Crew chooses bigger picture


Volvo racer Amer Sports Too, battered by a collision with a shark and rough weather, pulled out of the Sydney-Hobart race for repairs so she could rejoin the Volvo round-the-world race, officials said yesterday. Assa Abloy won a late duel with defending champion and fellow Swedish entry Nicorette to claim line honours on Saturday.

There was only 47 minutes between Assa Abloy and seventh-place Illbruck, winner of the first two legs of the Volvo ocean race.

Stragglers in the 630 nautical mile race down Australia's east coast are not expected to finish until Wednesday, with more rough weather awaiting the back markers.

Eight Volvo-class 60-footers were competing in the Sydney-Hobart as part of the third leg of their round-the-world race, from Sydney to Auckland. The Volvo class yachts had only 31/2 hours in Hobart before setting off across the Tasman Sea for Auckland.

Lisa McDonald - wife of Neal McDonald on Assa Abloy - was set to rejoin the Volvo race yesterday after making extensive repairs to a rudder on Amer Sports Too.

The boat, with an all-woman crew, hit two submerged objects, one of which they believed was a Great White shark, as they entered Bass Strait between mainland Australia and Tasmania.

"I was steering at the time," said crew member Emma Westmacott. "The wheel just spun out of my hands. One of the others looked over the back and saw a shark or something float out from under the boat."

Under Volvo race rules, major repairs cannot be made until after boats start each leg of the race. Amer Sports Too lost several hours while it made its way to the start line and then turned straight around and headed back to Hobart, where its cracked rudder was replaced.

With her rivals well into the Tasman after leaving Hobart mid-afternoon on Saturday, Amer Sports Too now has virtually no chance of catching the rest of the fleet on the way to Auckland.

The Volvo boats filled five of the top six places in the Sydney-Hobart. Bermudan boat Tyco's fourth place in the race was not recorded because its crew breached safety rules.

That ruling did not affect Tyco's standing in the round-the-world race. Team SEB pulled out of both the Sydney-Hobart and the Volvo third leg after suffering extensive rudder damage.