Sailing: Pressure mounts to halt slide

Grant Dalton, the skipper of Amer Sports One, is ready to make hard decisions in the Volvo Ocean race
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The Independent Online

All campaigns go through a period when they find or lose themselves. It may sound like something I have said before, but the next 875-mile sprint from Miami up to Baltimore is a real watershed for us.

All campaigns go through a period when they find or lose themselves. It may sound like something I have said before, but the next 875-mile sprint from Miami up to Baltimore is a real watershed for us.

Assa Abloy found themselves at the end of the second leg, having put Neal McDonald in charge. Kevin Shoebridge has done a great job pulling Tyco back after having to retire with a broken rudder on that second leg. We are third overall but we have reached a point where there is as much pressure on the management structure to perform as there is on the sailing team. If we have another bad leg to Baltimore, you can expect to see the sparks start flying.

Even without that, we have only two ways to go; evolution or revolution. I am not against wholesale change, but I don't think it's time for that yet. I will not revolt at this point, but to me we are a lot closer to being fifth than we are to being second, even if that is not the first impression you might gain from a quick glance at the points table. We are probably giving the impression of being campaign on the slide, not a campaign on the build.

Early on in the race, we probably should never have been where we were, fighting it out for the lead. What I see now is that we were a lot better prepared than I thought compared with the other teams at the start and we came out flying. The Assas and the Tycos may have been a little bit asleep, but now they have really woken up. They have come right but it is too late for them to put illbruck under pressure. That can only happen if John Kostecki's men suffer some sort of major gear damage.

As these boats have got into their stride, we have been boxed round the ears by them. So what are we going to do? Basically – nothing. That is a decision, as opposed to a cop-out, because I can tinker, do nothing, or look for some sort of revolution. Anyway, what can I do? I cannot change the boat, so all I can change is people and that is not the right thing to do.

Or maybe I should be changed? That is always an option. In the end, all that matters is that the boat does well. Nothing else is important. I am big enough and ugly enough to take that decision if it has to be made. But I don't think we're at that point, either.

Also, you have to look at the likes of illbruck and Tyco, and Assa after they switched skippers. They all have had stable campaigns. We are the fourth. And we are all at the top of the fleet. But, if we start to slide further, I won't go quietly.

Internally, there will be hard words in the locker room and there will be harsh words with myself. I am responsible for where we are.

We all have a resolve not to accept mediocrity. We would never give up and just be in "delivery trip" mode. I would go long before that and history is on my side. We may have had some shockers in the middle of this race but we did on the last race and kept going through to the final leg and ended up second overall. We know we have a problem with the performance of the boat when it comes to reaching rather than going up or down wind. But we do not have the wrong boat and we know we can strengthen our performance in that area, as well as picking up some more of the conditions where we know we are strong on the remaining four legs.

Even if it means having to climb Everest without oxygen, we are determined to be where we want to be. The performance of this campaign is the only thing I am thinking about at the moment. I have been in trickier holes – though I cannot immediately remember when – which is why the hard call at the moment is to do nothing. Perhaps I should use some of the Florida sunshine to do some Iron Man training, as well as thinking through the way to tackle the next four weeks.

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