Sailing: It's a different race when you are pitched into the driving seat

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The Independent Online

Here I am, two days before the start of the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race and in a completely different situation to what I thought I would be in. Just a few days ago I was elevated to the post of joint skipper for this leg from Cape Town to Sydney.

To be honest I have really not got used to my new role yet. The last week has been a whirlwind of phone calls, meetings, and, I must admit, a couple of almost sleepless nights.

Shortly after we finished what turned out to be a frustrating and very disappointing first leg, the decision was made to change our skipper, Roy Heiner. It was not an easy decision, neither was it a consequence of our fifth position at the end of leg one. Rather it was the result of "a no-compromise" performance analysis carried out primarily by the experienced Assa Abloy management team.

Anyway, to cut a long story short I sit here now basically in the driving seat for this next rather tough leg. I remain a fan of Roy's, and I certainly respect his talent and abilities as a sailor – but in a nutshell it was felt he was creating an environment that was not getting the best out of the wealth of talent that we have in our sailing team. He lacked the required respect of the crew.

So here I am. Being in charge of a team like this is not an easy task in any way and this is not the most pleasant of situations to take on this role. Personally, it is a great honour for me to have the job and to have the confidence of the crew and the Assa Abloy sailing team's management, but, boy, the pressure is on.

I am glad I am not totally on my own. Mark Rudiger remains the co-skipper and I will be happy to lean on him quite heavily for support and advice. I also have one of the most experienced and respected off-shore sailors in the world in the form of Magnus Olsson on board to help guide me in the difficult few weeks to come.

Not only did we have to replace me as a watch-leader/driver as I moved into my new seat but another crew member, Guillermo Altadill, has had to stand down for this leg due to family reasons.

Guillermo is also a primary driver – so my first job was to get two more helmsmen. My shortlist of people capable of fitting our requirements really was short, so few have guys have the experience and talent necessary for such a demanding role. Phone calls around the world, some head-scratching combined with a bit of luck resulted in us getting top sailors Herve Jan, from France, whom I sailed with on Club Med, and Spaniard Roberto Bermudez de Castro out of their current commitments and into the Assa Abloy Racing Team.

They are two great guys who add much to our line-up. But they are two new people to integrate into the team, in what was already a short stopover, and with what I see as the toughest leg to come.

And taking on the skipper's role leaves me in far from relaxed mood. But the task is a challenge I relish – we've got a great sponsor, fantastic sailing and shore teams and, there is no doubt, one of the best boats.

As for what happens when we get to Sydney, well that's too far ahead for me to plan – I'm just concentrating on what I have to do to finish this leg as well as we can. One step at a time for me.