by Ken Read
Volvo Ocean Race, Day 20 of the second stage of Leg 4. Ken Read, Skipper of Puma Ocean Racing powered by Berg reports on the crew's progress:
New Zealand awaits on the horizon entering the last night of Leg 4 racing. PUMA Ocean Racing powered by BERG during leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12
Just rounded North Cape. After about a million miles and I think about three weeks of sailing we saw land for the first time. Tony Mutter gave such an unequivocal 'Land Ho' that he is hoarse and his throat hurts. Ryno gave Tony the nod to do the tradition on the boat this time as it is his home country and all.
I really only have one point to make today, and that is how completely bizarre this sport is. I feel like I am writing for a law review but here are the facts.
1. Due to the bizarre start to this race we actually started 39 minutes after the rest of the fleet. Yeah, yeah, it’s a long story. But, lets just say that the morning of the start of this leg was one of the strangest ever.
2. In essence, once we got around the corner of Sanya we didn't see another boat until we got to Taiwan. Upwind and lousy sailing. The entire fleet got around Taiwan, we had Abu Dhabi and Sanya about 10 miles behind us, and we sailed offshore with Telefónica, hot on their heels. Tele and us sailed into a light air zone. We got a northerly breeze and sailed away in it. They waited for a southerly and sailed away in that.
3. After leaving Tele we went upwind away from the mark to find a good reaching angle south as the eastern most boat in the fleet. Tele went south and was the western most boat in the fleet. We couldn't have taken much different paths to get to New Zealand. I bet we sailed hundreds of miles longer than they did. At one point I think there was about a 300-mile separation between us and Tele from east to west. They went through the Soloman Islands, we skirted New Caledonia. Two completely different ways to get here.
4. And yesterday morning as the sun rose, who is right behind us plainly in view, just about the same position that we left them off of the coast of Taiwan? Telefónica. Seriously, the two of us used up half of the Pacific and Coral Sea to get here, and low and behold we get to essentially the same point in space at nearly exactly the same time. Absolutely amazing game this is.
Anyway, last dash to the finish. We have tried our hardest to break this boat over the past three weeks. Knock on wood, she is still in one piece. The last few days were cruel. Upwind in 20-27 knots of wind with awful leftover chop and holes in the breeze that were big enough to force us to use our previously broken J-2 jib. Way too much sail area for over half the time but the right amount for the other half. Middle of the night, dropping off of condo-size waves in a 28-knot squall with way too much sail up. Sounds like fun doesn't it?
This dash to the finish is actually more like a crawl down the east coast of New Zealand. We have Tele and Camper hot on our heels and Abu Dhabi has had a huge couple of days in a much different breeze than the three of us and has jumped right back into the mix. I have a first beer bet with Ian Walker for the entire team over who beats who on this leg, so getting Abu Dhabi is crucial.
Groupama was gone. A hundred miles ahead. Sailed a fantastic race and they should be very proud. Impressive. Like a good presidential election we officially conceded the leg to Groupama. Well-done boys.
Anyway, more to report. Hopefully the wind gods cooperate, but it looks like the wind will die and the troops behind will come in with the new breeze just to make this a bit more interesting. Holding our breath here.
Puma Ocean Racing website