Thursday, March 16, 2006

Two skippers down

There is much for the crews of the Volvo Ocean race to talk of over those welcomed beers in the bars of Rio. Not just stories from Leg 4, of the routine of life on board, of gybes and out of control surfing, of calms and storms, of boredom and fear, of routing disasters and triumphs, and of the girls of Ipanema as they walk by.

With the longest leg over there is also time for re-assessing campaigns, with unsurprisingly Ericsson leading the soul searching. And it is the skipper Neal McDonald who takes the fall, demoted to watch leader with John Kostecki taking over as skipper. It's ironic - not just given the competition between the two on the last Volvo, but also because the reverse happened that time too, with Neal being promoted into the skippers seat.

It was interesting hearing the comments from the crew on the Volvo site - full of support for Neal. One possible insight on what was wrong was when one said about Neal "He is incredibly humble and doesn’t have an ego. Maybe that is part of the problem". Sounds like friction within the crew - the sort that needs a leader to bang some heads about.

There is also the on-going doubt about the performance of the boat. Built from the same design team as Pirates - runner up of the last leg - it seems measurably slower.

But even with one design fleets there can be subtle differences. Take the Global Challenge with its in theory twelve identical 72 footers. But its always Save the Children trailing somewhere at the back, and boats like BP are pushing towards the front. Some boats just are that bit slower.

And the other adventure sailing global race has lost a skipper. In this case its David Pryce of the current leader Western Australia who won't be joining for the re-start.

In either case it hopefully will mean one thing: for both races the competition on the next leg will be invigorating. No doubt the legs on the girls of Ipanema have a similar affect on the crew as they sip their beer in those bars of Rio.

Picture from Volvo Ocean Race

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