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Cayard Arrives in Carnival

Bob Fisher Reports

São Sebastião, Brazil — Feb. 24, 1998

Paul Cayard
Paul Cayard holds aloft his third Volvo Trophy.
Paul Cayard was totally unprepared for the welcome he received here in the very early hours of Tuesday morning. São Sebastião is a beach resort where the Carnival is almost as big as that of Rio de Janeiro, and to produce a thoroughly local welcome there was a 'Samba-School' band of 24 drummers and a dozen exotic dancers dressed in feathers and sequins — and not much else — on the pontoon. The noise was deafening and frenetic; the effect simply stupendous.

Cayard appeared temporarily overwhelmed. Nothing that the elements had thrown at him in the rigorous 6,670 miles from Auckland, via the sailors' most feared landmark — Cape Horn — had prepared him for the Brazilians' enthusiastic welcome. There had never been anything like it in the 25-year history of the Whitbread. He began to smile, totally infected with the genuine joy around him, and the party on board began as soon as he raised the Volvo Trophy, his third after five legs of the race.

In the cold light of the next day, Cayard was able to look back at the campaign so far. "At the start," he said, "we were an unknown quantity, even unto ourselves. We knew virtually nothing about the race, Rudi (navigator Mark Rudiger) had just had the job of being navigator landed in his lap 10 days before the start. We picked up some of the crew at the last minute — they were very good sailors, but a lot of it was unknown."

Cayard has converted this assembly of raw talent into the most potent force out on the track. He has done so by rapid assimilation of the problems and the ways of dealing with them. He has now a fine appreciation of exactly when to back off to preserve the boat and crew and, in his own word, "when to put the hammer down."

EF Language
EF Language rounding Cape Horn.
One of those occasions was at Cape Horn when he was 40 miles in the lead. He and Rudiger had studied the weather and found that they needed to be further advanced to stay with the good wind. In more than 30 knots of wind (it rose to above 37 knots) they set a masthead spinnaker — the "Big Kahuna," as Cayard calls it — and leapt to a lead of 100 miles. As a result, they maintained the weather pattern and at best led by 640 miles.

When they finished, having backed of on at least one occasion to preserve the rig, they were 514 miles ahead of the next boat. They had been through storms, brushed with icebergs, but had always raced the boat as the opportunities presented. Rudiger called them "opportunists, always ready to evaluate and act on the opportunities."

Cayard is becoming more confident that he can win this race with EF Language. "I am an optimist. I always dreamed I would win the Whitbread. I thought maybe we would be third, fourth or fifth after the first four legs. I thought maybe we would win it on the last leg. So, I am surprised at where we are today."

He explained the way he thought the success had been achieved. "We are fast, we have good boatspeed. I think we are the best-built boat — lightest but stiffest, maybe — and thus have the heaviest keel. We did a lot of homework on our sail programme. Our methodology is a little more disciplined, a systematic approach. That probably comes from me a lot. The sort of way I prepare for the America's Cup."

— Yachting journalist Bob Fisher
lives in Lymington, England

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