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Green Dragon maintains a delicate lead

'Mark Covell/Team Russia/Volvo Ocean Race
Ben Costello mends a sail onboard Team Russia, on leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race'    Volvo Ocean Race©    Click Here to view large photo

The first five boats in the Volvo Ocean Race have crossed the equator and were sailing in the South Atlantic trade winds on the 0400 position report. Look for reports of the various King Neptune ceremonies coming in over the course of the day as the first-timers are inducted into this offshore sailing brotherhood.

Oddly enough, the skippers of the two leading boats have never crossed the equator before, but Ian Walker on Green Dragon and Ken Read on PUMA are clearly fast learners.

Walker has led his team to the top of the table with a brilliant westward strategy in the Doldrums that saw Green Dragon escape first yesterday. PUMA and Ericsson 4 weren't far behind and in the relatively stable conditions of the trade winds, their positions haven't changed. Walker and his team maintain a 26 mile lead with Fernando de Noronha just 85 miles away.

But the battle behind is hot. PUMA is just two miles ahead of Ericsson 4, and the two boats appear to be attached by a string. This fight will continue all the way to Cape Town.

It's only slightly less tense further back with Telefonica Black 30 miles behind Ericsson 4. But Fernando Echavarri's men have some breathing space with their stablemates on Telefonica Blue a full 70 miles back.

'Finally we are out of the Doldrums, albeit in a rather mediocre fifth place,' writes Blue navigator Simon Fisher. 'But boy does it feel good to moving again. All in all, life is good. We are headed to Fernando and first few points of this leg. Not as many as we would like, but given the difficulties we have had so far, I guess it's not all bad.'

Behind, Ericsson 3 are fending off Team Russia, as well as a hard-charging Delta Lloyd. Ger O'Rourke's team paid for being the most easterly boat in the Doldrums, but are now sailing a more favourable angle than the others on the run up to Fernando de Noronha. Will this be enough to allow them to make a pass?

'We're chasing the Russians and Ericsson 3 as we approach the scoring gate,' writes O'Rourke. 'It would be nice to pass these two by the gate from our hotter (we hope) sailing angle.'

After the scoring gate, it all gets tricky again, with the South Atlantic (St. Helena) high pressure system the major obstacle before Cape Town. There's plenty of sailing left folks.

Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
Dawn in the Doldrums for the crew of PUMA Ocean Racing -  Volvo Ocean Race©?nid=50111   Click Here to view large photo


Volvo’s shore based performance evaluator Mark Chisnell.

'Green Dragon should lead the fleet at the scoring gate at Fernando de Noronha, and pick up maximum points sometime tomorrow afternoon, but it’s too close too call between PUMA and Ericsson 4. They should reach the gate with the trade winds still blowing strong. So the next job on the strategists’ to-do-list is dealing with the South Atlantic High'.

Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing/Volvo Ocean Race
Bowman Justin Slattery take a hit from a wave on leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race -  Volvo Ocean Race©?nid=50111   Click Here to view large photo


ERICSSON 3 LEG ONE DAY 12 QFB: received 22.10.08 1109 GMT

There is full traffic by navstation. It seems like we have passed the Doldrums and hit the trade winds. Now everyone wants to have a look at the computers to see how the others are doing. And, to get an answer to the big question, do we still have a chance?

During the three days in the Doldrums we have lost an awful amount of miles to our opponents. It has been really tough just lying still when you know the others have wind. Not the least since we were, together with Puma, the first boat to arrive to this tricky place.

The worst example is Telefónica Blue who was 140 miles behind us and now is 30 ahead. That should not be possible. Even Green Dragon was very far behind and now they are in the lead. Big time.

The first example of the bungee effect was in Gibraltar. We arrived in the top squad, but when we had stretched far enough we stopped and the others came flying from behind.
Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race
Dolphins play alongside Ericsson 3 in the Doldrums. on leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race -  Volvo Ocean Race©?nid=50111   Click Here to view large photo

We are now fighting on and doing everything to catch up. I definitely think it is possible and that we still have a chance of doing really well.

It is our turn to be on the other side, benefitting from the bungee effect.

Gustav Morin - MCM

TEAM RUSSIA LEG ONE DAY 11 QFB: received 21.10.08 0130 GMT

Finally a few spare minutes where I’m not desperate to ‘hit the rack’. It’s around 1800 local time and it’s the end of another scorching day at the middle of the earth. The boat is still stinking hot down below and the last thing I want to do is sweat a Kg of warm slightly salty liquid on my watch buddy below. Sitting at a computer isn’t that thrilling an option either, but Mark’s kindly lent me his which is loaded with funny stories, pictures and videos, all of which seem all the more hilarious after 10 days at sea.

It’s been an awesome start to this epic race and to be so close after so many hours hard racing is fantastic for everyone involved in the event. It still feels a little surreal for me to be out here as a competitor. So many of my idols have cut their teeth on this race track and I’m ‘stoked’ to be given my chance. It only seems a few years ago that I remember visiting St Catherine’s dock in London to see Steinlager 2, back after her stunning victory in the ‘89/90 race. I was ten at the time……which makes some of our crew today feel a little old…. but I can still clearly remember the experience and we still have the pictures at home.

Mark Covell/Team Russia/Volvo Ocean Race
A slow day on Kosatka still stuck in the Doldrums on leg 1 of the Volvo Ocean Race -  Volvo Ocean Race©?nid=50111   Click Here to view large photo
Is it what I expected? Every bit and more!! By the end of this race I will have clocked up well over 100,000 offshore racing miles but each time I go offshore, I’m struck by how simplistic life can be. No ‘phone calls or emails, no day-to-day hassles, just 4 hours on and 4 hours off. One of the really interesting parts of my role within the team, compared with the short-handed sailing I usually do, is no real involvement in the navigation side of things, which right now is where the real stress is at. I just need to keep the boat in one piece, do my share of the driving, trimming, grinding, stacking……and sleep, happy days.

What do I miss the most? I’m not sure I should really say this but my dog Shackleton; quite simply the best friend a man could ever have. He’s off having adventures of his own and like his buddy, he knows how to have fun too so no worries there. Take care Shack!

Although we are pretty cut off from the outside world, it’s nothing compared with the sailors of days gone by and it’s great to receive occasionally updates on world news, gossip and especially sport!! On a sad note I was gutted to hear of Alex Thomson’s dismasting just prior to the start of the Vendee Globe. Anyone who has worked hard on any campaign will surely feel for him and I hope it all comes together in time for him to fight it out in one of the other truly great ocean races. I know we will be in Cape Town before they start….fingers crossed, but best of luck to all the guys and girls in the Vendee Globe 2008.

Just a few minutes to look ahead now, ocean sailing is always a great time for contemplation and my life-long dream of running a small boatyard back in Suffolk still burns brightly in my thoughts. Building a boat or two a year, looking after my friends’ yachts and generally enjoying a relaxed pace of life…..I’m not even 30 and I’m looking forward to slowing down, something must be wrong, the Doldrums must be getting to me!! I know I’ve got a few more Volvos and a least one Vendee Globe left in me yet!

In the more immediate future……Cam (Cameron Wills) and Mikey, (Mike Joubert), our resident South Africans, constantly talk of the fun we’re all going to have in Cape Town and the great people we’re going to meet. The last thing I want to do is wish the race away, but I am really looking forward to finally getting to stop at some of the beautiful places that I’ve only ever raced past before.

Right, now it’s time for ‘the rack’, it sounds like punishment but it’s heaven. We’ve got every chance in this race still and despite the stories

by Peter Rusch


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11:25 AM Thu 23 Oct 2008 GMT

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