The following is a collection of posts on the VOR Auckland Stopover Forum as a result of a busy day chatting and observing at the Viaduct Basin. So the questions about sail damage and crews being particularly hard on their boats!! – Shanghai Sailor.

Boatyard Manager 

I spoke with Nick Brice, Boatyard Manager today and sorry to disappoint you guys but no crew has been particularly any harder than any other, they each have had their faults and problems with no one standing out against the rest.  Also with regard to sails, there has been some repair work required but beyond the odd strop breaking all the repairs have been as the result of the sails inappropriately coming into contact with hard, sharp objects and no problems with the 3Di coming apart.

 Halyard locks have been replaced and beefed up as this was a pretty common fault across the fleet. The boatyard has been pretty busy during this stopover but that was always planned as it is roughly half way round and the toughest leg is just ahead of the teams so most of the maintenance was planned, routine and preventative.

 Mr Farr

farr 1While I was in the boatyard I couldn’t help myself giving a sideways glance at a well known face which prompted a look back – then, of course, I just had to introduce myself. The known face was none other than Bruce Farr whose office was responsible for the VO65. Bruce was quick to point out that the commission came at about his retirement and he had to be honest he didn’t have much to do with the design but he accepted it wasn’t a bad swansong to a wonderful design career. Those last words are mine and I have to admit to being a fan of his – hard not to be with the magnificent Steinlager 2 sitting in the basin outside.

There is a wonderful story about her design and how the race was effectively won before the boats were wet. Sir Peter Blake, as he was leaving the Farr offices one day asked what difference would it make if the boat was fractional instead of masthead. He received the reply a few days later that she could be a couple of feet longer and still rate as an IOR Maxi (no substitute for LWL in a displacement boat) and the rest is history so the problem of a design being uncompetitive straight off the drawing board didn’t start with the last race’s Abu Dhabi – far from it!

 The Boatyard on Facebook

farr 3Quick advert – the girls at the VOR Boatyard asked me to post to you guys to go take a look at ‘The Boatyard’ on Facebook, like it and follow it. As they have been open and forthcoming (and patient) with my questions you keep the SA tribe happy I reckoned it was only fair I should comply with their request.

 Apart from which they are doing sterling work to keep the boats in tip top condition and fully prepared for the next leg when they come in for their stopover ‘pit stop’. Go on, give them a lift – they are the unsung heroes of this race and it will only take a few moments to do so.

 Knut Frostad

Last call of the day was as I was going up the escalator, Lou, Knut Frostad’s PA, was going down the other way. Ah ! I said, I need to see you to book a time with Knut – to which she replied ‘just go in, he’s there’. So I surprised the man and he said let’s chat now.

 Having known him since I did a long interview with him during the Sanya stopover (2011 that is – and it should still be in the SA archives if anyone is interested) I think we have the measure of each other by now and I didn’t want this to be an interview as such in fact my initial words were more of a statement when I said he must be pretty happy with how the race was going so far. He agreed it was probably the most competitive Whitbread/Volvo ever in he had even received feedback that people had made comment that they ‘had, at times, to wait an hour for the next boat to finish’ as if this was cause for complaint.

 We touched on the Vestas rebuild and he told me that this was on schedule for a May completion and the boatyard were confident of meeting all the required deadlines.

 On the subject of the report released in the last 48 hours he was quite open that although VOR commissioned it the panel of three experts were given free rein as it was important for the future safety of the teams – and we were in complete agreement also for other sailors, racing and cruising going forward, that any potential problems be highlighted, brought to the fore and wherever possible addressed.

 (On a personal note, the suggestion that the likes of Stan Honey, who is already responsible for the yellow 1st down line, the NASCAR Flags above the cars and the AC graphics could be ‘induced’ to be part of a report that incorrectly let VOR off the hook if any fault were found is preposterous)

 The subject of Dongfeng’s performance was also discussed and we both found it ironic that at least one other team had refused Dongfeng’s boat as it was the first built so if it was faster they only have themselves to blame and Knut felt that they had found some way to ‘mode’ the boat or perhaps hang on to sails or angles that little bit longer.

 On Facebook, Mark Turner had suggested that perhaps a return to overall time was perhaps on the cards next time thanks to the closeness of the one design racing. Knut’s response was that perhaps as a tie break in future races but if a boat was hugely ahead on elapsed time by the time they got to the later legs they may ease off and provide less exciting racing that the points system which is likely to keep things closer. Certainly the last race and particularly the current edition are both good adverts for the overall points system not being a bad way to go.

I sure we covered one or two other points too – but like I said this was more an impromptu chat that an interview – but the clear impression is that although as a CEO he has a corporate responsibility, Knut Frostad, a former Olympic competitor and Whitbread sailor himself has the passion for the sport that clearly comes through and he surely has to take much of the credit for the move to the way the race is organised in this edition – One Design, The Boatyard, Sail limits etc and resultant benefits which include, but are not limited to, affordability for sponsors and closeness of racing and without which may even have resulted in the demise of the 40 year old even altogether (again my spin not Knut’s)

Team Spirit

farr 2Last call for today (it is 0135 tomorrow already). Sometimes you see things that give a huge clue to something else.  I was idly (that’s a joke in itself I haven’t had a chance to be idle since I got here) watching what looked like huge caterpillars walking down the dock this afternoon.

 These ‘caterpillars’ were sails being taken back to the boats on the shoulders of about 4-6 sailors each. As the Dongfeng Mainsail ambled past I couldn’t help but notice that the number 2 in the line up was Team Director Bruno Dubois. A little while later strolling past that same team’s shorebase I found Li Li (Key Account Director) and Marine Derrin (Operations Manager) lugging heavy tyres on alloy wheels into place for the display for the sponsor’s (Aeolus Tyres) display as they had several guests coming along tomorrow (sorry now today). The shore team guys couldn’t help because, as I already mentioned, they were busy playing caterpillars.

 In the background the team nutritionist (I had to ask what they were doing) were doing a food tasting. They were making sure the guys would have something that was not only the right nutritional balance but tasted right also.

 I am sure the other teams also interlock like this but this team really seem to be completely intermeshed and working as ‘one’. Perhaps that is at least one reason why they are at the front of the fleet.

 Perhaps instead it is luck? But I don’t think so!

See ya on the water