The Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 is a 37,000 nautical mile journey around the globe. A fantastic trip for all eight participating boats and even more so for their crew-members. Eleven ports, including places that have never been seen in the most famous Round the World Race before - Galway, Kochi, Singapore, Qingdao and St Petersburg- ten legs, ten different countries and thousands of unknown miles await even the most experienced of sailors.
Bouwe Bekking, who can count five previous editions of the Volvo Ocean Race on his CV, is the Dutch skipper of TELEFONICA BLUE, one of two Spanish entries in this Volvo Ocean Race. Bouwe admits he prefers 'the old style of racing, with just three stops. But here I am again, and one thing is to discover the unknown areas where I have never sailed before; that will be a huge personal challenge'. Below Bouwe breaks down the individual legs of the 2008-09 edition of the race and explains what he is looking forward to in addition to some apprehension he has for this new and challenging Race Course. Leg 1: Alicante (Spain) to Cape Town (South Africa) - 6,500 nautical miles
'The first leg is very similar in length to the one opening the last edition but the first 350 miles will be quite different. In 2005, the start was from the Spanish port of Vigo, on the Atlantic coast, and now it's from the Spanish port of Alicante, in the Mediterranean Sea. This makes a difference for us, the sailors. Until we cross the Strait of Gibraltar we won't enter the Atlantic Ocean. Once there we'll sail through the Canary Islands, Cape Verdian Islands, pass the Doldrums where there will likely be no wind, before getting to the first scoring gate in front of the islands of Fernando de Noronha, off the coast of Brazil. From there on it's straight down to the beautiful city of Cape Town, South Africa.' Leg 2: Cape Town to Kochi (India) - 4,450 nautical miles
'We will be in Cape Town for roughly ten days. From there we are going to Kochi on a very direct route. After passing the well-known corner of Cape of Good Hope we enter the Indian Ocean. For this leg there are many options: we can go far South entering the Roaring Forties and then straight North, or we could take the shorter route passing off the coast of Mautitius, where there is also a scoring way point. This is the first time the Volvo Ocean Race will visit India.' Leg 3: Kochi to Singapore (Singapore) - 1,950 nautical miles
'From Kochi we sail to Singapore. This will be a very tricky leg with very light winds. We also know that there are a lot of pirates over there but that's something the families should not be afraid of. The trip will be less than 2,000 miles but can take a long time depending of the wind conditions. We'll spend Christmas there.' Leg 4: Singapore to Qingdao (China) - 2,500 nautical miles
'After spending a few special days with the family we'll start Leg 4 to China on the 18th of January, 2009. In Singapore it will be around 30 degrees Celsius with warm breeze, but the next stop is Qingdao where we expect to suffer in about minus 10 degrees. Last year at the same time of year there was half a meter of snow and freezing conditions. It will be hard for all of us, not only the sailors, but also the shore crews and families. As you can imagine, this is not my favourite part of the course.' Leg 5: Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) - 12,300 nautical miles
'This is the monster leg: more than 22,000 kilometres including the passage of Cape Horn. That's half the world non-stop! From Qingdao we are doing a big dive down to the South. Again there are different options: One is going down to Australia and the Southern Ocean, and the other is trying a more direct route with maybe lighter breezes. There is another scoring point on the way to the famous Cape Horn. From there we will be climbing the South American coast line to Rio de Janeiro; here one can choose between taking a direct approach or going outside of the Falklands. The plan is to arrive in port in Brazil around the 20th of March.' Leg 6: Rio de Janeiro to Boston (USA) - 4,900 nautical miles
'From Rio de Janeiro we will be going to the United States. Once gain we have to pass in front of Fernando de Noronha to add points to the basket, but in this case we will leave the islands from the other side. It will be light breezes for the first miles before coming into the Northeasterly trades and finally into Boston.' Leg 7: Boston to Galway (Ireland) - 2,550 nautical miles
'From Boston we are crossing the North Atlantic to Galway, which is a new town on the course as well. It will be a pretty straightforward leg. Normally, the Westerlies are blowing in spring. We expect to arrive to Ireland in six or seven days. We'll sail roughly over the same area where we lost movistar in May 2005. Three of us, on board TELEFONICA BLUE, were there on that fateful day.' Leg 8: Galway to Marstrand (Sweden) - 950 nautical miles
'From Ireland to the first of two stopovers in Sweden, there is maybe an opportunity to go South of England, through the English Channel, as there is a way point in front of Holland thanks to Delta Lloyd being in the race. The other option is to go North from Galway and round England to the mark off Holland and then to Marstrand, a really nice little town just Northwest of Göteborg. That will be a pit stop: we cannot take anything off the boat, just leave the boat as it is. Only the sailing crew can work on the boat, no shore crew allowed. This is something I don't understand, but rules are rules.' Leg 9: Göteborg to Stockholm (Sweden) - 525 nautical miles
'The leg from Marstrand to Stockholm is very short but really important because is still the same amount of points as the other offshore legs.' Leg 10: Stockholm to St Petersburg (Russia) - 400 nautical miles
'From Stockholm we have one last little sprint, another day or day and a half depending. Finally we'll get to St Petersburg, after more than eight months and 37,000 nautical miles around the world, the finish, and the hometown of Team Russia. I'm looking forward to being there, because that will mean we've finished the race!'
For more information about Bouwe Bekking, including daily reports throughout the Volvo Ocean Race 2008/09, pictures, audio interviews and videos, please visit www.bouwebekking.com