Kiwi hit hard by tragic death of Bri­tish sailor

Daryl Wis­lang re­veals the loss of John Fisher made it ‘the tough­est leg I’ve raced’, re­ports Dun­can John­stone.

Sunday News - - SPORT -

NEWZealand round the world race vet­eran Daryl Wis­lang can’t re­mem­ber a tougher leg than the one the fleet en­dured across the South­ern Ocean where a Bri­tish sailor lost his life.

Wis­lang re­turns to Brazil from a brief break in New Zealand with mixed emo­tions as the Volvo Ocean Race re­sumes next week­end.

There’s joy at his Chi­nese en­try Dongfeng Race Team grab­bing a slen­der lead as the busi­ness end of the race gets un­der way. But his heart is still heavy over the death of John Fisher, who was lost over­board from Hong Kong boat Scal­ly­wag in treach­er­ous con­di­tions as the boats raced from New Zealand to­wards Cape Horn and on up to Ita­jai in Brazil.

Wis­lang, a fa­ther of two, is in his fourth round the world epic, hav­ing won the 2014-15 edi­tion aboard Aby Dhabi Rac­ing. His blue wa­ter rac­ing ex­tends be­yond this odyssey but he has never ex­pe­ri­enced the emo­tions of the past few weeks.

‘‘It’s the tough­est leg I’ve raced for sure ... more so men­tally than phys­i­cally,’’ Wis­lang said of the ef­fect that Fisher’s dis­ap­pear­ance had on him, his fel­low crew and the en­tire fleet.

‘‘It’s a ter­ri­ble tragedy and ob­vi­ously you feel deeply sad­dened by the news ... for John’s fam­ily and also how it af­fects you, es­pe­cially hav­ing a fam­ily of your own.

‘‘That makes it pretty hard, it’s very close to home.’’

Wis­lang, a watch cap­tain, said the tragedy had an im­pact on per­for­mance as they raced on re­al­is­ing what had un­folded be­hind them.

‘‘It was a dif­fi­cult time just after the news came through,’’ he said of bal­anc­ing risk and re­ward on the slick boats that were re­peat­edly hit by weather fronts.

‘‘It’s a big re­spon­si­bil­ity of the watch cap­tain and skip­per (Charles Cau­drel­lier) to man­age the boat and the crew in a sea­man- like way so ev­ery­one is safe and the boat is safe. You may not think it af­fects you but deep down it re­ally does. It makes you think about what you are do­ing. In­stead of think­ing twice about some­thing you are prob­a­bly think­ing three or four times about do­ing some­thing.

‘‘It is an ex­tra large cau­tion for evey­one.’’

Wis­lang was try­ing to put some per­spec­tive on things when he added: ‘‘Ev­ery­one knows the risks that we take when we go out there and do it. It’s re­mark­ably more safe than walk­ing down the street ... you’re more likely to get hit by a car than die on the ocean do­ing what we do.’’

Wis­lang ap­plauded the de­ci­sion by Scal­ly­wag to con­tinue in the race. They landed in Chile, re­tir­ing from the leg, and a re­place­ment crew took the boat on to Brazil. But they will be in­volved in the fi­nal four legs, de­ter­mined to race on in Fisher’s mem­ory. ‘‘I don’t think there are any words that can tell how they were feel­ing. They had to work through their emo­tions as a team and as a group and stay­ing to­gether is a big part of that,’’ Wis­lang said.

‘‘We dis­cussed it on our boat and that was the gen­eral feel­ing – if it was to hap­pen to one of us, that we would want the crew to carry on if they could.

‘‘But it was all about if they could. You can never say you will carry on, you have to as­sess the men­tal state of the crew to carry on, be­cause if it’s not there it be­comes even more dan­ger­ous to carry on.’’

The South­ern Ocean took its toll on boats as well with Ves­tas 11th Hour Rac­ing de­masted and also re­tir­ing from the leg. Span­ish en­try Mapfre, who had been lead­ing the race with Kiwi Blair Tuke on board, also had mast and sail is­sues that saw them limp into Ita­jai in last place on the leg and sur­ren­der­ing their over­all lead to Wis­lang’s Dongfeng. VOLVO OCEAN RACE

‘‘We have a one-point lead, that’s bet­ter than five points be­hind as we were. Four legs left and there’s go­ing to be a full dog­fight from here I think,’’ Wis­lang said with the next leg tak­ing the fleet to New­port on the east coast of the United States.

Wis­lang said there was an el­e­ment of managing the boat acoss the South­ern Ocean. It was a strat­egy that worked for him last time with his ma­jor op­po­nent de­mast­ing and hand­ing him a lead in Brazil that even­tu­ally saw them win the race.

‘‘We were push­ing the boat but at the same time just main­tain­ing the risk level,’’ he said of the last leg. ‘‘We had a lot to lose and we didn’t want to have a big prob­lem. It was about get­ting the boat to Cape Horn in one piece and then putting the throt­tle down from there.

‘‘It proved a big dif­fer­ence last time.

‘‘The big leg is the one we have just had and mak­ing sure you don’t have a ‘a ma­jor’ was the goal from day one for us. Be­ing in the hunt in Brazil was one of the main goals for our team.

‘‘We have achieved that, now we have to make the most of it.’’

‘ It’s a ter­ri­ble tragedy and ob­vi­ously you feel deeply sad­dened by the news.’ DARYL WIS­LANG

Daryl Wis­land works the main­sheet on board Chi­nese en­try Dongfeng Race Team dur­ing the Volvo Ocean Race.

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