The Dutch team ABN AMRO One swept into Cape Town, South Africa, yesterday to easily win the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, with sister ship ABN AMRO Two just over 50 miles behind.
The winner took just over 19 days to complete the 6,400-mile passage from Sanxenxo, Spain, at an average speed of just under 16 knots. Crowds packed the Victoria and Albert waterfront to greet skipper Mike Sanderson and his international crew of nine.
ABN AMRO One survived early damage when a vicious storm rocked the fleet on the first full day of racing. High winds and waves smashed one of the boat's two steering pedestals and injured two sailors, then the following day an electrical fire broke out onboard. But the crew made repairs and had a relatively uneventful crossing after the setbacks.
Others were not so lucky. Two pre-race favorites, the Spanish entry Movistar and U.S. entry Black Pearl, dropped out of the leg with hull damage in the same early storm; both were transported to Cape Town for the next leg, Movistar by ship and Black Pearl by airplane.
The Australian boat Brunel Sunergy also was damaged and put into Portugal for repairs. She is now making her way south, 1,000 miles behind the leaders. And the Swedish entry Ericsson damaged its keel two days ago and is limping into port at reduced speed. Brasil 1 under Olympian Torben Grael was expected to take third for the leg.
The two ABN AMRO boats were unknown commodities entering the competition. Both were designed by a newcomer, Argentine Juan Kouyoumdjian, but have now shown their heels to the fleet and could run away with the 32,000-mile race if they can keep up the torrid pace.
-- Angus Phillips