At 1324 GMT today, Mike Sanderson and team brought ABN AMRO ONE safely into Cape Town to claim leg one of Volvo Ocean Race

At 1324 GMT today, an ecstatic Mike Sanderson brought ABN AMRO ONE safely into Cape Town to claim leg one of Volvo Ocean Race. After 6,400 nautical miles, and 19 days, 24 minutes and 2 seconds at sea, this team, which also holds the new monohull 24-hour world record, now leads the Volvo Ocean Race by one point, clocking up a total of 11.5 points so far.

“It’s unbelievable to be here,” said Sanderson as he brought the boat into the dock. “Team ABN AMRO has worked so hard on this. Before we started we were told by our designer Juan Kouyoumdjian, that we would average 16 knots on this leg and we a laughed. We have averaged 15.95 knots and put in nearly 400 miles almost every day of this leg. I am not sure if I could call it fun. It seemed very high stress but to see Table Mountain is always a pleasure and we are really looking forward to our time here.”

Huge crowds packed the quayside in Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred waterfront, host of the Volvo Ocean Race and its predecessor, The Whitbread, for many years, to welcome the very first Volvo Open 70 to arrive in the harbour and watch Sanderson and his team hold aloft the Waterford Crystal leg trophy.

New Zealand’s Mike Sanderson, who has twice raced around the world alongside his friend and mentor, Grant Dalton, is a first time skipper in this event, and what a start he has had. After a disappointing showing in the inaugural in-port race in Sanxenxo, Galicia, Spain, where, in the light conditions not suited to the boat, the team finished in sixth place, they had everything to prove in the first of the offshore legs of this nine-leg marathon.

After an eventful start, having worked the black boat into the lead, everything onboard seemed to be going smoothly, when, on day two, with the boat fully powered up the team was hit by a big gust of wind. “The boat took off, fully under control and then there was a loud bang and we did the most massive wipe out, “explained Sanderson at the time. The team then momentarily lost control wiping out their steering pedestal and the tiller arm on the port side and injuring two crew in the process.

This was followed on day three by a small fire onboard. A bolt had dropped into the battery box and lodged between a battery terminal and the carbon fibre structure. The resulting short circuit took out the wiring and systems in the navigation, communications and media stations onboard. Once the fire was controlled, navigator, Stan Honey (USA) managed to re-wire the damaged areas.

Recovering quickly from these incidents and pushing as hard as they could, ABN AMRO ONE reached the scoring gate at Fernando de Noronha in pole position, collecting the 3.5 points up for grabs.

The race south then began and Sanderson and his very experienced crew did not look back, apart from one worrying point on day 13 when the they ran out of wind and the chasing pack started to chip away at their lead.

Holding their nerve, the crew never swerved from the belief that their boat, from the drawing board of Argentinean designer, Juan Kouyoumdjian, and built by Killian Bushe, was the best boat. “Once again, I wouldn’t swap any part of what we have on ABN AMRO ONE for anything,” wrote Sanderson that day.

The breeze filled in the following day, and ABN AMRO ONE picked up her skirts and flew towards Cape Town, collecting the monohull 24-hour world record on day 16, when the team passed the magic barrier and sailed 546 nautical miles in 24 hours.

The team will now spend some time recuperating with their families before preparing the boat for the second in-port race to be held on 26 December.