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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 6: Miami to Baltimore and Annapolis, U.S.A.

Dispatch 7: The Unknown Quantity | Dispatch Archive
April 16, 2002

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

Anything can happen on a short leg in the Volvo Ocean Race and boy oh boy, have we seen it already! Mr. and Mrs. McDonald put the entire fleet in their place and started without them. Well, that’s not strictly true, of course. (Actually the entire fleet started without Mr. and Mrs. McDonald.) But the McDonalds [respective skippers of Assa Abloy and Amer Sports Two] made the right call. To cross the start line early—as did all other entries, with the exception of Assa Abloy and Amer Sports Two—is the “cardinal sin.” It is what happens when people are thinking of the finish line instead of the start line!

The whole psyche of the teams is now in a “OK. Let’s forget the start line and concentrate on the finish line before we have even left Port” state of mind. And, therein lies the problem with short legs in a 36,000-mile [60,560-kilometer] race. It is difficult for the skipper and crew to switch between the two mindsets. The mindset is on “racing around the world,” and here are the crews waking up and setting off on a little jaunt up the coast. The short legs are, in my opinion, a mistake. You could argue that they add a little spice, a little match racing. But, quite frankly, if you want match racing, then go and watch the America’s Cup.

Their hearts and souls are prepared for a “gladiatorial battle” against the wildest oceans of the globe and the best teams in the world. And here they are having a little trot up the coast. It is, of course, interesting for the spectator. But the strain on the teams themselves is truly immense and cannot be underestimated. It is this strain that will see normally top class crews make silly mistakes and teams that have been at the back of the fleet seeing an opportunity and going for it. This could be considered to be “fair.” Surely letting everyone have a chance at winning is fair?

However, this race is about planning and preparation, training and readiness for long distance racing. Millions of dollars spent in anticipation of doing what no-one else can do. However, the biggest test has just begun.

This is the reason that most of the fleet were careless enough to cross the start line before the gun. The crews just want to get home now. They are already dreaming of racing, racing long distance, racing around the world again…with no short legs to distract them.

—Tracy Edwards

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Six boats restart Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race in Miami, Florida, after committing the “cardinal sin” of a false start. Photograph by Rick Tomlinson

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