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Volvo Ocean Race – Leg Six Week One summary

by LIzzie Ward on 18 Apr 2009
Telefonica Blue, skippered by Bouwe Bekking (NED) leads thru the scoring gate on Leg 6 to Boston Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race http://www.volvooceanrace.com
The first points of leg six of the Volvo Ocean Race have now been earned, and early yesterday evening, just before darkness fell, Telefónica Blue claimed the maximum of four points as she led the seven-strong Volvo fleet through the gate at Fernando de Noronha.

It is the first time that Telefónica Blue has been in pole position at a gate, and it wasn’t an easy win. Heavy squalls and rain reduced the visibility and, 10 miles before the gate, the breeze dropped from 23 knots to three knots, which sent the heart rates of the crew racing.

Telefónica Blue has led the fleet from the start and skipper Bouwe Bekking is very pleased with the performance of the boat and crew. Reflecting on the first part of the course, he said, 'We can’t see where we made any mistakes, plus, of course, the boat has done a good job for us.'

After leading off the start line in a slow beginning to the sixth leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from Rio to Boston, Telefónica Black (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) gave her lead to sistership Telefónica Blue.


Hours after the start, Telefónica Black had had to evacuate their bowman, Mike Pammenter from South Africa, after he injured his ankle as the boat approached the last turning mark in the Guanabara Bay before heading out to sea.

The accident happened, when, during a manoeuvre, Pammenter’s foot became entangled in the genoa sheet, which then flung him into the mast. Initially it was thought that the ankle was broken, but it has since been confirmed that is just very badly bruised. Telefónica Black now has to sail this leg of the race with a crewman short.

It was day two before the fleet cleared Cape Frio and boat speeds were a miserable three knots at best, with a horrible rolling swell. On day three, 13 April, speeds were up to 14 knots and the fleet was able to steer straight at the mark.

Telefónica Blue had pulled out a healthy 13-knot lead, but Delta Lloyd was tracking her. The fleet had split into two groups. Inshore were Ericsson 4 and Ericsson 3, PUMA and Telefónica Black. On the offshore track were the remaining three boats.

'We want to be on the right hand side of the course,' said Telefónica Blue’s skipper Bouwe Bekking, explaining his tactics. 'We are making some gains now,' he said.

By now, day four, the fleet was thoroughly into the southeast trade winds but they were not living up to their reputation. In fact, champagne sailing it most certainly was not.

The winds varied from seven to 18 knots from every direction and, coupled with this, big clouds had appeared. Some were windy, some were big, some were small and some had no wind at all. The caused mayhem as the fleet tried to avoid them.

'We are just looking for new chances to be the over-taker instead of the over-taken,' wrote Roger Nilson, navigator onboard Telefónica Black.
On day five, the fleet was passing the most eastern tip of Brazil and it was here that the differences between being inshore and being offshore became apparent.

It was a crucial day for the fleet. Telefónica Blue still held the lead, but in a dazzling display, Delta Lloyd swept into second, with Ericsson 4 five miles astern.

Along with the leader, Delta Lloyd had invested in the offshore position, believing the wind would be better further east, and had reaped the benefits. The lone scoring gate on this leg was still 424 nm ahead and it would be a battle for the next two days before the rounding order was established.

Day six was about speed, speed and more speed as the fleet closed on the gate and the valuable points to be had there. There were no passing lanes and no capacity for tactical moves.

As the wind started to pick up, Ericsson 3’s skipper, Magnus Olsson was washed into the steering pedestal by a rogue wave, which left him momentarily stunned and with injured ribs. He managed to climb into his bunk without help saying afterwards, 'I was not prepared for that wave at all. It feels stupid to be hit like this by the first wave that reaches the deck.'

It was an intense night on April 17. After Telefónica Blue had grabbed the leader’s points at the gate, it was another three hours before Ericsson 4 rounded to take second place.

Further back, it was an intense time for the Delta Lloyd crew as they fought off advances from Telefónica Black and then PUMA at the last minute for third place.

Ericsson 4 had passed Delta Lloyd earlier in the morning and had been steadily sailing away, leaving Telefónica Black and PUMA as the main threats. 'Today we are really seeing the difference in boat speed between our first generation boat and her younger sisters,' wrote Delta Lloyd’s navigator Wouter Verbraak, adding, 'It’s no problem, it just means we will have to work harder and smarter.'

Next through was Ericsson 3, and, following her in seventh place was Green Dragon.

'For six of us onboard who have sailed every leg and never sailed the race before, this means we have completed our first circumnavigation of the world,' wrote Green Dragon skipper Ian Walker, who says that despite being last at the gate, spirits onboard are good.

The next challenges for the fleet will be the initiation of those have not before crossed the Equator, followed by what the meteorologist say will be a short crossing of the Doldrums, maybe just 24 hours, and out into the northeast trade winds.

Although, technically, the fleet is already in the Doldrums, with towering clouds and rainsqualls, the wind is still good. Walker says the sailing is fantastic, especially at night with lots of medium air reaching.

Verbraak agrees: Everybody is soaking wet as we are grinding sails up, unfurling and furling sails, dropping jibs and hoisting them again 30 minutes later. It is complete madness really, but also some of the very best sailing you can do.'

Scoring Gate Results Fernando de Noronha

1. Telefónica Blue 19:58:56 GMT 16.04.09 4 Points
2. Ericsson 4 22:55:36 GMT 16.04.09 3.5 Points
3. Delta Lloyd 23:28:32 GMT 16.04.09 3 Points
4. Puma 23:29:31 GMT 16.04.09 2.5 Points
5. Telefónica Black 23:42:20 GMT 16.04.09 2 Points
6. Ericsson 3 00:14:28 GMT 17.04.09 1.5 Points
7. Green Dragon 01:27:26 GMT 17.04.09 1 Point

Leg Six Day 7: 1300 GMT Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)

1. Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) DTF 3,317nm
2. PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) +63
3. Delta Lloyd IRL (Roberto Bermúdez/ESP) +63
4. Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) +65
5. Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) +69
6. Ericsson 3 SWE (Magnus Olsson/SWE) +70
7. Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian Walker/GBR) +81
8. Team Russia RUS (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) DNS

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