New recruits face greatest test

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The Independent Online

The eight yachts on the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race enter the treacherous Southern Ocean tomorrow with some in better shape than others to handle the second leg from Cape Town to Sydney. The 6,500-mile journey pits crews and boats against freezing gales and mountainous, desolate seas as they skirt around Antarctica.

The eight yachts on the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race enter the treacherous Southern Ocean tomorrow with some in better shape than others to handle the second leg from Cape Town to Sydney. The 6,500-mile journey pits crews and boats against freezing gales and mountainous, desolate seas as they skirt around Antarctica.

Cape Town to Sydney is one of two Southern Ocean legs – the other is the fourth from Auckland round Cape Horn to Rio de Janeiro – which can take the greatest test of stamina and strain gear to breaking point. Coming on top of an opening leg from Southampton which took longer and inflicted a greater toll on the crews than expected, all the skippers will be balancing the need for pace with caution.

The highest-profile casualty in Cape Town was Roy Heiner, summarily removed as skipper of Assa Abloy. He was ousted from within and is replaced, though initially for this leg only, by Neal McDonald, the British watch captain recruited in the last few weeks before the first leg from Britain's America's Cup team.

He brings in Herve Jan, a hugely experienced French long-distance racer who sailed with McDonald under Grant Dalton when winning The Race in the catamaran Club Med earlier this year. And one Spaniard, Roberto Bermudez de Castro, replaces another, Gulliermo Altadill.

There are also two new faces on Knut Frostad's djuice, one of them the American Terry Hutchinson, who has been an advisor to the group for some time, and an Australian, Tony Nossiter. Both bring rugged helming experience in the place of doubled-up weather analysis. The replacement of Santiago Lange as a trimmer on the sixth-placed SEB by Rodney Keenan means that Gunnar Krantz relies on six Kiwis in the 12-strong crew.

There will be as much attention on the performance of Frostad's Laurie Davidson-designed boat as there is on the crew. One of only two yachts not designed by Bruce Farr, its relative speed is still an unknown quantity.

The pecking order, as far as speed is concerned – and sail programmes figure highly in that – has yet to be determined. No one thinks they are slow, though some competitors attribute a speed advantage to either the leg-one winner, John Kostecki, in illbruck, or to Assa Abloy; but that can be one way of diverting attention.

Other crew changes were pre-planned, with the highly experienced deep ocean helmsman Gordon Maguire joining Jez Fanstone's News Corp and Carolyn Brouwer replacing Melissa Purdey in the all-woman crew of Amer Sports Too, skippered by McDonald's wife, Lisa.

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