Heiner forced to walk the plank

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The Independent Online

Roy Heiner, skipper of Assa Abloy, one of the pre-race favourites for the Volvo Ocean Race, has paid a swift and heavy price for a disappointing first leg in the round the world event. Within days of arriving in Cape Town in fifth place he has been sacked, and replaced by Briton Neal McDonald, whose wife, Lisa, is skippering another boat in the race.

Assa Abloy's project director, Richard Brisius, explained the move. "Looking at leg one, and at future legs we have come to the conclusion that we needed to change the leadership on board the boat."

Heiner himself said: "It feels a little bit like that mountain [Table Mountain] has just come rolling on top of you. I guess it is a product of the professionalising of the sport. The stakes are higher, the pressures are higher."

McDonald, 38, will skipper leg two, but has been officially appointed as co-skipper with navigator Mark Rudiger, who guided Paul Cayard's EF Language to overwhelming victory last time. With Cayard also having split from his America's Cup Challenge syndicate, there are already rumours linking him with Assa Abloy for future legs.

Assa's race went wrong after a promising first half, when they were second, as they broke away from the fleet, gambling on a weather break which never materialised.

McDonald, one of Britain's most experienced ocean racers, said: "It's obviously difficult circumstances, and I am sorry to see Roy go, but I am very proud."