Plenty of food on scrambled leg

Skipper Grant Dalton is well prepared for an extended run in the Volvo Ocean Race
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The Independent Online

The doldrums are behind us, and we can count ourselves lucky on Amer Sports One. The next few days should be a straight drag race towards the coast of Brazil and the turn round the Ilha de Fernando Noronha. We have some problems with being able to turn on all the power all the time, and we could do with having the wind free us a little more. But we have breeze, the boat is going well, the crew are healthy and happy, and things are about how I would have predicted.

The doldrums are behind us, and we can count ourselves lucky on Amer Sports One. The next few days should be a straight drag race towards the coast of Brazil and the turn round the Ilha de Fernando Noronha. We have some problems with being able to turn on all the power all the time, and we could do with having the wind free us a little more. But we have breeze, the boat is going well, the crew are healthy and happy, and things are about how I would have predicted.

With all the weather information available from any of the 10 web sites we can choose it is much easier to avoid being parked in the Doldrums than it used to be. We should be south of the equator by the end of today. But I would not want to be either Gunnar Krantz in SEB or Knut Frostad in djuice right now.

Weather patterns often come in waves out from the coast of north-east Africa and all the leading boats were able to catch a wave which pushed them into the south-east trade winds. But, behind each wave there is a vicious area of calm, and it looks as if Gunnar and Knut could be trapped.

That would be bad enough at any time, but they are leading teams into which a huge amount of money has been poured and expectations on them to deliver are very high. The tension has to be enormous as it could be very ugly for them.

Not so with us, nor with the leader, John Kostecki in illbruck. He was the man expected to be up front and he appears always to be in the right place at the right time. They are sailing quite smart, but I still do not think they have any significant speed advantage. At the moment I would say that might belong to Roy Heiner on Assa Abloy, and if their tactics had been better they could be leading.

We can see Tyco, skippered by my old collaborator Kevin Shoebridge, ahead and that gives us something to aim for. Unfortunately, now that the second masthead lock has also broken, we cannot use the Code Zero headsail that would be so important at times.

We still feel, that apart from light airs where a big-flat-bottomed boat will never do so well, we are quite fast and there are still 4,000 miles to do. A lot can happen. We have seen how we can heat up when the breeze is a little fresher and in a better direction. Then we can soon eat up some of the deficit.

The halyard lock break is the only gear damage problem we have and everything will be waiting in Cape Town to effect the repair. We still do not know how long this leg will take. Like many we stacked enough food packs for 30 days, but the difference with us was that after the experience of the Club Med catamaran I decided that each pack should have more food, more calories.

That has meant that while we have been going slowly over the last week, we have also been able to conserve some food in case the leg should stretch out to 35 days. We have heard that some of the crews have been suffering from the usual skin complaints caused by the heat and humidity in the tropics, but so far we are clear of those.

The only injury was to our navigator Roger Nilson's foot when he dropped the kettle on it. As he is a qualified doctor it was a case of "physician heal thyself" and some cream seems to have done the trick.

At what might be the half-way stage of what we always knew would be a bit of a scrambled first leg we are in good shape. There should be enough time in Cape Town not only to fix any breakages and recover from any physical exertion but to think about the improvements we can make to the boat.

All of the syndicates will be doing that, you cannot afford to sit back on your laurels in the Volvo Ocean Race, but there is an awful lot of potential in these boats that has yet to be revealed. It may take another leg before Amer Sports One is up to full pace. But we are sure that pace is something we have. And it's great to see Lisa McDonald and the women on Amer Sports Too keeping head of the two trailing boats. They are doing a nice job.

VOLVO OCEAN RACE First leg (7,350 nautical miles, Southampton to Cape Town): 1 illbruck (J Kostecki) 4,092nm to finish; 2 Assa Abloy (R Heiner) +16miles; 3 News Corp (J Fanstone) +31miles; 4 Tyco (K Shoebridge) +45; 5 Amer Sports One (G Dalton) +54; 6 Amer Sports Too (Lisa McDonald) +193; 7 SEB (G Krantz) +287; 8 djuice (K Srostad) +322.

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