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Crew changes on Assa Abloy- Skipper Neal McDonald looks ahead

by Volvo ocean race media on 6 Mar 2002
For leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race, 4450 nautical miles from Rio de
Janeiro to Miami, Assa Abloy Racing Team had planned only one crew change,
bringing back Chris Larson from the USA, who sailed with the team on their
victorious leg from Sydney to Auckland, winning the CYCA Sydney Hobart
race en route. But now, in an unscheduled move, they must replace their
Spanish crewmember, Guillermo Altadill, who returns home for family
reasons.

In his place, the team has brought on Mikey Howard, or Big Mike
as many people know him. Skipper Neal McDonald says Big Mike is a very
experienced sailor, as well as being good fun and very fit, and he is
confident that Mikey will be a great addition to the team.

“Chris Larson was not able to do the last leg, he had commitments in
America for sailing” explains McDonald. “His return is much looked forward
to. Guillermo has had more family problems. He really hasn’t had an easy
race and certainly for this leg he won’t be able to come with us, which
means we have to do an unplanned change.”

McDonald will miss the wealth of experience provided by Guillermo. “He
was a huge asset for us in the Southern Ocean this time, he’s done an
awful lot of sailing down there and I’ve been down there with him myself a
few times. He’s been with the campaign a long time, he’s helped develop
the sail programme. He’s a good guy so he will be sadly missed. We are
keeping an open mind and hoping that things will allow him to come back.”

But, Big Mike, has plenty of skills to offer. McDonald says he will bring
new thoughts on crew maneuvers, new blood and more power. Mikey has done
a lot of big boat racing and sailed onboard Sayonara in the 1998 Sydney to
Hobart race where they did so well to get there in such good shape.
Although it was an unplanned crew change, McDonald is confident that it
will go very smoothly.

Jason Carrington will also be back onboard Assa Abloy for this leg after
making a good recovery from the illness that left him unconscious and
worried during leg three from Sydney to Auckland. “It's never nice to be
sick on a boat and, when it happens quite quickly like that, it is a bit
of a shock” explains a now fit and healthy Carrington. “It was very much
brought on by being pretty stressed in Sydney, trying to get the boat
together and leaving there tired. Then the Hobart was tough and we had the
three-hour pit-stop and then were off again, which made it extremely
tough. About 24 hours after Hobart I felt very run down and I started
feeling a bit giddy. I told the guys I wasn't feeling right and then,
about 10 minutes after that, I collapsed and went into shock, shaking and
passing out and coming around.”

Of course getting sick is always horrible, but being ill on a race boat is
unimaginable as well as frightening. “The worse thing about it” says
Carrington “is that the watch system breaks down and you feel so hopeless.
You feel you are letting everybody down and there's nothing you can do
about it. Mickey Joubert, the other bowman, for example, had to do every
single sail change, so he was doing double shifts the whole time. Although
he could go down below, he was fully kitted-up, lying in the bilge ready
to go, and I was in his bunk and it was horrible - it just felt terrible.
That was the worst part of it.”

Carrington is now in Rio, running every day and in great shape. His team
is pleased to have him back.

Neal McDonald is the man in charge, onboard Assa Abloy. McDonald, whose
wife Lisa is the skipper of the all female team sailing Amer Sports Too,
is the British sailor who took over as skipper of Assa Abloy from Roy
Heiner in Cape Town. He has now completed three legs of the Volvo Ocean
Race as the man in charge. He says he’s enjoying parts of his new role,
but like any job, there are good and bad aspects. “It’s pretty intense”
he explains. “It’s difficult, you can’t just relax and just say ‘this is
fantastic, what a lovely day’s sailing’ – it’s never really quite like
that. The intensity of the competition works both ways. Sometimes it is
thrilling and fantastic, and some times it is downright disappointing. Of
course those two feelings are pretty directly proportional to where you
are in the fleet at the time”.

Assa Abloy will start leg five to Miami on Saturday feeling confident and
strong and definitely looking for another place on the podium.
WindBot-COACH-660x82Naiad 660x82px_TouristPredictwind - Iridium

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