Stuart Alexander in Fremantle reports on their record-breaking performance.
It could all have been lost when they hit a whale two days from the finish and damaged the rudder, but Gunnar Krantz and the crew of Swedish Match scored an emphatic win in the second leg of the Whitbread Race yesterday.
It has been fast and furious as they led from just two hours into the race to the finish and will probably have a 24-hour margin over second- placed Knut Frostad, in Norway's Innovation Kvaerner.
It was also physically exhausting, much worse than an opening leg of over double the duration, according to their Kiwi co-skipper Erle Williams, who described some of the savage force of the conditions facing the 12- man crew.
"We were screaming down waves in the middle of the night, with probably 40 knots of wind and the boat right on the edge when a solid wall of water hit me at shoulder height," he said. "When I came out of the wave I had the steering wheel in my hand, but it wasn't attached to anything. I was thankful there was another one to grab hold of and the boat just kept going straight at 25 knots."
He paid tribute to Matt Humphries, the skipper of Britain's Dolphin & Youth in 1993-94, who joined the boat in South Africa. "A fantastic driver," said Williams, who himself came in for praise from Krantz for making the tactical call just after the start which gave Swedish Match the jump on everyone else.
"It worked," Williams said. "It was a gutsy call,"the navigator, Roger Nilson, said. From then on they were always in big breezes until just before the finish, where the expected calm near the Australian coast slowed them down.
They actually covered 5,009 miles for the 4,600-mile southern ocean ride from Cape Town to Western Australia. As they powered under spinnaker through the finish here at Victoria Quay, they recorded a time of 15 days, three hours, 45 minutes and three seconds, setting an all-time high average speed for a Whitbread leg of 13.77 knots.
After a hugely disappointing eighth on the first leg from Southampton, they will be fourth overall if the rest of the fleet holds present positions.
Kvaerner will hold the top spot and Paul Cayard's EF Language should be fourth with Britain's Lawrie Smith, expected to finish tomorrow night, holding a 50-mile advantage on Cayard and moving up to third overall.
WHITBREAD ROUND THE WORLD RACE (Second leg, 4,600 miles, Cape Town to Fremantle): Latest positions 1 Swedish Match (Swe) G Krantz; 2 Innovation Kvaerner (Norway) K Frostad 192.4 miles to finish; 3 Toshiba (US) P Standbridge 289.9; 4 Silk Cut (GB) L Smith 441.5; 5 EF Language (Swe) P Cayard 490.3; 6 Chessie Racing (US) M Fischer 691.4; 7 Merit Cup (Monaco) G Dalton 908.7; 8 EF Education (Swe) C Guillou 991.2; 9 BrunelSunergy (Neth) H Bouscholte 1080.2.