Overnight, Roberto BERMUDEZ and Delta Lloyd have put in a dazzling performance to regain second place in leg six of the Volvo Ocean Race, closing to within seven miles of the leader, Bouwe BEKKING's Telefónica Blue.
In 30 degrees of heat, a marching band playing bagpipes heralded the departure of the seven teams who were accompanied by Samba dancers as they made their way down the dock and onboard their race boats which will be their home for another two weeks.
Instead of the more usual strategy of plotting a course and trimming the sails accordingly, Delta Lloyd's Dutch navigator, Wouter VERBRAAK has gone to where the wind is, believing heavily in the theory of diurnal variation [fluctuations that occur during each day].
"Some call it myth, some live by it, and onboard it is known as the diurnal variation. Some of the more funny guys amongst us bastardise it to 'di-urinal' variation, but the understanding is the same,"
According to WOUTER, if you believe the diurnal variation theory, the variation in the wind speed and direction is typical for the trades and goes through a daily cycle. The mornings bring more wind from the left of the course, the afternoons bring lighter breeze and from the right hand side and the evenings bring squalls and left hand wind again. At night, the wind goes lighter and more to the right.
"As we are now all close reaching, the differences in boatspeed for a slight change in wind angle are quite significant. With the winds doing their daily dance, instead of staying on course and adjusting the sails, we are following their lead,"
Consequently, Delta Lloyd's wake is as ragged as a drunken man's stagger, but whether the success is myth or theory, the generation one boat and winner of the 2005-06 race is now in second place and her crew is determined to hang on to it at the scoring gate.
The fleet is now passing the most eastern tip of Brazil and it is here that the differences between being inshore and offshore will become apparent. It could be a crucial day for the fleet.
Along with leader, Telefónica Blue, the crew of Delta Lloyd has invested in a more offshore position, believing the wind will be better further east. WOUTER says this has meant slower sailing and more distance travelled, but today they will know if they have reaped the benefits of this plan.
Meanwhile, Telefónica Blue's skipper, Bouwe BEKKING
(NED), has taken over the leading of a watch. Off watch, when he's not sleeping, he's sat at the side of navigator Tom Addis, pouring over the strategy, which he hopes, will keep his blue boat at the head of the field when they round the scoring gate 424nm ahead and claim full marks.
Telefónica Blue is 115nm off the Brazilian coast with Delta Lloyd to the east, Telefónica Black in her wake and PUMA on her hip, but 24 miles behind. For Green Dragon and the two Ericsson boats sailing on the inside track, closest to the shore, the wind is likely to be light.
Conditions have stabilised briefly as the fleet closes on the scoring gate at Fernando de Noronha, the only scoring gate on this 4,900nm leg and an island that played the same role on leg one. Gone are the clouds and now the sea is flat with a 12-knot easterly breeze. According to Roger NILSON (SWE), navigator onboard Fernando ECHAVARRI
's (SWE) Telefónica Black in fourth place, the sailing is quite pleasant and Nilson is his team pass through the gate around midnight tomorrow.
Boat speeds are stable at 12-13 knots and today Delta Lloyd takes the prize for the highest 24 hour run at 293nm.
Today is also significant, as the crews have now crossed their outward tracks made during leg one in October last year, meaning a circumnavigation of the globe is now complete.
Leg Six Day 5: 13:00 UTC Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)
1. Telefónica Blue ESP, Bouwe BEKKING
(NED) DTF 3,948nm
2. Delta Lloyd IRL, Roberto BERMUDEZ
3. Ericsson 4 SWE, Torben GRAEL
4. Telefónica Black ESP, Fernando ECHAVARRI
5. PUMA Racing Team USA, Ken READ
6. Ericsson 3 SWE, Magnus OLSSON (SWE) +24
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