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18 January 2009, 09:50 pm
Pressure Is On As Ericsson 4 And Puma Lead At Start Of Volvo Ocean Race Leg Four
Ericsson 3 at the start of leg four
Ericsson 3 at the start of leg four

Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09

The Volvo Ocean Race returned to the race track today in Singapore when the gun fired signifying the start of the 2,500 nautical mile leg to Qingdao in China, the leg most crews consider will be one of the most difficult and brutal legs of the race.
Never in this history of the race has there been a leg like this, where the fleet will be sailing upwind for such an extensive distance. The difference between racing and surviving is taken very seriously and all skippers are predicting the need to ease back when conditions worsen.

After the blessing of the fleet, the start got underway in ideal conditions of 10 - 15 knots. Torben GRAEL (BRA) and his team on Ericsson 4 and PUMA skippered by Ken READ (USA) immediately commenced battle and both had their bows ahead of the rest, opting for the middle of the line, while Delta Lloyd, with new navigator Frits KOEK (NED) in the navigator's chair, chose the pin end. Both Telefónica boats and Ian WALKER (GBR) and the Green Dragon team were in the second row as the gun fired at 13:00 local time (05:00 UTC) and the fleet pounded up the first two-mile beat.
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At windward mark, Ericsson 4 led, with some smart sail handling, with PUMA right on her heels. Ericsson 3, skippered by Magnus OLSSON (SWE), performed an outstanding spinnaker hoist and took third place, while Green Dragon struggled with their huge gennaker in fourth position.

The match racing continued between the two leaders, as they approached the next mark, Ericsson 4 proving to be the class of the fleet. PUMA was just a couple of boat lengths behind; Green Dragon rolled Ericsson 3 and was followed by the two Telefónica boats and Delta Lloyd.

The committee boat formed the last rounding mark before the fleet sheeted in and headed upwind to China. Ericsson 4 was the clear leader, followed by PUMA. A gap opened up to Green Dragon with Ericsson 3 right on her tail. Telefónica Blue was fifth, a disappointing position for skipper Bouwe BEKKING (NED) and his men, and Fernando ECHAVARRI's (ESP) Telefonica Black, taking a penalty of three points for swapping to new rudders, were sixth. Delta Lloyd brought up the rear.

It will be an interesting first 10 hours of this leg as the positions begin to establish.

Volvo Ocean Race Leaderboard
(After Singapore In-Port Race)

1. Ericsson 4, skipper Torben GRAEL (BRA), 39 points
2.Telefónica Blue, skipper Bouwe BEKKING (NED), 33.5 points
3. PUMA, skipper Ken READ (USA), 31 points
4. Ericsson 3, skipper Magnus OLSSON (SWE), 24 points
5. Green Dragon, skipper Ian WALKER (GBR), 22.5 points
6. Telefónica Black, skipper Fernando ECHAVARRI (ESP), 19 points*
7. Team Russia, skipper Andreas HANAKAMP (AUT), 10.5 points
8. Delta Lloyd, skipper Roberto BERMUDEZ (ESP), 10 points

*Penalty of three points applied for rudder change

Go here for all the news on the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09

Volvo Ocean Race - www.volvooceanrace.org

Lizzie Ward (As Amended By ISAF)
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