"Hopefully, we have positioned ourselves correctly and we can hang on to our lead," said Telefónica Blue navigator Tom ADDIS (AUS). "It's never enjoyable being the lead boat when the fleet is compressing on you, but there is not a lot we can do about it, but we are fine and we are pushing the boat as hard as we can," he added.
"Now the Weather Gods are smiling in our favour a little bit and pushing Telefónica Blue into lighter air and allowing us to tighten up the gap," said PUMA's skipper Ken READ (USA) would dearly like to be on the podium in his home town of Boston.
At 13:00 UTC yesterday, Bouwe BEKKING (NED) and his men had a comfortable lead of 104nm. Today it is 61nm, and the weather ahead is complicated, making for nervous navigators and skippers.
"The weather models look so horrible that I am contemplating making lots of coffees for the guys, going on deck to help out, check clouds etc. Anything to get me away from the computer and the horrible stuff it is spitting out at me," said sixth placed Delta Lloyd's navigator, Wouter VERBRAAK (NED).
Telefónica Blue is now on the same latitude as the Leeward Islands, while PUMA, Ericsson 3 and Ericsson 4 are in a parallel line with 36 nm between Ericsson 4 in the west and PUMA in the east and all within seven miles of each other.
It is thought that Magnus OLSSON (SWE), skipper of Ericsson 3, cracked a rib when he was washed into the steering pedestal last week, but according to his crew, he is recovering well.
Today was helmsman Eivind MELLEBY's (NOR) 29th birthday. Part of his surprise was a bag of jelly men sweets, which brought a smile to Olsson's face when he was handed his share. MELLEBY said, "The sailing right now is really fun. The team is doing a great job and everybody is enjoying themselves and pushing all the time. Ericsson 3 is a happy ship and goes fast as well."
In the next tier, just over 40nm back, are Telefónica Black and Delta Lloyd, followed by Green Dragon a further 22nm astern. The black boat had an eventful night breaking their gennaker sheet and then having a scare when they collided with a whale. This morning, when daylight broke, the crew checked for damage from the collision and apart from some paint shaved off the forward edge of the keel blade, nothing else was found.
"All onboard love the sea and its animals, and it has been a real shock for everybody to hit one of them," said skipper Fernando ECHAVARRI (ESP).
Current conditions for the fleet are near to perfect, although VERBRAAK says that 17 knots of boatspeed just doesn't have the same adrenaline kick to it. Further ahead, PUMA's skipper, READ, is happy.
"This trade wind sailing is a beautiful thing. Just kind of, hook in and hold on, it's comfortable below and it's comfortable on deck and we're ripping along at 20 knots. What is there not to like?" he said.
Phil JAMESON (NZL) from Ericsson 4 says the price paid for such idyllic sailing is being completely soaked, but the water is warm and not many clothes are required. Most of the crew are just wearing very light shorts and short-sleeved shirts under their wet weather gear. "What is nice is coming off watch and just hanging up your foulies and t-shirt and jumping into your bunk with just wet shorts on," he says.
As the compression intensifies, the blue boat's speed is down to 14.8 knots, while the black boat is still charging up through the fleet at 20.5 knots. As yesterday, it is PUMA who has the highest 24-hour run, covering 477nm. No wonder READ is happy.
Scoring Gate Results - Fernando de Noronha
1. Telefónica Blue, 19:58:56 UTC 16.04.09, 4 points
2. Ericsson 4, 22:55:36 UTC 16.04.09, 3.5 points
3. Delta Lloyd, 23:28:32 UTC 16.04.09, 3 points
4. Puma, 23:29:31 UTC 16.04.09, 2.5 Points
5. Telefónica Black, 23:42:20 UTC 16.04.09, 2 points
6. Ericsson 3, 00:14:28 UTC 17.04.09, 1.5 points
7. Green Dragon, 01:27:26 UTC 17.04.09, 1 point
Leg Six Day 10: 13:00 UTC Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)
1. Telefónica Blue ESP, Bouwe BEKKING (NED) DTF 2,027 nm
2. Ericsson 3 SWE, Magnus OLSSON (SWE) +61 nm
3. PUMA Racing Team USA, Ken READ (USA) +61 nm
4. Ericsson 4 SWE, Torben GRAEL (BRA) +67 nm
5. Telefónica Black ESP, Fernando ECHAVARRI (ESP) +100 nm
6. Delta Lloyd IRL, Roberto BERMUDEZ (ESP) +109 nm
7. Green Dragon IRL/CHN, Ian WALKER(GBR) +131 nm
8. 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