Home hat-trick the target once Sydney-Hobart is out of the way

Grant Dalton's Amer Sports One aims to break illbruck's run by being the first to sail into Auckland
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The Independent Online

I was always determined to make it back for this third leg of the Volvo Ocean Race after taking a bad knock to my ribs and back just before the finish of the last into Sydney. If for no other reason, I have been first into my home own of Auckland in the last two races and, although it is by no means an easy task, I really want to make that a hat-trick. And there is the factor of arriving in the memory of Sir Peter Blake. It has real significance for me.

First, of course, we have to sort out the minor problem of the Sydney to Hobart Race. That is task enough for most of the competitors, but, for the eight of us in the Volvo, it is less than a third of the whole leg to Auckland and the points only count for the finishing order in Auckland.

Before that we will have almost certainly run a gamut of weather conditions. We will have light weather and windy weather and that was one of the factors in the decision to start, even though I am only three weeks into these injuries and they are six-week injuries. So, in theory, I am starting the leg only half cured, though I think I heal more quickly than some.

We have made just one change, bringing in Freddy Loof, Sweden's veteran Olympian in the Finn class and the recent winner of the Star World Championship. He bolsters our driving talent after the departure of Keith Kilpatrick, who was our rigger. But we should be able to cover that.

This leg is longer than people think, I think it may take 10 days, and at this time you can get anything in the Tasman, including the blockage of a high pressure zone in the middle. So we would have preferred to go straight to Auckland but, like it or lump it, the Hobart leg is in the rules, so we do it.

What I am disappointed in is the lack of consistency and meaningful decision-making by the international jury over the rules on entering traffic separation zones. I think it has been handled very badly. First, the decision not to proceed with the race committee protests against djuice and my fellow competitors on Amer Sports Too over infringements when leaving Cape Town on what I think was a weak excuse was bad enough.

Whether it was international or local law makes no difference. We had all been told in a formal briefing, to "enter international separation zones at your peril". So it was a direct instruction from the race office. Then, for our redress not to be heard on a technicality is just ridiculous.

I think it's a straight cop out. They didn't want to be embarrassed by having to hear our case. I think it is a shame that the level of competitiveness and the money that is spent on taking part in this event cannot be matched by the professionalism of the organisation. Coming on top of the illbruck incident on the first leg, when they were given an easily affordable fine for a fundamental break of the boat construction rules, I am pretty unhappy. In both cases we can show that it cost us time.

On the first leg, if you had kelp caught on the engine outdrive, you could at least put a man over the side to try and cut it away. But we had a huge lump of the seaweed round our outdrive on the second leg when we were in the Southern Ocean for two to three days, slowing us down by half a knot.

If we had put a guy over the side we might have killed him. And the cold water shock to his system could have been huge. That is the broader picture in which the incident should have been viewed, but now the jury is hiding behind a convenient suggestion that the submission by the race committee had been drafted in terms which suggested they did not want a more severe penalty. When did that come in? I think they are doing the race a disservice in terms of professionalism when you think how much money is being spent. In the background of the whole thing, it's a sham. They need to sharpen up their act.

Still, our job is to do what I have always said we must do, and that is to be on the pace by Auckland. Fifth on the last leg was not an unfair indication of where we were on the catch-up ladder. We know we are probably better in under 25 knots than over, but we also know we can win a leg.

Everyone needs to break the run of wins by illbruck and I just hope it will be Amer Sports One.

I think we have spent about 55 days at sea so far and, at the beginning of this year, we did the whole trip in Club Med in 62. There is an awful lot of racing left to do, we now feel the boats will stand up to it, and we just need to see that the guys, who looked shattered after the end of the second leg, can find the rhythm and pace to deliver the result we know is in us.

Grant Dalton was talking to Stuart Alexander