KIEL, Germany–Knut Frostad and his crewmates on djuice dragons went to great lengths to win the final leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, which finished in Kiel, Germany, at 15:42 GMT on Sunday, June 9. The Norwegian entrys celebrated victory in the final 220-mile leg moved them up one place to sixth overall. And as far as his sponsors are concerned, Frostad delivered the ultimate return on their investment–the spotlight at the races grand finale, set in front of an estimated 120,000 people.
On the dock, drenched from the traditional skipper toss, Frostad said that making the boat as light as possible by sailing with three less crew was a critical contribution to their win. His navigator Jean-Yves Bernot had spent the day before and the morning of the start in an airplane, circling the racecourse and scouting out light-air trouble spots. That, too, he said, paid off. “They had a good understanding of what the local effects would be on the sea breeze,” said Bernot. “And when the fleet split, they were confident that what they were doing was right.”
Thirty-five minutes after djuices arrival, illbruck, the overall race winner sailed across the finish line under spinnaker and into the races history books as the first-ever German entry to win the race. Assa Abloy, the only threat to illbrucks victory finished nearly an hour later, holding onto second overall. Assa was followed five minutes later by Lisa McDonalds Amer Sports Too and Grant Daltons Amer Sports One, separated by only a minute. As darkness fell over Kiel, SEB was next ghosting in at 2200 local time. Tyco followed nearly two hours later. As they pulled into the basin, the song “Look on the bright side of life,” was no help in shaking the somber mood onboard. No soon after the boat was tied up, navigator Kevin Shoebridge stepped off the boat and stood with head bowed in disappointment. “It was a long day,” was all that he could muster. Yesterday, Tyco was poised for a podium finish, but will have to settle for fourth. Team News Corp was the last in, bringing a .5-knot closing to the race as it crossed the finish line at 11 minutes after midnight.
The reception in Kiel was as expected–tremendous, a fitting reception to the race favorite. “It feels great,” said Kostecki dockside. “It was our goal to win and we went out and did it. We sailed really well out of Gothenburg, we really worked hard and we were fast over the start line. Everything clicked about this leg, it was great. His boss Michael Illbruck was beaming, and could only add, “Its an unbelievable feeling. Its so good.” Before the start of Leg 9 on Saturday, the worse scenario for illbruck would have been to see Assa win the race and finish sixth or worse, but they prevented that from happening right off the start. illbruck got away clean in Kiel and were able to sail their own race from start to finish. According to Ed Adams, the teams tactician, as Assa caught up overnight, they simply focused on staying with them. At one point Assa did pass to leeward and was 3 miles ahead, but made surprise move away from the fleet. “We could see an area of convergence–a big cloud–and all they had to do was punch through it, but they tacked away and sailed under the cloud. I think they were really trying to make something happen.”
“The wind was supposed to go left, so we wanted to lead the other boats to it,” said Assas tactician Chris Larson, describing their fatal move. “It ended up favoring the other side.”
While the crew of Assa toasted their second-place overall finish the girls of Amer Sports Too quickly stole the show as they motored into the Kiel basin. For them it was a double victory–they werent last, and theyd beaten Amer Sports One. Dalton was quickly reminded of the promise hed made in Auckland many months ago–thatd hed “put a pineapple up his ass” if the girls ever beat him. Before long, the pineapple arrived on the scene. “It was an absolutely fitting finish,” said Amer Sports One crewmember Katie Pettibone, “It was fantastic. We just sailed smart and never stopped looking for wind.” Pettibone added that the sailing was extremely difficult, with wind holes and windshifts all night long, but finally, they managed to pass along the wooden spoon awarded to the legs last-place finisher.
“Thirds not first,” said Dalton of his teams rise to the podium. “Weve reflected on it over the last few miles when we realized we were going to be in third place. This time a year ago, we didnt even have a boat. With all the trials and tribulations, I think it is just fine. The guys have stuck together. Weve had bad legs and have been beaten consistently by Tyco and News Corp and weve just had to stick together. Theres always the pressure to change things, people or the boat, but Ive always felt it wasnt broken, so there was no way to try and fix it. There were even calls for us to take less people on this leg and I didnt really want to do that and I am glad that theyve all come through and this is as good as we could have done.”
Daltons final words were echoed by the other skippers and crews who applauded illbrucks convincing victory–with a talented and driven skipper leading a crew of Whitbread, Americas Cup, and Olympic champions, the sailing world expected nothing less than the sight of Kostecki thrusting the Waterford Crystal trophy aloft–wearing a smile of satisfaction that only comes after nine months of intense ocean racing.
For photos, audio, and video from the Kiel finish: http://www.volvooceanrace.com