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Amer Sports Too: Best is yet to come

Lisa McDonald
McDonald: "We are learning as we race and our crew is evolving"  

LONDON, England (CNN) -- With 70 percent of the Volvo Ocean Race to go, skipper Lisa McDonald tells CNN the world has not yet seen the best from Amer Sports Too.

Q: What do you think of the boat's performance so far in the race?

A: In leg 3 we missed the 24-hour distance record by only 1.32 nautical miles. Illbruck sailed 327.73 nautical miles in a 24 hour period and we sailed 326.39. That is encouraging, even though because of our pit stops we sailed the distances on different days, maybe even in different conditions. However, we are looking at our performance overall and, although I have yet to check the figures, there is a chance had we been able to leave in a similar time frame as the other six yachts we might have given djuice a fright across the Tasman. In terms of boat speed in general, we are still developing. Katie Pettibone is doing a great job with the sail programme and we expect some more positive results in future.

Q: In which legs do you expect to do well?

A: In ideal circumstances the process of crew selection and training would have taken place a few months before the start. The team is growing in confidence in the boat and equipment all the time and crew work is improving fast. When we're back in the Atlantic there's a good chance we will take some scalps. In light to medium air, boat-on-boat sailing we have proved to be very competitive.

Q: How much time did you lose by stopping at Maria Island for parts for your forestay?

A: The time lost to pick up the parts -- because the rules require that a yacht must make the pick-up no more than one nautical mile from land -- was probably three to four hours. Then, because of the detour into Maria Island, we lost the breeze for the day and as a consequence lost a lot of miles.

As we were sailing into Storm Bay on the approaches to the Derwent River when the rest of the fleet were sailing out. We were then quite a way behind, but the weather forecasts showed that the leaders could expect a very light night. And that's what they got and it's likely we could have closed the gap significantly. Then in Hobart we discovered the damage to the rudder and that chance was lost. That really hurt.

Q: How much of a handicap is it sailing a boat designed for men?

A: That's a very valid question. The honest answer is without having the necessary time and money for research and development we don't really know. But in ideal circumstances we would change the winch gear ratios to make them easier for us to use. We would alter the height of the wheel to make it less tiring on smaller people. The same for the grinders. Basically, we would make the boat more user friendly for us. We learned that with Mighty Mary in the America's Cup. We built a boat where all the winch gearing and the height of everything made all the difference to us. Later Prada bought the boat for training and the men all got back aches from having to bend and stoop. There certainly are ways and means of making boats user friendly. But then the decisions on which crew was sailing which boat was not made until three weeks before the start. There was no time.

Katie and I looked into this race quite seriously more than a year ago and we wanted to take it on only if we had the money to do the research and development. But then the opportunity came up with Amer Sports Too and we thought it would be better to do this race than wait another four years. Miss one generation of this race and we would be even further behind.

Q:What are the key issues for the race as far as you are concerned?

A: This race is all about good management of a team and trying to get optimum performance out of the team and the boat. You would expect that those who have more experience and more time to work on both boat and crew will perform better. Look around at some of the men, Grant Dalton for example, who has six round-the-world races under his belt. You can't compare that experience with someone who has done one or two.


• Crew changes for two Volvo teams
January 10, 2001

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