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A wounded fleet and Day 20 Boat Blogs

by Lucy Harwood and various VOR competitors on 31 Oct 2008
Gabriele Olivo/Equipo Telefonica/Volvo Ocean Race. Telefonica Blue in rough seas on the final stretch of leg 1 to Cape Town, in the Volvo Ocean Race Volvo Ocean Race© http://www.volvooceanrace.com

The Volvo Ocean Race last night saw the fleet battle squalls, a volatile sea and all of this, whilst trying to keep the boat en route for Cape Town at the fastest speed possible in the pitch black. Ericsson 4 stormed away from the fleet, making history by breaking the 600 mile barrier.

Torben Grael and his crew clocked up a whopping 602 miles in a 24 hour period, the afterburners continue burn and they are still on the express train to Cape Town.

Elsewhere on the race course, it was an eventful evening as the storm took its toll and the war of attrition began. For the crew onboard Green Dragon it was a very long night.

Ian Walker updated us on the night’s events. 'I don’t really know where to start, as the last 24 hours has been so incident packed. I guess I’ll start at the beginning, which was a tale of various nosedives in increasingly disturbed seas yesterday. This has lead to various bodily injuries all of which are manageable. The luckiest man on the boat is Guo Chuan our Chinese crew member. In one nosedive he managed to fly from the companionway, head over heels once or twice and end up head first upside down in the rubbish bag in the galley - a distance of approximately 5 metres forward and 2 down. Andrew pulled him out by his legs and he was unscathed apart from a new nickname - the ‘Cannonball’. Not content with this he was on deck for the next one, and face planted into a winch - his nose has seen better days but he is still fine, he insists!

Back on the race track the front has outrun us, we had a 60 degree shift which meant we had to gybe south. We were settling into this course when at 0130 we hit something in the water. There was a deafening crunch and the boat went from 25 knots to a virtual standstill. Neal, who was helming smashed the wheel and everyone else fell over. We inspected the hull, foils and keel for damage as best we could and all seemed fine apart from a huge vibration - presumably caused by whatever was now on the keel. We decided to live with this until daylight but a few hours later it seemed to have cleared. Today we can see clearly on the keel that we hit something hard - thank goodness it wasn’t the rudders or they would have been broken. By now people are getting tired after two gybes and all this excitement. To make matters worse at first light today we buried the bow so hard the A6 spinnaker came back and smashed into the pulpit and forward stanchions before ripping to pieces. Our resident sail maker Phil Harmer thinks he can fix it in a day, which is good news, as we need it ASAP. The metalwork can wait until Cape Town. Somehow Ericsson 3 seems to have carried on in the north wind, which confounds the fact that they were west of us as the front passed over. This and all our escapades means we have lost 3rd place for now. The Green Dragon is wounded but far from slain - we will continue to push as hard as we sensibly can. Right now it is over 30 knots again and it will be for the next 24 hours at least'.

Green Dragon were not alone in the damage inflicted overnight; but it was Telefonica Black that suffered the most. Besides some broken sails, they suffered a huge wipe out, breaking a rudder, daggerboard and bowsprit, and shredding their spinnaker in the process. They have lost some time on the course but with an emergency rudder now fitted they are back on track for Cape Town lying in sixth 463 miles behind Ericsson 4.

Volvo’s race weather forecaster, Jennifer Lilly talks through the approach to Cape Town; 'The winds will ease to the mid 20s today, the late teens tomorrow and finally fall to around 10 knots over the weekend. Without a doubt the fleet is expected to slow as they approach Cape Town, but it looks possible that the leaders will slow more than the followers. The big question on everyone’s minds will be: how much can the trailing teams gain…'

It is the Nordic crew onboard Ericsson 3 that are currently the Dragon’s biggest threat for a podium position. They have racked up the miles over the last two days, leaving both the Telefoncia boats and Green Dragon in her wake. She has a 100 mile lead over the Dragon but the battle is far from over. Volvo’s performance expert Mark Chisnell talked through some of the issues ahead: 'If PUMA and Ericsson 3 hang in the north too long, it could open a passing lane to the south. The +3 Day Predicted Distance to Leader has PUMA and Green Dragon dead even – and that’s assuming that PUMA bails out of the north imminently – hey, it’s only a forecast, but we can assume that Ken Read will be looking at something similar and getting nervous'.

Leg One Day 20: 1600 GMT Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to leader)

Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) DTF 1122
Puma Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) +75
Ericsson 3 SWE (Anders Lewander/SWE) +194
Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian Walker/GBR) +290
Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) +366
Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) +463
Team Russia RUS (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) +466
Delta Lloyd IRL (Ger O’Rourke/IRL) +470

www.greendragonracing.com
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TELEFÓNICA BLUE LEG ONE DAY 20: received 0918 GMT

The last 24-hours we have been hanging in, not only sailing-wise, but as well you can see that less sleep is taking its toll.

We got rolled by the front last evening, lots of rain and big gust of wind, up to 40 knots. Immediately after the front, the breeze dropped to a teasing 10-15 knots, but the big seas were still present, so we got rocked around heavily.

We decided to dive south and to see if we can make any gains with our approach towards Cape Town and hoping for more pressure. On the mileage table it doesn't look very good, as the leaders still are racing straight to Cape Town. It is painful to look at it, but we have to think long range and how we can get there as quickly as possible. We can see that our team mates on the black boat must have had a mishap, as they slowed down dramatically. I can imagine they tipped it in during the front passage, and it takes a long time to get everything back on the rails after a mishap.

Cheers,

Bouwe Bekking - skipper

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ERICSSON 3 LEG ONE DAY 20 QFB: received 30.10.08 0603 GMT

Summary of last 36 hours:

Passed 2 Telefónica boats.
200 squalls, or sailed in one squall the whole way depending on how you look at it.
New top speed for Ericsson 3.
New max wind speed with spinnaker up - 46 knots. BTW it was during black night in rain and bad sea state. It felt just fine from the navigator's bunk.
Three sail changes within two hours, whereof two involuntarily, costing lots of miles.
11 wet guys.
3 bent and jammed carabinos on harnesses after people being washed along the deck.
Waking up in the bunk with cramp from holding on while asleep.
Waking up in the bunk in front after digging the bow in downwind.
Ended up IN the cold front rather than ahead of it like E4 and Puma.
Dropped off the front and caught up with it again - could be decisive one way or the other.
No spinnaker last night after recalling the night before

Some basic rules inside the boat:
1. Keep your feet at least 1.5 metres apart, you have no idea what the boat's next move will be, but you know it will be abrupt.
2. Never leave an open space ahead of you - you will dive far when we dig the nose in
3. Always hold on to something. When we dig the nose in, it is always as you transfer from one place to hold on to, to another.
4. Do not spend any time forward of the mast (where the galley, foul weather gear and toilet are) - it will be painful..

Aksel Magdahl - navigator
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ERICSSON 4 LEG ONE DAY 20 QFB: received 30.10.08 1121 GMT

Very unlike me to spend too much time at the computer at sea, but I

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