VOR: ABN AMRO 1 Wins Leg One

ABN AMRO One approaches Cape Town

After both ABN AMRO boats finished at the back of the pack during the VOR’s first In Port race, Mike Sanderson, ABN AMRO One’s skipper, was quoted as saying, “We’re still adamant we’ve the right boat for the race. I don’t think we’ll be having this conversation in Cape Town.”

Prophetic words. From the Team ABN AMRO web site: ABN AMRO One wins Leg 1.

ABN AMRO ONE sailed to victory in the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race as they crossed the finish line below Table Mountain in first place today at 15:25hrs (local time) or 13:25 GMT. 49 miles ahead of second placed boat, ABN AMRO TWO, the crew celebrated what looks to be an impressive first and second for TEAM ABN AMRO. The victory puts ABN AMRO ONE at the top of the leader board with eight legs remaining.

There’s also this write up from the official VOR site: The winner! It includes a very interesting account of some of the ongoing troubles aboard fourth-place Ericsson, which apparently had their jury-rigged canting keel come free from its moorings following a gybe, as described here by skipper Neal McDonald:

Five minutes into my stint on the wheel, what should have been a reasonably easy task of steering in broad daylight, in about 20 knots of wind with just the mainsail up, suddenly became a very difficult task. I knew this sensation and before I heard the call of ‘we have another Free Willy situation on our hands’, I had fully guessed what had happened. The waves would roll the boat one way and rather than steady the boat, the keel simply stayed in the vertical plane and the boat rolled around it. Not nice.

Another very interesting item on the official VOR site today is this piece by former America’s Cup champion John Bertrand: Thoughts of Mr. Bertrand.

It is certain that Cape Town will be a busy port, with retro-fits across the fleet, with close attention being paid to the canting keel systems on each boat and how they are integrated into the hull. The transmitted forces are enormous. It is always difficult to calculate maximum loads and dial in adequate safety factors, but the combination of unforgiving carbon fibre structures and the enormity of ocean wave formations makes the exercise almost impossible. Trying to figure out what forces are unleashed when a carbon structure is dropped off a five story building could be an equivalent exercise! The bottom line is if these boats were built strong enough to NEVER break, they would not be light enough to be competitive. It’s back to maximizing power to weight ratios.

Anyway, here’s wishing the best of luck to the racers still on the course, and to all the teams as they prepare for the next leg, which will be taking them a very long way from help in some of the roughest waters in the world.

Photo of ABN AMRO One approaching Cape Town, from the Team ABN AMRO site.

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