Mike Sanderson's team aboard ABN AMRO ONE has, this evening, taken the lead from movistar

Mike Sanderson’s team aboard ABN AMRO ONE has taken the lead from movistar (Bouwe Bekking), and Ericsson (Neal McDonald) has made the decision to ship the boat to Melbourne.

In an interview today, Mike Sanderson (ABN AMRO ONE) told Race Headquarters: “The wind has now increased to around 28 knots and our priority now is to keep the boat in one piece, as we are reaching speeds of 26/27 knots again downwind. We are playing a reasonably conservative game. You could push and break something now and in three days time the fleet could be in light airs again and you don’t know if it was necessary. I am very conscious of this leg as I promised the boys and myself that we would tone it back.”

Bouwe Bekking said last night that he knew the rest of the fleet would catch them up in the next few days as a depression, that was forming behind the whole fleet to the west of them, would start moving quickly to the east. He was resigned to this but was more worried about his own keel rams after the misfortune of Ericsson and with the memory of having to retire from the first leg still fresh in his mind.

“Of course we have checked our hydraulic cylinders as well, but since we have a different way of controlling the functioning of the cylinders, I feel ok. Amazingly the guys on deck don’t seem to be bothered that much, a big difference between being the skipper or being one of the crew. They just go on with their job, trimming the sails and doing their best of keeping us in first place.”

Crucial decisions have now been made by Ericsson Racing Team and the decision has been taken to ship the boat to Melbourne from Port Elizabeth. Neal McDonald said: “We will now clearly have to think of this race as a whole, and focus on the long term objective. This is why we have decided to ship Ericsson to Melbourne, where we can try to work out a solution that we are all confident with.”

Jason Carrington, the bowman and boat builder on board added: “You have to soldier on but it’s particularly hard. It is hard for everyone. It is a huge disappointment as we have put so much energy into this particular area of the boat. We have also told the other teams of the problems and they are running exactly the same rams as us. We have all sailed 15,000 miles before this and then it happens. We have to fight on and we will.”

Brasil 1 (Torben Grael), also with damage, suspended racing at 1517 GMT this afternoon and is currently motoring into Port Elizabeth in South Africa with their shore crew waiting to assess the damage and options.

Back out on the racetrack, Pirates of the Caribbean (Paul Cayard) has moved into second place ahead of ABN AMRO TWO (Sebastien Josse). ING Real Estate Brunel (Grant Wharington) is 45 nautical miles behind the second Dutch boat, and has 15 knots of west north-west breeze. They have had a pretty busy 24 hour period as Grant reported this afternoon.

“During our sailing yesterday morning some of the guys started to smell smoke. I was asleep. Was it The Barn (Ian ‘Barney’ Walker) and Scotty (Jeff Scott) sneaking down for a filthy buster? No! I was woken with the boys yelling for all hands to move sails and strip off the engine box. The boat was full of smoke – certainly makes the adrenaline pump!

“The smoke dissipated pretty fast, and everything seemed to be working OK but of course fire on board is not good at all, so we set about trying to work out the cause of the problem. We were bamboozled for quite a long time (our electrician was on a plane on his way back from Cape Town) but eventually found that where there is smoke there is not necessarily fire, and our “fire” in the engine bay appears to have been caused by a slipping belt on an alternator caused by water dripping through a join in the engine box which we were repairing a sail upon.

“Not the best wake up, but thankfully less dramatic than it could have been!”