Today it is pure boat speed and the ability of each crew to squeeze out the last ounce of performance that is making the difference as the Volvo fleet reaches towards the scoring gate at Fernando de Noronha at a steady 15 knots.
There are no passing lanes and no capacity for tactical moves in the near future. Ian WALKER
(GBR), skipper of Green Dragon says these opportunities may not arise until the fleet nears the finish in Boston. His plan is to keep spirits high onboard and stay in touch with the fleet so that he's close enough to take advantage when an opportunity does present itself.
As the wind picked up, waves are starting to sweep across the decks and Magnus OLSSON (SWE), skipper of Ericsson 3, has been an unsuspecting victim. A big wave flushed him into the steering pedestal and he was momentarily stunned. His ribs were hurt but, according to the crew, he managed to go down below and climb into his bunk without help. He has since been talking and even laughing and the crew is not concerned.
"I was not prepared for that wave at all,"
OLSSON said shortly before he went to sleep. "It feels stupid to be hit like this by the first wave that reaches the deck."
Onboard medic, Richard MASON (NZL), who himself sat out the last leg with a back problem, checked the bruise on OLSSON while he was sleeping. MASON is now wondering if he brings bad luck to Ericsson 3. "On the entire last leg, when I was not onboard, the team did not have many injuries at all, and now this happens almost straight away,"
The fleet is now clear of Recife on the Brazilian coast and sailing directly towards the western end of the scoring gate, 129nm head. Telefónica Blue is in good shape at the head of the fleet, holding on to a nice 17-mile lead from Ericsson 4 who has now taken up second place, with Delta Lloyd carefully shadowing her just two miles astern. Since yesterday, these three teams have moved to the western flank of the course to take advantage of the more lifted winds expected today. Telefónica Blue is 133 off the coast and the fleet is spread across an eight-mile divide from Delta Lloyd in the west to PUMA in the east.
Oddly, Bouwe BEKKING
(NED), skipper of Telefónica Blue found himself in almost an identical scenario to one from the previous race in 2005-06. Then as now, he was in the lead and being hounded by ABN AMRO ONE, now Delta Lloyd. "Then, we knew we had a bit on as the ABN boat was more than 1.5 knots faster on a close reach. We beat them by only two or three minutes to the scoring gate,"
Delta Lloyd's Spanish skipper, Roberto BERMUDEZ
is proud of his boat. "We are really happy,"
he says. "We are happy with the racing we are doing, but we must fight until the scoring gate with no rest. We are getting the best of this boat."
Ericsson 4 is enjoying the battle with Delta Lloyd, a boat that several of the Ericsson 4 crew are familiar with, having sailed her to victory last time around. This team also has Telefónica Black in view, which according to Guy SALTER (GBR), Ericsson 4's media crew member, will make for a very interesting few hours into the scoring gate.
Next up will be the Doldrums, which lurk just north of the Equator, which is 403nm ahead of the fleet. Race meteorologist, Jennifer LILLY, says the narrowest part of the Doldrums is near the coast of North America and that the light airs extend southwest from Sierra Leone towards Fernando de Noronha.
"While the band of light winds looks pretty narrow, with the northeasterly trade winds filling not long after the fleet passes the scoring gate, the likelihood of squall activity is near certainty,"
Onboard Telefónica Black, the team is overheating in every sense. First there is a charging problem, which David VERA (ESP) has been able to fix, then Roger NILSON (SWE) explained, "I guess we all feel a bit overheated, both when it comes to below deck temperature, but also from the heat of the fight against our nearest competition, PUMA, Delta Lloyd and Ericsson 3. Speed, speed and more speed is what we are all looking for right now."
Leg Six Day 6: 13:00 UTC Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)
1. Telefónica Blue ESP, Bouwe BEKKING
(NED) DTF 3,653nm
2. Ericsson 4 SWE, Torben GRAEL
3. Delta Lloyd IRL, Roberto BERMUDEZ
4. Telefónica Black ESP, Fernando ECHAVARRI
5. PUMA Racing Team USA, Ken READ
6. Ericsson 3 SWE, Magnus OLSSON (SWE) +31
7. Green Dragon IRL/CHN, Ian WALKER
8. Team Russia RUS, Andreas HANAKAMP (AUT) DNS
Volvo Ocean Race Leaderboard
(After Rio In-Port Race)
1. Ericsson 4, skipper Torben GRAEL (BRA), 66 points
2. PUMA, skipper Ken READ (USA), 56.5 points
3. Telefónica Blue, skipper Bouwe BEKKING (NED), 54.5 points
4. Ericsson 3, skipper Magnus OLSSON (SWE), 44.5 points
5. Green Dragon, skipper Ian WALKER (GBR), 41 points
6. Telefónica Black, skipper Fernando ECHAVARRI (ESP), 23 points
7. Delta Lloyd, skipper Roberto BERMUDEZ (ESP), 15 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