Sailing: Whitbread Round The World Race: Aggressive racing in similar boats puts premium on tactical choice

After four of the nine legs of the Whitbread the time at home in Auckland has been a good one to sit down quietly and review everything before the second half this weekend.

This has been harder than any of the previous four Whitbread's in which I have sailed. We always say that. Every race seems to be tougher than the one before, though it can be difficult to say why this time. Not higher winds, more on-the-wind sailing, not wetter, colder, or hotter. Anyway, the unpleasant memories fade quickly and only the good parts of the previous race remain in the memory.

However, this race is different. It is tougher, measurably so. I have never sailed in a regatta that has so many Olympic medallists and world champions in the crews.

Another factor that makes this race tougher is that the boats are very similar in speed potential. That puts a premium on tactics. As we have seen, one wrong move and suddenly you're hundreds of miles off the pace. Every boat is having its turn at the back of the fleet and that's largely a result of the extremely aggressive tactics.

On the last two Whitbreads we were able to sail fairly conservatively and do well, but conservative tactics won't get you anywhere in this field. You have to get everything exactly right and go for it.

The yacht is holding up well to the pounding even though we broke a lot of gear on the first leg. In one gust, a shackle on the back stay with a 10,000-kilo breaking strain broke and we almost lost the mast. We changed the fittings in Cape Town and we have not had any problems since.

However, except for the beat into Auckland, we haven't had any big winds either since that first leg. We have blown out a few sails, but that's expected.

There has been speculation that we might have been better off with our second, beamier boat. All our research indicated that a narrower hull with less wetted surface would do better. However, the conditions encountered so far would have probably have better suited the other boat.

If this was an Olympic regatta we would be looking good so I suppose we are happy to be second overall at this point, but the fifth leg is very important.

We believe Merit Cup has still has not achieved its maximum potential in terms of speed. We are continuing our sail development programme, we are sailing more aggressively and the win into Auckland did wonders for morale.

As for the opposition, the position of the all-woman crew in EF Education does not do them justice. They are sailing competitively, but this is a very physical race and the men are at a distinct advantage.

I am at a loss to explain Silk Cut's relatively lacklustre performance, but we have seen some absolutely stunning sustained speeds and only a fool would write off Lawrie Smith.

Toshiba are still suffering from a bad first leg, but on the fourth leg from Sydney, it showed her potential. We can expect to see some more improvement.

Chessie Racing is coming good. She has a lot of potential still to be developed and she is improving fast.

A couple of good legs - a third and a second - then a fifth and a seventh show Innovation Kvaerner is going the wrong way. If I was Knut Frostad I would not be a happy man.

The form boat is definitely EF Language. Probably the fastest in the fleet, Paul Cayard's America's Cup experience is giving us all a few lessons in boat-to-boat racing.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links