Sailing: Whoa, winning again in the wipe-outs (bam-ba-lam)

Mike Sanderson on board ABN Amro 1
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The Independent Online

The thing with this race is that you cannot stop - the feeling of glory lasts for an evening, if you are lucky, and then thoughts quickly turn to the next stage. This time we all had the Southern Ocean at the back of our minds so were all conscious we still had a lot to do.

There is nothing quite like winning the first leg of a round-the-world race. To win the in-port race on Boxing Day really topped it off for us. It was not easy, though - racing these fast and furious Volvo 70s in the inshore races with 11 people is hard enough, but throw in winds of 30 to 40 knots and you have got a very interesting situation.

It was a day to keep it simple, keep the boat upright and in one piece and reap the rewards at the end. The first triangle proved to be a really testing time for the crews as, at one stage, five of the seven boats were on their sides doing wild wipe-outs. To come in after winning and hear our theme song "Black Betty" ("Whoa, Black Betty, bam-ba-lam") being pumped out over the Cape Town waterfront for the second time in the stopover was an amazing moment.

However, if getting into Cape Town was hard enough, getting out with six other boats and next to no wind was, to say the least, not ideal. Table Mountain pretty much decides who is going to get what wind from where and when. We started at less than five knots and there was a pile-up at the first mark where, without any wind, we found ourselves tangled with Ericsson.

After protest flags were flown and loud hails of protest we managed to part the drifting boats and get a slight puff of wind to get us moving again. Because protests are always a risky business, we decided to do a penalty turn (two circles in the same direction) in case we were found at fault.

Disappointing for us on this leg was that we had to leave one of our key crew-members on the dock. Mark Christensen sustained a broken arm in Spain before we left for the first leg and, although he sailed with us to Cape Town, his arm was still not healed last week, so we had no choice but to find a replacement.

For this leg to Melbourne, Sidney Gavignet has stepped up to fill the watch-captain's role and Brit Brian Thompson has joined the team for the first time. Brian has a ton of experience skippering maxi-cats, Open 60 monos and multis so he was very high on our wish-list of people to replace Mark for the leg.

It will be interesting to see if he comes off this leg with a nickname. Kiwi sailors are notorious for handing them out; for example, we have a Moose, Skunk, Numbsy, Big Tone, Bob, Sid and Irish on board, so it will be fascinating to see if Brian gets nailed with a new name. For the next leg our hope, though, is that Mark ( aka Crusty) gets better - at least he has a wine tour through the Stellenbosch district to console him.

For us on board ABN Amro 1 it's down to the Southern Ocean we go. We have been having a pretty bumpy ride, just keeping ourselves in the hunt for the action to come.

It all began by cruising along off the southern tip of Africa, but next week the column will be written as we charge through the "Roaring Forties" at breathtaking speed. Mike Sanderson, skipper of ABN Amro 1, the overall leader in the Volvo Race, writes regularly from on board for 'The Independent'