VOLVO OCEAN RACE

illbruck’s Delivers on Its Favorite Status

Try as they may, Grant Dalton and his Amer Sports One crewmates couldn’t hold back the crew of John Kostecki’s lean, mean illbruck machine. As the two boats approached Cape Town in the waning hours of Leg 1, illbruck finally overtook them on Wednesday night and was first into Cape Town, finishing the 7,350-mile leg at 20:19:49 GMT (22.19.49 local time). illbruck’s elapsed time for the leg was 31d:6h19m:49s.

"illbruck was gunning us down," said Amer’s veteran navigator Roger Nilson. "We felt like a toothless tiger, it was so frustrating. She was always a little bit faster than us, and that’s why she passed us-pure boatspeed."

"We always believed we could catch Amer Sports One. The question was how," wrote Kostecki in an e-mail on Wednesday shortly before finishing. "We were able to do it by having better reaching boatspeed and great crew maneuvers changing sails in the shifty southwesterly breeze. We slowly ate up their lead and finally passed them early this morning. Our crew work was flawless and the boat handled nicely for us in these last few critical days of racing."

The typically reserved Kostecki said that he was "pleased" with him team’s performance, adding that it was a confidence builder that they would carry over to the next Southern Ocean leg to Sydney, which starts on Nov. 11. "The other guys managed to sail extremely well," he said later. "I’m sure they would also admit they had a little bit of luck. But as soon as things equalized, we just managed to make some small gains, and pass them."

Amer Sports One finished two hours later, an impressive feat considering the team had come together only months before the September start. With so many breakdowns and so much damage to its headsail inventory, Dalton admitted that Amer was no equal match for the highly trained men in green, especially when it came down the boat-to-boat speed battle that ensued after rounding Ilha Trinidade. "I know of six other boats out here that would gladly trade places with us," wrote Dalton from onboard as he approached the finish. "We enjoyed leading the fleet for several days and we relinquished the lead to a yacht that is benefiting from a three-year development campaign."

After finishing, Dalton graciously conceeded the loss, saying, "We were not disappointed to come second at all. We had no expectations for this leg other than to just get a reasonable result. At no point did we feel any pressure, this is like the opening of the rugby season, we are happy with our position as long as we are in the final."

For sure, the shore crews of both boats will be busy over the next two weeks. Amer Sports One’s crew will be figuring out how to solve the halyard-lock problem that plagued them the entire leg-as far back as their first spinnaker peel on the Solent. For illbruck, which crewmembers say survived the leg unscathed, a thorough once-over of the boat is all that will be required.

Meanwhile, 54 miles back on the racetrack at the 1600 GMT position report is Ross Field and Jez Fanstone’s Team News Corp, due tonight in Cape Town. In e-mail to race officials Field said his teammates were keeping using the opportunity to focus on sail testing and Southern Ocean preparation. "We’re third by a good margin and don’t want to break anything," wrote Field late yesterday. "What a way to finish ... we are not complaining, it could be worse, we could be back 200 miles with Tyco and get it worse, or we could be doing a yacht race on Mars where it blows 200 miles an hour all the time."

Barring any major gear failures News Corp is expected to arrive shortly before midnight tonight in Cape Town, followed shortly thereafter by Tyco. Mark Rudiger and Roy Heiner’s Assa Abloy, some 400 miles out, are due in late tomorrow. After that, it’ll be another four to five days before any other V.O. 60s appear under Table Mountain-djuice dragons, Team SEB, and Amer Sports Too, are still more than 1,000 miles out and making slow progress upwind. SEB had managed to hold off Knut Frostad’s Norwegian dragons by only 20 miles, but the news today from onboard the Swedish entry was far from good.

"Yesterday night, in one of these horrendous waves, there is a bang and of course everybody looks at the top of the main," wrote skipper Gurra Krantz. "Still up, but lost all the shape and leech tension is gone. The temporary 2:1 main halyard had snapped. Today another disaster unfolded in front of our eyes when trying to mouse a new 2:1 halyard and re-lash the top of the main. The temporary headboard car, made of batten cars, tilted and started to tow on the back face of the mast. Tom Braidwood, who had the pleasure of being up the rig again, experienced how the ’simplest’ of jobs turns into a major. Magnus Woxen who was hoisted up as well. They had to fight the pitch of the boat as much as the job itself. In the end, we have had to bear away and give them time to fix the problem. Time is passing and we are getting a sick feeling in the stomach just knowing that we are heading in the wrong direction and fast. We are doing our best to stop the boat, but in 20 knots of breeze the V.O.60 is fast whatever you do

At the last position report, the girls on Lisa Charles’ Amer Too were trying one more last-ditch move get themselves out of the cheap seats. They’re heading south in an attempt to pass their rivals.