A final act of Piracy
by Volvo Ocean Race on 18 Jun 2006
Jerry Kirby on the bow of The Black Pearl smiles at supporters on the dock after the Pirates of the Caribbean won Leg 9 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-6. ©Martin Stockbridge Volvo Ocean Race/Paul Todd©
Paul Cayard was apologetic afterwards for his final act of Piracy, but his crew did what they had to do to win the final leg of the 2005/2006 Volvo Ocean Race, stealing away what would have been a fairytale final victory for ABN AMRO TWO.
Snared like a hapless fly in a spider's web as the arachnid sucked out its bodily fluids, there was simply nothing the youngsters on the white boat could do as they watched, windless, as the Black Pearl arrived from over the horizon and inexorably passed on the wings of a new breeze.
ABN AMRO TWO fought back at the Trubaduren lighthouse, the final turn of the course, coming in on a tighter angle and with more breeze, and for a heart stopping moment it looked like Seb Josse might just sneak through. But the ice-cool Cayard closed the gate and ABN AMRO TWO was forced to follow in their wake all the way to the finish, matching gybe for gybe for the next hour to the gun.
As the channel became more compressed, the Swedish Marines, Coastguard and Police boats did a good job clearing a path through the thousands of spectator boats, but they were limited what they could do for ABN AMRO TWO and several times the bigger, beamier white boat was left bouncing in the chop kicked up by the armada.
On the light downwind leg to the final , Pirates also was better powered with a newer, more optimised light wind gennaker, giving them just a fraction more speed.
The difference between the two in the end was down to just four minutes and 50 seconds.
Cayard was delighted to finish on a high note, joking that he was spurred to pass ABN AMRO TWO by the knowledge his mother in law was expected to be on the dock waiting, but also hinted that this could be his last Volvo Race, 'If I were to go out then I couldn't hope for a better way to do it than like this.
'It is just incredible to see so many people out here interested in sailing. It just doesn't happen in my country.
'It was a hard ride, a lot harder than it was eight years ago for me; this is a young man's game. But experience counts and I have done this race before, and that really helps. I am used to big teams through the America's Cup and the evolution of big teams which helped early on. Whatever, though, ABN AMRO ONE is so fast that even if we had trained for a year ahead of time then I think that they would have beaten us.'
Cayard, now with a first and a second in the Whitbread and the Volvo, treads cautiously on the subject of the race's future appeal, 'Things have to evolve. I know the Whitbread went from three or four classic stops, Cape Town, Australia, New Zealand, Rio, but things change in this world and there are a lot of markets in Asia which would be pleased to see these boats, and they'd probably put out a crowd as big or bigger than this.
‘On a personal side I am happy that I did the race as it was, the old way, the icebergs and the Southern Ocean, because that is the real round the world experience. Even this time we did not go very far south. But on a commercial side and as a professional sailor I am happy they are looking that they are looking at trying to make the smart move.
'And if we go to Asia, we get to come to San Francisco and I would love to drive this thing right through the Golden Gate Bridge, that's for sure.'
Second was a bittersweet result for ABN AMRO TWO. The relief and delight at finishing, and realising the measure of their achievement was palpable, washing away any immediate disappointment at having been beaten by Pirates.
'It is an important result for the guys, for their heads, to come away with a podium, knowing what they did and what we can do.' Smiled Seb Josse, 'There was nothing we could do. We sailed well all the leg. We have had a bad time over the last three legs of this race, not really lucky, so this is important, coming back on the podium. It is not a bad result for about. It is brilliant for us.'
'It was close in the end. Frustrating as it was to be beaten by the Pirates, it is good to finish on a high note.' Simon Fisher concurred.
'We really struggled for weather info to start with and so it was back to basic met for Seb and I working out where the wind was coming from and where the centre of the low was and therefore what it was going to do next, so I think we did quite a quite a good job there.'
Brasil 1 followed Pirates down the final charge on the new breeze, but they could not catch ABN AMRO TWO and had to settle for third on the leg, and with that third overall for their first ever Brazilian entry in the race.
'I think third is an excellent result for the team. We went through a lot of difficulties, and had really very little experience, so I think third overall is a good result.
'On the leg we knew it was going to be very hard to achieve the result we needed and so we pushed very hard. But the weather was not allowing us to have a jump on the others so it was always very close. And then when the fleet separated the boats lost a lot of ground and we needed at least one of them to be between us and the Americans, ABN AMRO TWO went to the Danish shore and passed us and then we tried to pass them, and ended up losing to Pirates.
'We could not be everywhere at once, but I think the result is very fair and we are pleased with what we have achieved.' Skipper Torben said,
'I think this has been really well received in Brasil. A lot of media and by a lot of people who don't know about sailing and the race. It's a good chance of doing this race again or something else. It is a milestone for sailing in Brasil.'
Fourth across the finish line is the best result of the race for Brunel, navigator Will Oxley partially atoning for his mistake on the last leg when he misinterpreted the course instructions and missed a mark of the course, resulting in a retirement, 'I think fourth is a good result for us, probably as good as we could expect with this boat in the conditions. The guys sailed really well and were really motivated and focussed.
'We found a very good upwind mode, but as soon as we are going downwind VMG running, we have to watch them go past, very painful indeed. The crew sailed very well indeed and it is good to put in a performance. Nice to end up on a good note.' Said Oxley.
Fifth for Neal McDonald's Swedish-flagged Ericsson was definitely not the result they wanted on their return to their home port, 'It could have been better.' Admitted Ericssson's navigator Andrew Cape, 'No, the start wasn't it, we made a strategy and that didn't work, but we got right back into it. The weather router went a bit flaky and I made a bad call, the way I read something, and we are a statistic.'
Finally, the heroes of the day, arrived to a rapturous welcome. Mike Sanderson and the victorious crew of ABN AMRO ONE finished and arrived at the dock with big, gold, chocolate medals, before receiving the Fighting Finish trophy.
'It was a slow bus to get to the party; sorry' quipped Sanderson, 'We lost a bit off our keel and got behind, and then we had to try something a little extreme and hit a corner and it didn't work.
'We didn't lose the leg, we won the Volvo Ocean Race today.
'Our aim on this leg was just to get here on the same day as the others and we did that. It is a very special day, a dream come true. Who cares about this leg? We won the Volvo Race. There is nothing wrong with today. We got a sixth on the first (In Port race) leg in Sanxenxo and so we felt we had to keep the score card balanced.'
And with that, the parties really began. Gothenburg's finishing armada was truly awesome, rightly so for the race's triumphant homecoming.