Will John Kostecki carry on in the VOR and what is the future for Ericsson? 21/4/06

John Kostecki, American skipper of the Volvo Ocean Race, will soon be announcing the decision on whether he can carry on in all the remaining legs of the race.

Former winner of the Volvo Ocean Race on Illbruck in 2002, Kostecki has commitments to Michael Illbruck’s Transpac 52 campaign to oversee preparations for their entry in the Breitling TP52 MedCup in May.

Initially, Kostecki replaced Britain’s Neal McDonald in Rio in an attempt to revive Ericsson’s flagging performance. After Leg 5 Ericsson now sits sixth out of seven, with a margin of 34 points behind the leader ABN AMRO One.

Kostecki was able to take time out to skipper Ericsson because of a gap in his schedule but his future movements in the coming months are inhibited by his contract with Illbruck stating that he must balance his commitments to the TP 52 project and Ericsson, and would like to have more time to “help this team as much as I can and have a successful TP 52 as well.”

The question is can Ericsson perform well enough to close the gap between the Swedish yacht and Brasil 1 (5.5 points ahead) and Pirates of the Caribbean (10.5 points ahead) in the next few legs?

Quoted in a British daily newspaper, Kostecki obviously has his doubts about the boat’s ability: “We started on the back foot. I feel our rig isn’t as good as everyone else’s. We have to live with what we have.”

Kostecki attributes sails and rigging to Ericsson’s limited successes, starting with Doyle and then changing over to North Sails, which involves readjustment. Speaking after the finish of Leg 5, he said: “I think it’s one cause for sure, and this was a late project and it was a scramble finding sail designers. We have a sail designer and I’m not sure that he has designed a lot of offshore sails. He is learning and we are working with him the best we can. I just think we are a little bit slow at adapting to these new boats. It’s an education.”

The skipper also believes that they could have learnt more from ABN AMRO because of time spent testing the boats, their experienced offshore sailors and their commended North Sails designer.

Kostecki doesn’t admit defeat however, as he said: “If we were to win a leg that would be a great boost to us and our sponsors. I think the most important thing to us now, beyond doing well overall, is to show improvement. In these shorter legs we have a chance to do that.”