Mike Sanderson's latest log from the front of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet last night defends concerns about safety of VO70s
Another interesting day as we battle on putting miles on the guys behind who have had a tough time with a cold front. It put up a nice temporary wall between us and them that has enabled us to sneak out to a pretty handy lead, the last 24 hrs has been hectic with our breeze moderating. There have been many sail changes as we work our way through the downwind sails from our smallest sails to our biggest one, then we had the unfortunate situation where a quick repair that we had done on a small hole let go as the big Spinn was re-setting and it blew the whole corner out of the sail and ripped all along the tapes that are on the edge of the sail.
With the new Volvo 70 rule we only carry four downwind sails compared with twice as many in the last race, so it’s out with the sewing machine and a few hours later mainly from a big effort from Tony Mutter, the sail is back in the air. I would like to say as good as new but not quite…
I heard through the grape vine that there is a growing concern that these boats are dangerous and that we are being reckless out here. I just want to take this opportunity to say that I will happily sit down with anyone and explain to them the thousands of hours that have gone in to the making of Team ABN AMRO’s keel systems as safe as possible. We need the keels to stay where we want them during the race for two reasons, and the good news is that they both go hand in hand. Firstly we need them to stay there for the safety of the guys. But the good news is that you also need them to stay there so that you can keep racing and the team that can finish all the legs without a break down and pick up the points bonus, as all legs count.
So the safety of everyone is at the top of the list no matter how you look at it. Every Volvo 70 that has had a problem so far since the first boat was launched in January last year has got back in to port without assistance. In the Open 60 Solo race that I did last year, three boats had to receive aid from rescue boats, one guy was picked up by a container ship as his carbon keel had snapped and two had to be rescued from the mid Atlantic by chartered support craft with broken masts. Now we are not allowed carbon keels in the Volvo, and the rig weight is adequate that unless you break something then the rig should stay up, whereas in the Open 60s there is a massive rating advantage in having a high modulus mast. In fact their rigs are more Grand Prix then an America’s Cup boat. But still like the Volvo 70, the Open 60 is just an amazing hi-tech race yacht and is the fastest growing offshore class out there at the moment.
People, everyone called for a more exciting boat, both the public and the sailors and guess what we got it to think that these boats have gone out at just 70 feet long and broken the 24 hr record now three times that was set by Mari Cha IV, a boat very dear to my heart. I was involved with it from conception, and the conception that it was built for the purpose of beating records just blows me away…
Volvo has supplied us with a rule that makes just fantastic boats, the fact that they we are having a not so high attrition rate is only the teams and designers fault. The breakage’s are all from weight reduction decisions that have been made by either the design team or the racing team.. we all knew the whole time, that we needed a big bulb on the keel to win the race, and we also knew that we needed to finish the legs to win the race, and it will be he who has walked that fine line correctly at the end of the day that will come out on top and we’re not going to know who that is for another seven months yet.
For now, we are through the last ice way-point of this leg and during the night we passed the first scoring gate to score a very hard earned 3.5 points? so it celebration time? out with the chocolate!
Mike Sanderson – Skipper ABN AMRO 1