Sea throws curves, but ASSA rallies

Bad luck slows challenge to Tyco for second in leg


March 26, 2002|By Chris Larson | Chris Larson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

ABOARD ASSA ABLOY — Volvo Ocean Race overall leader illbruck Challenge of Germany, currently leading Leg 5 from Rio de Janeiro to Miami, is expected to arrive in Florida as early as tonight.

Meanwhile, Annapolis sailor Chris Larson, tactition aboard Sweden's ASSA ABLOY, details recent encounters while battling Bermuda's Team Tyco for second place. Larson's update, filed yesterday from north of the Turks and Caicos Islands, follows.

ABOARD ASSA ABLOY - We've been locked into head-to-head combat with Tyco for second place since the start of the leg. The last few days have been very trying, with every inch deciding the relative positions of the boats.

Two days ago, we rounded Barbuda, a turning mark, leaving it to port and allowing us to turn more toward the Bahamas and Miami. Since then, it has been an uphill battle with many obstacles to overcome.

Just before Barbuda in the middle of the night, we had to navigate past a ship that was laying cable on the ocean floor. At night, this can be a little more difficult than usual. It did not cost us too much distance, but did have us preoccupied for some time.

Next came the lobster trap that we caught on our keel. We noted the pot well off to leeward and thought we were clear of it; unfortunately we weren't. Murphy's Law, of course! Fortunately, as we were preparing to take the spinnaker down, the trap-line broke and we were able to continue on our way.

Then there was a poorly executed jibe, forcing us to drop the asymmetrical spinnaker and re-hoist a new asymmetrical. It seemed as if everywhere we stepped. there were land minds.

The final blow came later that evening as we sailed under spinnaker with Tyco 1.5 miles behind. It had been raining for about three hours and the winds were semi-stable. All of a sudden, we ran into a zone of danger with no wind! We were trapped in a huge squall line, and we sat helpless and watched Tyco sail over the top of us.

Since we got going again, we've been nipping at their coattails, but haven't been able to get past them. We've pulled up to within a half-mile several times, but they always seem to get a little shift and pull back out to a 2.5-mile lead.

The good news is that we're still working hard to gain every inch and pass Tyco for second place. Illbruck has enjoyed a small lead of approximately 25 miles.

One thing for sure is that it will be a photo-finish, and we're going to do everything possible to make sure we cross the line in second place.

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