The first points of leg six have now been earned, and early yesterday evening, just before darkness fell, Telefónica Blue claimed the maximum of four points as she led the seven-strong Volvo fleet through the gate at Fernando de Noronha.
It is the first time that Telefónica Blue has been in pole position at a gate, and it wasn't an easy win. Heavy squalls and rain reduced the visibility and, 10 miles before the gate, the breeze dropped from 23 knots to three knots, which sent the heart rates of the crew racing.
Telefónica Blue has led the fleet from the start and skipper Bouwe BEKKING
(NED) is very pleased with the performance of the boat and crew. Reflecting on the first part of the course, he said, "We can't see where we made any mistakes, plus, of course, the boat has done a good job for us."
Three hours later, Ericsson 4 took second place.
It was an intense time for the Delta Lloyd crew as they fought off advances from Telefónica Black and then PUMA at the last minute for third place.
"Our main battle has been with Telefónica Black, but, at the last moment PUMA has gone around the outside of a big light patch under a squall and has made huge gains. Now the wind has gone left too much for us and PUMA is closing fast. It is not sure whether we will cross her,"
wrote Delta Lloyd's navigator Wouter VERBRAAK (NED).
Ericsson 4 had passed Delta Lloyd earlier in the morning and had been steadily sailing away, leaving Telefónica Black and PUMA as the main threats. "Today we are really seeing the difference in boat speed between our first generation boat and her younger sisters,"
wrote VERBRAAK, adding, "It's no problem, it just means we will have to work harder and smarter."
Next through was Ericsson 3, and, following her in seventh place was Green Dragon.
"For six of us onboard who have sailed every leg and never sailed the race before, this means we have completed our first circumnavigation of the world,"
wrote Green Dragon skipper Ian WALKER
(GBR), who says that despite being last at the gate, spirits onboard are good.
The next challenges for the fleet will be the initiation of those have not before crossed the Equator, followed by what the meteorologist say will be a short crossing of the Doldrums, maybe just 24 hours, and out into the northeast trade winds.
Although, technically, the fleet is already in the Doldrums, with towering clouds and rainsqualls, the wind is still good. WALKER says the sailing is fantastic, especially at night with lots of medium air reaching.
VERBRAAK agrees, "Everybody is soaking wet as we are grinding sails up, unfurling and furling sails, dropping jibs and hoisting them again 30 minutes later. It is complete madness really, but also some of the very best sailing you can do."
At 13:00 UTC today, Telefónica Blue had pulled out a substantial lead of 63nm and the next five boats were all within seven miles of each other. Green Dragon was a further 11 miles back. Telefónica Blue has managed to average 15.8 knots for the past three hours, but this speed is bound to drop once the full force of the Doldrums is felt. She also claims the highest 24-hour run of 329nm.
The unpredictability of the wind has resulted in movement on the leg leaderboard today. PUMA is out to the east and match racing with Delta Lloyd for second place, while Ericsson 4 has moved west and dropped to fourth. In the centre lane are Ericsson 3 and Telefónica Black just a mile apart and Green Dragon on her own, slightly further east.
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 7: 1300 UTC Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)
1. Telefónica Blue ESP, Bouwe BEKKING
(NED) DTF 3,317nm
2. PUMA Racing Team USA, Ken READ
3. Delta Lloyd IRL, Roberto BERMUDEZ
4. Ericsson 4 SWE, Torben GRAEL
5. Telefónica Black ESP, Fernando ECHAVARRI
6. Ericsson 3 SWE, Magnus OLSSON (SWE) +70
7. Green Dragon IRL/CHN, Ian WALKER
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