Fourth boat into Melbourne and the Pirates arrival was the quietest so far 23/1/06

Was it the energy sapping deflation borne from the relief at having finally nursed their sick boat to shore, or were there other reasons for the sombre mood aboard the Pirate ship? Arriving fourth was no disgrace given how close the team came to not finishing at all. The Pirates had faced some frightening moments and some prolonged stressful periods, but the crew were safe and the boat was in Melbourne. In this respect at least, they had fared better than two of the other teams and at least now they had some points on the board. But there was no mistaking the long faces and the quiet arrival.

When it came to the media scrum for first comments, there was a tangible reluctance on the part of the press to get the ball rolling, yet Cayard, well known for his media awareness, delivered a professional response.

Aside from the comments about the boats being fantastic to sail, wickedly quick and amazingly light and neutral on the helm at speed, there were some clues perhaps as to why the Pirates were finding life so tough aboard the Black Pearl. Understanding the beast seemed to be one of the big issues.

“It’s extremely difficult to know when to throttle back. We kind of knew on the second night out when we were slamming upwind and we put on a smaller jib than Ericsson and ABN. We felt bad because we felt we weren’t racing but the next morning we woke up and found out that they [Ericsson] had broken their keel. It turns out that we had probably broken our keel that night too.

“So there’s a case when we throttled back and it was a good move. But then on the night that we were sailing alongside ABN 2 when they set the record we did 541 miles and we broke the boom vang. We didn’t throttle back that night and I presume neither did they. So how do you know when to throttle back? How much is too much slamming and banging? I guess we’re learning that right now.”

As the interviews continued, the Pirates’ shore-side team wasted no time in unloading the Black Pearl. With such serious structural issues at stake, time is tight to get the issues resolved, the keel mechanism repaired and the boat back on the water in time for the inshore race. For the Pirates, points don’t yet mean prizes, they simply mean staying in the event.