Mike Sanderson and team take consolidate VOR lead with Melbourne VOR in-port race win 5/2/06

Port Phillip Bay played host to the most dramatic in-port race the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-06 has staged to date. In the end it was New Zealander Mike Sanderson’s ABN AMRO ONE who took victory in front of a spectator fleet of almost 1,000 spectator boats.

American Paul Cayard’s Pirates of the Caribbean finished second after working her way up through the fleet from fourth place. A final duel with Bouwe Bekking’s Spanish entry movistar eventually saw Pirates pass, leaving the Spanish boat claiming the third podium position in an enthralling battle throughout the entire two and a half hour duration of the race.

A delighted Cayard said: “It was a great race today for all of us. The racing was really close and there were plenty of lead changes so we all really enjoyed it. It was also great to see so many spectators out cheering us all on. One of the nicest things about today is that the boat is fast. Added to that we had good crew work and a couple of times we were passing ABN AMRO ONE downwind on the gybes so that was really encouraging.”

Ericsson (Neal McDonald), who jumped the gun at the start, recovered from having to re-start to claim fourth place ahead of Brasil 1, ABN AMRO TWO, who suffered the same fate as Ericsson at the start, and the Australian entry Brunel. Brasil 1 was shaping up to be the story of the race by snatching the lead
soon after the start as the fleet tackled the beat to the first mark in 14 knots. They maintained their hold over the fleet until the halfway stage, as the wind built to 20 knots, before misfortune struck.

A bad spinnaker set along with a keel problem dropped them from first to fifth place as their hardship in the Volvo Ocean Race continued. The trials and tribulations for Torben Grael and his crew aboard Brasil 1 have been numerous.

Following a dismasting en route to Melbourne from Cape Town on the second leg of the race, the boat made the 4,000km journey from Fremantle, Western Australia to Melbourne just three days before the in-port battle. Finally a hastily modified rig was fitted just prior to the fleet leaving their moorings in Melbourne Docklands.

Grael commented: “It is quite disappointing. We started really well but started having problems on the third leg. It was such a big effort to go sailing today and we got such a good start, so it was really disappointing to finish with this result.”

Having stumbled in the opening in-port race in Sanxenxo, Spain in November, Sanderson and his ABN AMRO ONE crew have completed back-to-back victories in the two following races in Cape Town and Melbourne.

The win enables ABN AMRO ONE to extend their overall dominance of the race. Since that last place finish in Sanxenxo, ABN AMRO ONE has picked up maximum points by leading the fleet home in the first two ocean legs (Spain to Cape Town and Cape Town to Melbourne) to push their overall lead out to 7.5 points over second-placed ABN AMRO TWO. Another podium result for movistar sees them hold on to third place overall.

Sanderson said: “That was an unbelievable yacht race. It was a long race and we just dug our heels in and managed to get the desired result. When we started we were just in our boat’s crossover range and then the wind picked up so today was just fine for us.”

Sanderson also recognised the effort of Brasil 1: “The Brazilian team did an amazing job. To be that quick out of the starting blocks and get straight into racing after the race against time they have had this week is just amazing.”

The teams now have one week to get their boats ocean ready before setting off on Leg Three from Melbourne to Wellington and then on to Rio de Janeiro via the Southern Ocean. The leg restart is at 13 00 (local) on Sunday 12 February.

In-port race results (provisional)

1. TEAM ABN AMRO ONE, Mike Sanderson (NZL): 2hr 28 min 12 sec

2. Pirates of the Caribbean, Paul Cayard (USA): 1 min 31 sec

3. Movistar, Bouwe Bekking (NED): 1 min 44 sec

4. Ericsson Racing Team, Neal McDonald (GBR): 1 min 59 sec

5. Brasil 1, Torben Grael (BRA): 5 min 8 sec

6. TEAM ABN AMRO TWO, Sebastien Josse (FRA): 6 min 53 sec

7. Brunel, Grant Wharington (AUS): 12 min 48 sec

Current Leaderboard (provisional)

1. TEAM ABN AMRO ONE, Mike Sanderson (NZL) 32.5 pts

2. TEAM ABN AMRO TWO, Sebastien Josse (FRA) 25 pts

3. Movistar, Bouwe Bekking (NED) 18 pts

4. Pirates of the Caribbean, Paul Cayard (USA) 16.5 pts

5. Brasil 1, Torben Grael (BRA) 16 pts

6. Ericsson Racing Team, Neal McDonald (GBR) 14.5 pts

7. Brunel, Grant Wharington (AUS) 11.5 pts