SEB Flies Without Navigator

SEB continues to lead despite the temporarily loss of their navigator.

There was much commotion earlier this week as the Volvo fleet rounded South Australia’s Eclipse Island, the second waypoint of Leg 2. There was the highly orchestrated offload of Amer Sports One crewmember Keith Kilpatrick, who’s bout of intestinal blockage prevented him from sailing any farther. A heap of supplies were transferred to John Kostecki’s illbruck. And, as the world would later learn, there was the surprising and dramatic departure of Marcel Van Trieste, Team SEB’s veteran navigator, who returned home because of a death in his family.

SEB, which was the first to round the island early Tuesday morning, appears to be getting along well without him, at least for now. According to skipper Gurra Krantz, Van Trieste left them with a solid long-term plan, and from the front of the fleet, which has virtually fallen in line behind them, less big-picture decision-making will be required. SEB’s focus now is sailing "110 percent" and keeping illbruck, 17 miles behind them at today’s 1600 GMT position report, at bay.

From onboard SEB today, Krantz finally reflected on his navigator’s leaving, saying, "To let him go home was a hard decision that was very easy make."

"When I write this, it’s exactly 48 hours since his fantastic dive into the water," he wrote in an e-mail to race headquarters. "We’d planned with a powerboat for a pick-up as early as possible before rounding Eclipse Island. We opted for a secret mission as neither Marcel nor us wanted to confront media or other interested parties in this moment of mourning. When the driver of the powerboat was instructed to pick up Marcel from the water once he was in, he did not believe our shore manager Scott who was the one giving the instructions. The driver said that nobody jumps in the water out there and he evidently thought Scott was joking. Sharks or no sharks, at the time for pick up Marcel climbed up on our sail stack and from the highest point on the boat he made a perfect dive into the sea."

The 11-man crew of SEB has now gone to a three-watch system with helmsman Matthew Humphries and Krantz sharing Van Trieste’s duties at the navstation.

Illbruck stopped only briefly in order to pick up materials to effect a better repair to the failed bow hatch that nearly caused them to sink early in the leg. Parts were also acquired for their Satellite B communications system, which was heavily damaged during their near sinking, and materials to repair their port steering pedestal, navigation lights, and masthead wand. They’d been sailing for most of the leg with their wind instruments mounted on their transom, where they were virtually useless for determining headsail selection.

Assa Abloy and Team News Corp rounded the island, third and fourth respectively, and then came Knut Frostad’s djuice dragons. Later in the day, it was Grant Dalton’s turn to slow as Amer transferred Kilpatrick to an inflatable tender. Kilpatrick’s condition has reportedly improved, and he is expected to rejoin the team in Sydney.

For djuice, and Lisa Charles Amer Sports Too, rounding Eclipse was bittersweet as race officials later warned them that they would likely be protested for infringements at the start in Cape Town. The basis of both protests is that djuice and Amer One allegedly sailed into a traffic separation zone off Cape Town--akin to crossing the median. Frostad promptly pleaded his case, but to clear himself in case, did a 720 Degree Turns Penalty.

"According to the charts with the plots for djuice’s course from the start, " Frostad wrote, "it shows that after the gate exit, djuice crossed the traffic lane together with every boat in the fleet. However, djuice tacked in the Traffic Separation Scheme before exiting the area in question. We have never had any intention of breaking the Rules. I was not aware we had crossed illegally until we received this notice. We did not interfere with any other competitor, and we cannot see we gained an advantage by doing this."

The protest has not been officially filed, but the two teams may face the international jury in Sydney.

Frostad’s attention to the protest may have temporarily thrown him off pace, as the Norwegian entry is slowly falling farther behind the leaders. They are currently sixth, 100 miles behind SEB. In the last 24 hours, they’ve been maintaining a more southerly course, cutting their losses from a northerly flyer, along with Team News Corp and Assa Abloy.

"It’s tough to say exactly why things are happening the way they are," wrote djuice tactician Terry Hutchinson today. "The weather should be favoring us slightly but as far as I can see, we can’t buy a break right now. However, there is only one time you need to be in the lead and that is when you cross the finish line. As we saw earlier on, our 60-mile lead dwindled in a matter of a 12-hour period so I don’t think that I would count us out yet."