Race charts new course

Volvo back in three years with new ports

ABN Amro One takes trophy

Volvo Ocean Race

June 18, 2006|By CANDUS THOMSON | CANDUS THOMSON,SUN REPORTER

Hours before the first of the multimillion-dollar yachts in the Volvo Ocean Race crossed the finish line in Goteborg, Sweden, yesterday, seven months and five days after they started, race organizers removed any doubt about the competition's future.

Not only will there be another global circumnavigation, but it will also return in three years, a break in the traditional four-year cycle, and include new ports of call.

"This is an exciting time in the long and proud history of the Volvo Ocean Race," said Glenn Bourke, chief executive of the race, as he unveiled the outline for a bigger, bolder competition. "We felt it was prudent to add new territories to consolidate the race's position as a truly global sport spectacle."

As in 2002, the overall winner built an insurmountable lead long before the conclusion of the 36,000-mile race. That didn't make it any less satisfying for the Dutch entry, ABN Amro One, nicknamed "Black Betty" and skippered by Mike Sanderson.

"This is the best dream for all of us," said Sanderson, as he hoisted the Waterford crystal trophy, "Fighting Finish."

The Disney-backed Pirates of the Caribbean, skippered by American sailing legend Paul Cayard, won the final 570-mile leg that started Thursday in Rotterdam, Netherlands. The win - the first for the Pirate boat - secured runner-up status overall.

"This couldn't have been scripted better by anyone in Hollywood," said Cayard, who won the race eight years ago when it was known as the Whitbread. "We were one of the most consistent boats, with 11 podium places. That's smart sailing."

In the final miles, Cayard had his hands full with ABN Amro Two, the boat crewed by young sailors who stayed in the race after the drowning death of their helmsman. The Dutch boat finished 4 minutes, 50 seconds back, good for fourth overall. Brazil 1 finished third in the final leg and overall.

But even as the dockside celebration started, organizers and potential competitors were already looking ahead.

"The good news is, yes, they are doing it again," said Gregory H. Barnhill, president of Ocean Race Chesapeake, the host of the Baltimore and Annapolis stopover in April.

But Barnhill, in Sweden to watch the race's finish, said the organization has not decided whether to bid for a fourth consecutive Maryland stopover.

Sander Schuurman, marketing manger for ABN Amro, an international banking company, said his executives are "fully hooked on to sailing" and will announce Thursday whether they will field an entry for the next race.

Bourke said the race, which has followed the same basic track for much of its 33-year existence, will steer a new course, with stopovers in the Middle East, Asia and a U.S. city on the West Coast under consideration.

And unlike recent races in which Volvo struggled to field a respectable fleet, Bourke said he already had two confirmed entries in hand.

Volvo injected drama into this season's race by ditching tried-and-true 60-foot racers in favor of a new breed of carbon-fiber yachts capable of blistering speeds. The result was a series of new distance records and the shortening of the race by nearly a month. But with that speed came a series of spectacular breakdowns that started on the first leg and ended May 21, with the sinking of the Spanish entry, Movistar and the high-seas rescue of its 10-man crew.

Days earlier, Hans Horrevoets was swept overboard ABN Amro Two and drowned in the North Atlantic.

"Life at the extreme," Bourke said at a news conference. "In this race, that has proved to be a reality." candy.thomson@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Annie Linskey and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

Final standings

Yacht Points

ABN Amro One 96

Pirates of the Caribbean 73

Brazil 1 67

ABN Amro Two 58.5

Ericsson Racing Team 55

Movistar 48

Brunel 15.5

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