Grant Dalton previews leg 2

Amer Sports One's skipper and Southern Ocean regular looks at what's in store

Friday November 9th 2001, Author: Warren Douglas, Location: United Kingdom

Two days before the start of leg 2 and the crews of the Nautor Challenge yachts are thinking about the 25 days of racing that lie ahead on leg two of the Volvo Ocean Race between Cape Town and Sydney.

The Southern Ocean is uppermost in their minds.

That fabled stretch of water, unbroken by any landmass, where wind and currents can whip up massive seas that dwarf the yachts and where mistakes are not easily forgiven.

Amer Sports One skipper Grant Dalton answers frankly when asked if he is looking forward to the Southern Ocean: "No! I will be looking forward to Sydney."

Perhaps he can be forgiven for being less that enthusiastic. He has been there six times before, most recently in January/February this year as skipper of the super catamaran Club Medin The Race. In that event, non-stop around the world, Dalton finished first.

However Dalton concedes that the Southern Ocean offers the most exhilarating sailing in the world. "The sailing is great," he says, "It's very fast. What I don't like is the wet and cold."

Members of his crew - and the crew of Amer Sports Too - say the danger, wet and cold are more than compensated for by days of fast sailing under spinnaker. For those members who have not been there before there is some apprehension.

Dalton says reliability will be the key to success in the Southern Ocean. "In this part of the world it is very easy to break a yacht. We will be very careful - they don't call it the roaring forties and furious fifties for nothing."

From Cape Town yachts will experience moderate winds from the southeast and swing to the southwest after a day.

Dalton says; "It looks like a leg to head south as fast as we can go. However, the weather forecast could easily change by the weekend and tactics could change.

"The secret here is to keep on the weather systems - fall off the back and you can easily be left behind.

"In the last Cape Town start, Swedish Match headed to sea while the rest of the fleet stayed inland and parked very close to Cape Town. Swedish Match caught the breeze and got away."

The finish then was at Fremantle on Australia's west coast. This time the finish is in Sydney and the Volvo Ocean Race organisers have made Eclipse Island, four miles off the coast of Albany in West Australia a mark that the fleet must round.

Depending on the weather, the yachts might go only 51 or 52 degrees south because they must go north to round Eclipse Island. Without that waypoint, the yachts could easily got below 60 degree south, where icebergs are common.

Even so, they could encounter ice and they will almost certainly have snow, hail and sleet.

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