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20 January 2009, 03:21 pm
Stressful Day As Volvo Crews Weigh Up The Options
Changing sails on Green Dragon
Changing sails on Green Dragon

Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09

Day three of the 2,500 nm leg to China has been more than a little stressful for the crews racing in leg four of the Volvo Ocean Race across the South China Seas, as the fleet weaves its way through some hazardous shoals.
The Admiralty Sailing Directions describes the shoals as both 'badly charted' and 'possibly in error by many miles'.

Skipper Bouwe BEKKING (NED) and his team on Telefónica Blue in second place, have been fighting for every inch. According to the navigator, Simon FISHER (GBR), who celebrated his 31st birthday today, giving away lots of distance to take the easy way round wasn't an option.

"It was a nervous few minutes as we passed through the worst of it, watching the depth sounder drop to just a few metres several times over," he said.

FISHER gave a little drop of his Sangria, sneaked onboard by the shore team to celebrate his birthday, to King Neptune to ensure that Neptune watches over the team on their passage to China. Also in the birthday bag were some 'lucky cat' Chinese chocolates. "I am hoping that the lucky chocolates really are lucky, as well as just tasty and, as for the Sangria, hopefully it will warm us a little when the weather gets colder," FISHER said.

As the wind is expected to shift to the right, it is a chance for the second half of the fleet to gain some miles back on the leaders. But, it is also a chance to lose more. Ericsson 3, skippered by Magnus OLSSON (SWE), is the boat furthest south and nearest to Borneo. The team sailed low to get round the shoals, which the rest of the fleet will sail through, and made the decision to keep sailing low and fast into the expected wind shift.

It is a risky move. The further south the team is, the more likely it will be that they will find squalls and lighter breeze. "It all depends on when all the boats get the shift, if it occurs at all," wrote navigator Aksel MAGDAHL (NOR), who is nursing a damaged knee after being washed across the deck into daggerboard earlier in the week. "Magnus [the skipper] has already chewed off all his fingernails," he added.

The furthest boat north is Green Dragon in fourth place. Skipper Ian WALKER (GBR) says, "I never thought I would look forward to tacking and moving all the gear, but we are yet to do any sort of manoeuvre since the start so even a tack will be refreshing. This is definitely the calm before the impending storm." The team is preparing to thread their way through the reefs.

The fleet is in the transition zone, waiting for the wind to shift, which will open up the options for tacking onto starboard. Following the leader now is not really an option, but the fleet is yet to make a move. Currently conditions are rather benign, as the fleet races upwind in 10-12 knots of breeze. Everything feels calm and tranquil.

Onboard Delta Lloyd in seventh place and just 18 miles behind the new leader PUMA, skippered by Ken READ (USA). New Delta Lloyd navigator Frits KOEK (NED) says life is not too bad onboard.

"We're still moving fast in the direction of Qingdao, temperatures are still nice and we have just washed some salt from our boat in a few squalls. Everyone is doing well and we are anticipating a tack later tonight or tomorrow morning, depending on the latest weather developments," he said moments ago.

This morning, PUMA regained the lead from Telefonica Blue who is just three miles behind. The fleet is split 18 nautical miles from first to last and less than 10 miles across a north/south divide. Speeds are around 11 knots and Ericsson 3 has the highest 24-hour run of 333 nautical miles.

Leg Four Day 3: 13:00 UTC Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)

PUMA Racing Team USA, Ken READ (USA) DTF 1883 nm
Telefónica Blue ESP, Bouwe BEKKING (NED) +3
Ericsson 4 SWE, Torben GRAEL (BRA) +3
Green Dragon IRL/CHN, Ian WALKER (GBR) +11
Telefónica Black ESP, Fernando ECHAVARRI (ESP) +14
Ericsson 3 SWE, Magnus OLSSON (SWE) +15
Delta Lloyd IRL, Roberto BERMUDEZ (ESP) +18
Team Russia RUS, Andreas HANAKAMP (AUT) DNS

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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