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Race Dispatches
From Race Veteran Tracy Edwards
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The Volvo Ocean Race 2001-2002
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Leg 1: Southampton, England, to Cape Town, South Africa

Dispatch 2: Race or Soap Opera? | Dispatch Archive
November 7, 2001

[Note: Nationalgeographic.com does not research or copyedit field dispatches.]

Leg one of the Volvo Ocean Race is over and the stay in Cape Town has been as eventful as the racing. The finishing positions of the yachts after the 7,000 nautical mile leg were a surprise to most of us.

Grant Dalton’s choice of [boat design firm] Frers over Farr seemed to be paying off until the final few miles. Leg one was really a practice run for Dalts and his crew. The next leg should see the full potential of this Volvo 60.

The Djuice Dragons team is very disappointed with the performance of their Laurie Davidson-designed boat. They are also looking at crew confidence as a possible weak area.

The real surprise for me was that Team Tyco and News Corp (my two favorites) did not do better. There were maybe some mistakes in their tactics. Overall, I would expect both boats to do better next leg—where expereince of the Southern Ocean will count for a large part of the winning formula.

The girls on Amer Sports Too arrived in Cape Town in a jubilant and positive mood knowing that this really was a practice run for them. They are about the only boat not making crew changes, and I think this is a wise decision. I still think, however, that Adrienne Cahalan should have been the navigator.

The fun continued in Cape Town with two protests against Illbruck. One for using an illegal website and the other for having a weed cutter concealed on the hull. The website issue was not followed through, as it was not a strong case. The other teams were happy that Illbruck would be disqualified anyway because of the weed cutter issue. Imagine, then, everyone’s surprise when Illbruck was fined just £1,000 for breaking the rules (whether they knew it or not doesn’t matter), and they kept their points for that leg.

There are various rumours flying around at the moment as to the reasons the race committee saw fit to disregard their own rules. One is that Illbruck threatened to withdraw from the race if they were disqualified from the first leg. It doesn’t help that the crew of Illbruck are now quite openly bragging that the next time they get caught doing something illegal they will buy their way out of it!

This makes the whole race look pretty shabby at the moment, and there are a lot of unhappy teams in Cape Town right now.

The mutiny of the SEB crew and promototion to skipper of Neal McDonald rounds off the soap opera feel to the whole thing. Neal is a great choice, though, and should see this team doing better. His wife Lisa is, of course, skipper of Amer Sports Too, making this the first husband and wife team to skipper boats in the race history. You couldn’t make this stuff up could you!

So that is the state of play. It’s on with the next leg and the next episode of the saga.

—Tracy Edwards

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Having won the first leg of the Volvo Ocean Race under a cloud of controversy, Illbruck Challenge is hoisted out of the water for maintenance in Cape Town, South Africa.   Photograph by Rick Tomlinson

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