When they emerged, it became clear that it had been a catastrophic 12 hours for Telefónica Blue, who dropped to third place on the leg leaderboard, and a victory for Torben GRAEL (BRA) and Ericsson 4, the runaway leaders in the Volvo Ocean Race. By 1900 GMT yesterday, Ericsson 4 was 50 miles ahead and Telefónica Blue was down to fourth place.
"The outcome during our stealth period has been really bad," wrote BEKKING on his website. Bouwe had warned two days ago that the time of the gybe could be a leg winning call and he admitted that his team had mistimed it and made a huge mistake. "The reality was that we couldn't hold off Ericsson 4. They were sailing much faster than us last night, but by gybing too early, we lost against the rest of the fleet," he wrote.
"Heartbreaking for them, but the sweet smell of blood for the Ericssons and ourselves," wrote PUMA's Media Crew Member (MCM) Rick DEPPE (GBR). "It looks like a four-way fight to the finish," he added.
In the middle of all the cloak and dagger tactics onboard Ericsson 4, the crew had a disaster when they discovered their watermaker was damaged badly.
"We have immediately banned coffee and tea and our meal will be significantly reduced," explained Guy SALTER (GBR) MCM. "We have decided on a dangerously low 1.5 litres per person to drink, and have separated up each quota into a bottle, which the individual will be responsible for," he said.
The team has taken out the larger of their emergency watermakers, which are a reverse osmosis, hand operated device. "We are taking it in turns to pump for 30 minutes, which is no mean feat," SALTER said.
Dehydration is one of the biggest problems in this race and the teams are always forcing everyone to drink as much fluid as possible. Even a few per cent of dehydration can result in a significant decrease in brain and physical performance.
The leading four boats, Ericsson 4, Ericsson 3, Telefónica Blue and PUMA have now popped out the other side to the ridge of cold pressure, which has been causing the problems and are into steady breeze again, while the remaining three are still dealing with big seas and 30 knots of breeze. Ericsson 3's MCM, Gustav MORIN (SWE), described conditions onboard as 'organized chaos' as they struggled to change to a smaller headsail and reef the mainsail in the worst of the weather.
"All hands are on deck. The sea state has quickly become pretty bad. The boat is slamming into the waves and the entire boat is rocking from the sails flapping when the helmsman sometimes has to steer head to wind in attempt to take the boat through this crazy front," he said.
Right back in the game is Ian WALKER's (GBR) Green Dragon, who made an excellent crossing of the front and are only nine 11 miles behind Delta Lloyd. Telefónica Black who although made a good job of crossing the front and has a favourable angle to the finish in Boston, has dropped to seventh place, but is only six miles behind the Dragons.
"It looks like the last miles to the finish are going to provide us with ocean racing at its best. Close racing in the fleet, the Gulf Stream, fronts, and a light wind high-pressure system to cross. What more do you need?" asks Wouter VERBRAAK (NED), Delta Lloyd's irrepressible navigator.
Leg Six Day 14: 13:00 UTC Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)
Ericsson 4 SWE, Torben GRAEL (BRA) DTF 487nm
Ericsson 3 SWE, Magnus OLSSON (SWE) +36 nm
Telefónica Blue ESP, Bouwe BEKKING (NED) +40 nm
PUMA Racing Team USA, Ken READ (USA) +62 nm
Delta Lloyd IRL, Roberto BERMUDEZ (ESP) +116nm
Green Dragon IRL/CHN, Ian WALKER (GBR) +125 nm
Telefónica Black ESP, Fernando ECHAVARRI (ESP) 131 nm
Team Russia RUS, Andreas HANAKAMP (AUT) DNS
Volvo Ocean Race Leaderboard - Provisional
(After Leg Six Scoring Gate)
1. Ericsson 4, skipper Torben GRAEL (BRA), 69.5 points
2. PUMA, skipper Ken READ (USA), 59 points
3. Telefónica Blue, skipper Bouwe BEKKING (NED), 58.5 points
4. Ericsson 3, skipper Magnus OLSSON (SWE), 46 points
5. Green Dragon, skipper Ian WALKER (GBR), 42 points
6. Telefónica Black, skipper Fernando ECHAVARRI (ESP), 25 points
7. Delta Lloyd, skipper Roberto BERMUDEZ (ESP), 18 points
8. Team Russia, skipper Andreas HANAKAMP (AUT), 10.5 points
Go here for all the news on the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09
Volvo Ocean Race - www.volvooceanrace.org