Cayard Sailing Photos
Saturday, September 01, 2001
In 1998, the last edition of the fabled Whitbread Round the World Race, there were 10 teams and the future of this event looked bright. I had the feeling that the sport of sailing had in found its event, its medium for communication. We all know the problems associated with making sailing a ﾓPrime timeﾔ sporting event. To the common spectator, sailing is like watching grass grow. Further, it is a complicated game. However, there is an aspect of our sport which does not have to be watched live to be exciting. Offshore racing is adventure racing especially when it involves icebergs and whales. It is a compelling story and goes on 24 hours a day for weeks at a time. It is like some of these reality shows that have gotten popular now. We were ahead of our time and we had found the right means of communicationﾅthe Internet. The Internet wave was getting bigger by the day and it brought the Whitbread Round the World Race to a larger audience, and a more diversified audience, than had ever followed a sailboat race. Watching the race via the Internet was almost better than TVﾅyou could not see the crews. Were they really alive? There were these cryptic messages coming out of the boats. It added to the sense of adventure.
When Volvo bought the event, I thought that was just what was needed to take the event to the next levelﾅ.a real player in the global corporate world, with all of its contacts and networking capabilities. It seemed the perfect match. Surprisingly, there are just seven teams competing in this first edition of the Volvo Round the world Race. Quokka Sports, the company who brought the Whitbread to the world through the Internet, does not even exist anymore. So what kind of an event can we expect for 2001?
Well, the fleet is smaller but the quality is there. Every team is headed by a veteran of round the world sailing and all have strong budgets which have allowed them to put forth their best effort. This means the race will be very competitive and will make the sailing tough as there will be a sense of urgency at every sail change, every gybe, and every tactical choice. Sorting out the carbon masts and the new Code 0 rule will be a big factor in this race and this simply takes time. So the teams that have spent the most time training have an intrinsic advantage that canﾒt be ignored.
Since there is qualified talent on all boats, my rankings are almost directly related to time spent sailing prior to the race. These rankings are ﾓon paperﾔ as I call it and ﾓpaperﾔ, i.e., the public, doesnﾒt know the whole story. I think we, on EF Language, were ranked 8th going into the last race. I do know that being rated the favorite is an extra burdenﾅnothing to gain-everything to looseﾅwith all those advantages you were supposed to win, etc.
Illbruck has to be the favorite in everybodyﾒs book. The team purchased the EF twins immediately following the 1998 finish and has been training since 1999. They have put in 20 months of two-boat sailing including a stint in the southern Ocean from Freemantle to Auckland. They were the first team to start sailing with the new carbon fiber masts and Code 0ﾒs. If preparation counts, this team should win by miles. John Kostecki is a top talent in the sport of sailing. His challenge, like that for all talented inshore sailors making the transition to offshore sailing, will be to understand and manage his team at sea for weeks at a time. There is a society onboard every one of these boats and it is up to the skipper to make sure that society has a positive attitude through all the ups and downs.
Next, I would rank ASSA Abloy of Sweden. They have a Farr designed yacht prepared by Magnus Ollson. Johan Salen is the head of the syndicate and Richard Brisius is the shore manager so the team has a lot of EF about it. They have a solid sailing team that has been training for several months this winter. ASSA Abloy has my friend and winning navigator from 1998, Mark Ruddiger, onboard. Rudy is an ace in anybodyﾒs hand and Roy Heiner is no slouch either. These two have been around the planet once and Heiner is probably the only equal of Kostecki, in short course racing, in the fleet.
Next, I would rank Knute Frostadﾒs, Djuice Dragon. Knute was brave to step outside the Farr design office for two new boats designed by Laurie Davidson, designer of Team New Zealand for the last two Cups. Laurieﾒs history as a designer is probably more oriented toward light displacement boats so I expect the Dragons to be quick. Knute was the first to launch new boats and decided in June which of the two he would race. The ﾓtwo-boatﾔ program will help Djuice in the optimization of the race boat.
SEB, Tyco and News Corp seem similar to me. All have Farr designs with solid Round the World sailors Krantz, Shoebridge and Fanstone as skippers. The skippers are a bit more in the mold of traditional round the world teams rather than the inshore, world champion, like Kostecki and Heiner trying to bring their skills to the offshore game. Each built one new boat and has been training for several months in a 1998 vintage boat sorting out the carbon mast and sails. I think Gunnar Krantz may be the most motivated skipper in the event, a bit disappointed from the last race, so it wont surprise me if SEB finishes strong.
Finally, I come to the Nautor Challenge. Actually I believe this team will do very well but today they rank last on paper. Here is why: this team has spent no time training. It has no experience with the new carbon rigs and the new Code 0 rule. They are building two new boats, not identical so boat optimization will be difficult. Further, as late as they are, Nautor Challenge will be the only team entering two boats in the race and as you can imagine that just doubles the logistical effort of the team not to mention the cost. To offset this, they have Grant Dalton, on his ninth lap (four times a winner most recently on Club Med) as skipper of Nautor 1. Grant has rounded up a lot of talent from his various crews so they should be able to get up to speed quickly.
Now for what does not show up on paper: Dalton will pick from a Farr boat similar to the others or German Frers first attempt at this rule. From what I have seen, the Frers boat is different in basic geometry and truly represents a good shot outside the Farr dominated design box. Nautor 2 will be skippered by Lisa Charles and crewed by an all womenﾒs team including Karen Mac Master, Katie Pettibone, Bridget Suckling, and several other top professional women sailors. These women were a pleasure to work with last time and truly helped us win on EF Language due to their cooperation during the optimization phase and testing that we did at various stopovers. I know this team will work well together. My prediction is Dalton with Nautor 1 on the podium.
New aspects of the Volvo: All the legs are worth 1 point per place and with three short legs to finish up the race, there is even more emphasis on short course racing skills. New Code 0 rule will essentially make the boats masthead boats up wind. Carbon rigs have a minimum weight so they should be more solid than the alloy rigs of 1998. The finish will be in Germany for the first time with the last stopover in Gothenburg. This should be good for the event to take the race to the people who appreciate it so much.
Numbers come and go in sailing events so lets hope the quality of this fleet will put on what will be remembered as the closest Round the World Race ever and lay the groundwork for a larger fleet in 2005.
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