Saturday, April 18, 2009

Telefonica Blue secures comfortable lead in Atlantic drag race

[Source: Volvo Ocean Race] One week from the start in Rio and Telefónica Blue has extended a nice margin over rest of the Volvo fleet, although skipper, Bouwe Bekking, says the fleet will compress again as soon as Telefónica Blue starts sailing in lighter airs.

“It looks tricky ahead, so it is a matter of keeping our eyes open,” he said.

Reaching the Doldrums first and immerging almost painlessly into the northeast trade winds, Telefónica Blue took off on a 20-knot reach, which allowed her to put 106 nm between herself and the rest of the fleet, which continue to swabble for the other podium places.

Currently Ericsson 4 is holding second position from Ericsson 3 and PUMA just two miles behind. Telefónica Black is a further four miles back and Delta Lloyd nine miles. Green Dragon trails the leader by 133 nm. The competition is red hot, no crew is giving an inch, and places on the leaderboard are swapping constantly. Only 27 nm separate second place from the seventh, which leaves the finishing order wide open.

Telefonica Blue crosses the scoring gate in first position. Fernando de Noronha, 16 April 2009. Video copyright Equipo Telefonica

It has been an exciting 24 hours for Ian Walker and the crew of Green Dragon. “First we gained lots of miles in the Doldrums, getting within sight of Ericsson 3 and Telefónica Black at one stage, and then we had a third and final visit from King Neptune as this is the first time that James Carroll has ever sailed across the Equator,” explained Walker. The team has broken the bearings in their starboard steering system, but replacements onboard have been fitted. “Clearly a whole week on the same tack was too much for it,” Walker joked.

Telefónica Black is missing their bowman, Mike Pammenter, who was evacuated from the boat minutes after the start with a suspected broken ankle. Navigator Roger Nilson says the crew is tired. “We have been fighting hard and certainly miss the power and enthusiasm of Mike. We are not the biggest and strongest guys in the fleet,” he said.

According to PUMA’s MCM, Rick Deppe, the sailing is fast, loose and bouncy with the sails eased in what the PUMA crew calls ‘ocean upwind’ trim. Everyone is happy that they are able to point directly towards Boston; there are no gates and islands to worry about and the miles are clicking off quickly now. Daily runs of over 400 nm should be achievable for at least the next three to four days, given the current conditions. Telefónica Blue clocked up 420 nm in the past 24 hours and has 2,905 nm to run to the finish.

Leg Six Day 8: 1300 GMT Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)

1. Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) DTF 2,905 nm
2. Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) +106 nm
3. Ericsson 3 SWE (Magnus Olsson/SWE) +108 nm
4. PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) +108 nm
5. Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) +112 nm
6. Delta Lloyd IRL (Roberto Bermúdez/ESP) +121 nm
7. Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian Walker/GBR) +133 nm
8. Team Russia RUS (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) DNS

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