boat fleet in light, tricky conditions on the Solent but Sanderson and his super-efficient, professional crew made no bones about the situation and even during one particularly less-than-perfect spinnaker drop, there was not a raised voice on the boat. Hardly surprising I suppose because a lot of the crew on the boat this week were a mix of core, seasoned crew from the VOR – ABN AMRO One and Two including Justin Slattery on the bow. Emma Sanderson on trim and, highly respected navigator Mike Quilter also played key roles.

Emma who says she’s had the best week’s sailing she’s had for a long time confirmed the crew’s amazing ability commenting: “It’s great to be sailing with a crew that nothing is too hard for them, if Mike says we’re going to gybe set in 25kts there’s no questions asked, and there’s been so few errors all week.”

Chatting about his successful week here at Skandia Cowes Week Mike Sanderson added: “It’s been a good week, it’s been my first Cowes Week and we hope to be here next year too with a new Open 60 Pindar which is very exciting.”

Mike was keen to chat about his new Open 60 but said that although the design of the new boat wasn’t official he indicated it would be a Juan Kouyoumdjian design adding: “?it would be pretty hard to move away from Juan K design. We can hopefully learn so much for the Open 60 that we learnt here with the VO70 it would be hard not to continue down the same route.”

In the meantime the plan is for Mike and Emma to take ABN AMO One down to the Mediterranean to the Maxi worlds in Sardina, which starts on 1 September, and then spend the winter in New Zealand. Mike continued: “we haven’t really had a proper honeymoon so the plan is to relax in New Zealand while the new Open 60 ticks along in build. We’ve got a fairly hectic schedule and as soon as it starts to warm up in the Southern Hemisphere we’ll take this boat [ABN AMRO One] to the Caribbean to race Heineken Regatta and Antigua Sailing Week which will be fun because it’s a good boat for it.”

Chatting about ABN AMRO’s continued sponsorship Mike Sanderson concluded: “ABN AMRO haven’t promised anything for the next race yet but we’ve decided to do another 18 months with this boat to enable us to take all the people sailing we weren’t, of course able to do, during the VOR.”