Volvo Ocean Race Fleet Has Started The Last Leg of The 2009 Race
PUMA, who is now assured second place overall, led the Volvo fleet out of Sandhamn, on the outer edge of the Stockholm archipelago today – a spectacular day where conditions were perfect for the start of the tenth and final leg of the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 to St Petersburg in Russia.
Sailing confidently in 10 -12 knots of breeze, PUMA, Telefónica Blue and Ericsson 4 were the front runners off the start line and a huge spectator crowd needed no excuse to get out on the water and watch what these ocean greyhounds do best. A steady breeze and flat water ensured plenty of white water spilled from the bows as the boats started a leg for the last time, fully powered up and under a cloudless sky.
Leading round both buoys marking the traditional ‘sausage’ before heading to out to sea, the crew of PUMA had set the black boat up perfectly and extended their lead, while behind, Bouwe Bekking’s bowmen wrestled with their heavy code zero sail, which had remained furled and unused on the bow and was slowing the blue boat down. Green Dragon scorched past overall race winner Ericsson 4, who had the pressure put on by sister ship Ericsson 3, while Telefónica Black and Delta Lloyd were in the second string.
Team Russia joined the pack once the racing fleet had completed the inshore loop, to sail, but not to race, homewards to St Petersburg, with owner Oleg Zherebtsov working the bow as he did in the earlier legs of the race.
Although speeds were good as the fleet left Sweden behind, the leg is expected to be predominantly upwind to Russia and race rules allow for Race Director, Jack Lloyd, to shorten the 400-mile course if necessary. The fleet must arrive in St Petersburg on Saturday morning in order to clear customs and pass through two bridges, which will be raised specially in order to let the fleet into the historic city.
PUMA has now clinched second place overall, their performance improving hugely in the second half of the race. Telefónica Blue will take third after losing the battle for second when they finished last in leg nine after going aground in Marstrand, while Ericsson 4 is the runaway leader, winning the race with a leg to spare.
1. Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA): 110.5 points
2. PUMA (Ken Read/USA): 98.5 points
3. Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED): 92.0 points
4. Ericsson 3 (Magnus Olsson/SWE): 73.5 points
5. Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR): 64.0 points
6. Telefónica Black (Fernando Echávarri/ESP): 50.0
7. Delta Lloyd (Roberto Bermudez/ESP): 39.5 points
8. Team Russia (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT): 10.5 points
TELEFÓNICA BLUE LEG TEN DAY 1 QFB: received 25.6.09 2044 GMT
We just tacked with Ericsson 4 just few minutes after us. The last three hours have been a bit up and down, the wind was shifting quite a bit from something like 20 to 60 degrees TWD. The two Ericsson boats managed to climb up quite well on us thanks to some lifting puffs and we did the same thing to PUMA. We’re only 200 metres in front of Ericsson 4, nearly one mile in front of Ericsson 3 and same distance behind PUMA. We’re now all on port for another 30 minutes or so, after that we’ll all tack again towards the channel. Everyone is hiking hard pushing the boat. It’s going to be pretty long.
Gabri Olivo – MCM
GREEN DRAGON LEG TEN DAY 1 QFB: received 25.06.09 1616 GMT
Here we go again – sailing upwind and slowly losing miles. I will not miss this when the race ends. Fortunately, it cannot last for days, as St Petersburg is less than 300 miles away.
What a great city Stockholm is – it is definitely another place on my list that I will need to come and visit again. That city is built to host maritime events and the Archipelago is built for cruising. After the long but picturesque motor to the start off Sandhamn, we made a good start to the leg and enjoyed holding off Ericsson 4 and others for a leg or two. Now everybody is engaged in a drag race on port tack and we are nearly halfway to Estonia. Hopefully, something will change in the weather at some point to shake up proceedings. For now, it is a question of doing the best we can to stay in touch with the other boats. The conditions are perfect with flat water, medium winds and sunshine – who knows maybe we can get to St Petersburg without getting wet?
Ian Walker – skipper
ERICSSON 3 LEG TEN DAY 1 QFB: received 25.06.09 1800 GMT
I was a bit pessimistic in the first blog. I guess I was tired and Stockholm was too good to leave without a sad feeling. But once we got outside Sandhamn to the starting area, the mood got better.
Sun, flat water and 15 knots of breeze would make anyone happy. Unfortunately, we did not come of the start line in a good way. We were stuck with no speed and our poor positioning did not improve by an override with the sheet for the headsail. But we sorted it out quickly and once we had rounded the last mark, we were just a couple of metres after Ericsson 4, with PUMA and Telefónica Blue a bit further in front.
Now, at 1800, the positioning is pretty much the same. The Russians are behind us to leeward, Delta Lloyd and Green Dragon are straight to leeward. PUMA is still in front and Telefónica Blue and Ericsson 4 are following closely behind.
The most action-filled incident we had so far was when our Finnish guest had to jump overboard. Mason helped her get the drysuit on, then he led her down to leeward, lifted her up and held her with one arm above the surface until he thought the chaseboat was close enough. Then he let her go. Splash and gone! You really understand why you don’t want to fall overboard from one of these boat. To turn around and pick someone up would just take ages
Magnus has cheered up a bit and is now smiling more. He still tired and he knows this will be though. “It’s a bit of an anticlimax but we have to fight on and finish this race in a good way”, he says.
On the last legs we have had a big problem with tiredness. People just don’t get enough sleep. This time we are going to use the ‘standby watch’ system a bit more and everyone will get down to rest as soon as they can.
Gustav Morin – MCM