After a very windy first night at sea following the start from Alicante yesterday, the eight-strong fleet racing in the Volvo Ocean Race is now in the approaches to Gibraltar. Ericsson 3 (Anders Lewander/SWE) is through the Straits and leading the fleet, while the Spanish yacht, Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED) has had problems with her steering, causing some spectacular wipe outs.
'At one stage we tried to put up a big spinnaker, but were totally out of control,' wrote Bouwe Bekking in his missive to Race HQ this morning. 'Only one rudder was working, so we had a beauty of a wipe-out. We had to take the spinnaker down and have been sailing slowly for nearly six hours,' he added.
Bekking says that two of his team, Pepe Ribes (ESP) and Xabier Fernandez (ESP) have been working on a repair, but the possibility of having to make a stop is not out of the question. 'Still not sure if we are going to stop, we know it will be expensive, as the boats ahead will always sail in more pressure and will stretch away from us,' said Bekking. Telefonica Blue’s shore team is on standby, but Bekking says the crew is ‘gutted’.
The first sign of the problem was only 20 nm out from Alicante when the crew heard a sickening crack. They were neck and neck with Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA) at the time.
Meanwhile, at 1300 GMT today, it’s an Ericsson one/two as the rest of the fleet approaches Gibraltar and these next few hours could be the most important in the race. According to the Ericsson 3 crew, the first boat to pass through Gibraltar will hit the trade winds first and probably get a big advantage. The spirit and mood was understandably high onboard Ericsson 3 as the two Ericsson boats headed out into the Atlantic
The rest of the pack, led by Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR), is still approaching Gibraltar. Green Dragon is 37 nautical miles behind Ericsson 3. The Irish/Chinese crew is settling into their watch system of four hours on and four hours off. The skipper and navigator (Ian Moore/IRL) snatch sleep whenever they can, but as the team is in third place, sleep is rare. 'The sea is flat, the sky is clear and we have more boats behind than in front so life is pretty good,' said Ian Walker.
Puma (Ken Read/USA) has the two Spanish boats, Telefónica Black (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) and the wounded Telefónica Blue nipping at his heels, but Team Russia (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) and Team Delta Lloyd (Ger O’Rourke) are posing less of a threat and have already slipped to the back of the pack as the fleet funnels through the Gibraltar Straits and heads out into the Atlantic. Leg One: Day Two 1300 GMT Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to leader)
1. Ericsson 3 ESP (Anders Lewander/SWE) DTF 6,200.0nm
2. Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) DTL +1 nm
3. Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian Walker/GBR) DTL +37nm
4. Puma Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) DTL +44nm
5. Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) DTL +45nm
6. Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) +49nm
7. Team Russia RUS (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) +62nm
8. Delta Lloyd IRL (Ger O'Rourke/IRL) DTL +90