Matthew Sheahan watches the three-way scrap for second and third in leg 4 of the VOR

While Mike Sanderson’s crew aboard ABN AMRO One may have felt that the pressure was on to deliver another bullet in the face of fickle and shifting breezes, the real tension was in the scrap taking place in the pack of three just a few miles astern.

Of those fighting for a podium finish, Paul Cayard’s Pirates managed to hang onto their slim lead to finish second leaving ABN AMRO Two and the home team Brasil 1, to engage in a dramatic struggle for third.

Despite the calm conditions at the race village and the surrounding waters, Cayard spoke of very different conditions in the last few hours of his race.

“You can’t believe how horrid the squalls were today,” he said. “It rained so much today which made the wind go everywhere and resulted in a lot of sail changes which we managed to handle well.”

Thirty minutes later, ABN AMRO Two’s navigator Simon Fisher reported that the lively conditions had seen them blow out their code 4 in the final straight. Yet despite this slip up, the ‘kids’ had managed to come from behind, overtake Brasil 1 and cross the line 19 minutes ahead.

“Between four o’clock and us finishing we were four miles behind them at the last sched and then we got abeam of them and managed to sneak inside,” said Fisher, clearly delighted at the result, especially considering just how far behind they had been on the approach to the Horn.

For Torben Grael’s Brasil 1 a fourth was a very disappointing result, not just for the score board, but made all the more painful as they arrived in their home port. But worse was to come.

Having crossed the finish line, lowered the sails and turned the corner into the marina, the Brazilian team were only expecting to see two boats tied to the dock. A problem with their radar meant that they had no idea that ABN AMRO Two had pipped them to the post, a cruel blow to a team already trying to come to terms with defeat.

Yet crushed though he may have been, Torben Grael is the consummate professional and did little to show anything other than relief at finishing.

“It’s very nice to be home after a very difficult leg. It’s a little disappointing to come fourth. It’s not bad but it’s not good either,” he said.

They too had experienced problems in the closing phases, breaking the foreguy for the spinnaker pole and blowing out a kite in the process before the wind then dropped leaving them without the proper chute.”

But perhaps most intriguing was Cayard’s apparent acceptance that there was little they could do to stop ABN One’s domination.

“It’s getting pretty apparent that ABN is a different beast and it’s a very fast boat. Juan Kouyoumdjian has done a very good job and she’ll be a very difficult boat to beat. In the next leg there’s a lot of reaching across the Caribbean and if there was a chance to upset them it was here. This is notoriously a light airs place.

“We’ll do the best we can, you never know what can happen in sport and sailboat racing, but I feel really satisfied that we have brought this programme a long way forward since being the last team to get started.”

Even so and despite a dramatic start to the race, Cayard has once again delivered the goods and has struck his own target. At the launch of his boat at Southampton he was asked how a team that was so late in hitting the water could be competitive in the race overall. His answer was simple, ‘On points, Rio is half way around and by then we’ll be pretty much sorted.’

“I’m pretty proud of myself for the prognostication,” he said with a wry smile. “We got second in the inshore at Melbourne, we were second at the Horn and second here. The boat’s going pretty good, the sails are sorted out and the crew is good, but it took to Rio to achieve it.”

LEG 4 Results

1 ABN AMRO One – 20d 01h 48m 23s
2 Pirates of the Caribbean – 20d 05h 36m 50s
3 ABN AMRO Two – 20d 06h 06m 10s
4 Brasil 1 – 20d 06h 25m 04s