Sailing: Whitbread Round the World Race - Weather eyes open as we leave the bad ju-ju behind

The third leg of the Whitbread Round the World Race, from Fremantle to Sydney, starts today. Merit Cup's skipper needs to engineer a recovery after a disappointing second leg left his boat in fifth place overall, but he still has faith in his crew and his strategy.

This has been a difficult stopover. Not because we had too much to do. More because we came through the last leg with very little damage and we have had too much time waiting impatiently to get underway again to erase the disappointment of being seventh on the last leg.

When you have taken a knock-down the natural thing is to get up and start fighting again. But we have had to wait for two frustrating weeks before we can throw a punch again. A mandatory eight count is bad enough. Fourteen days has been bloody awful.

Navigator Mike Quilter and I have analysed the strategies for the next leg over and over again as the boys have made good the little damage we suffered on the way over from Cape Town. But it is this morning, as we leave Fremantle Sailing Club for the start line, that we can square up again to the game.

Twice before the Whitbread run into Fremantle has been bad ju-ju and when I was here in 1986/7 with the New Zealand America's Cup team I was one of the tune-up crew. Fremantle is a great place and I can't wait to be away from it.

We have resisted the knee-jerk urge to make changes just because we had one bad result. We have confidence in the boat, the sails, and the crew. So why change everything? All the crews have been concentrating on weather and the choice of sails for a leg which will be a lot different from the previous two.

The options are fewer, the length is shorter, and once again the theory is that the fleet will be more bunched. Sooner or later that prediction has to come true. So there will be plenty of pressure and tension out there with the extra pressure on us being the need to bang in good result. In a way we are over the last one, but we won't really be over it until we are in Sydney with the target of a top three place achieved.

We are also aware that part of our hurt was based on old-fashioned feelings about the amount of time we were behind the winners. If we had been seventh by seven minutes instead of seven days we would still have scored the same points and it is points that decide the overall winner of this Whitbread/Volvo Race.

There came a point when we were so far behind that the race for us was over for that leg, and we sailed very conservatively for the rest of the time. This time the conditions are likely to be such that those behind will always have the chance to catch up, and those ahead will have to concentrate like mad to protect their lead. The general expectation is for a nine, maybe eight-day leg. We're taking enough food for 10 and are geared up to scrap every inch of the way.

One job I have not had to do is rebuild the crew in any way. They are far more relaxed than me and in Kevin Shoebridge I have a watch captain, boat-builder and sailmaker who would still be smiling and telling people to take things easy at the last trump.

But we know we have a lot of people in Britain, Italy and New Zealand who are looking for a big result this time and, of course, next. So this is when the structure of that team should be really valuable. Not as a collection of rock star individuals, but as a group of guys who can play really effectively for each other. And for their harassed skipper.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Guru Careers: Solutions Consultant

£30 - 40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Solutions Consultan...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux - Central London

£40000 - £48000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Engineer - Linux ...

Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrator - Windows, Linux - Central London

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Linux Systems Administrat...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power