After a short postponement the last open ocean leg of the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 from the USA to Ireland got underway on Saturday, starting right off the race village at Fan Pier, Downtown Boston.
There was some confusion around the time of the postponement which led to four boats racing half the first beat of the inshore course before turning back to restart 20 minutes later.
After the gun fired, the seven-strong fleet split immediately with PUMA looking really strong on port tack, followed by Delta Lloyd, Telefónica Black and Ericsson 4, while Ericsson 3, Green Dragon and Telefónica Blue opted for a starboard tack start.
Fog descended on the course as Telefónica Blue screamed up through the fleet to lead round the first mark, followed by Telefónica Black, Green Dragon, PUMA, Ericson 3 and Ericsson 4. As the fleet approached the mark, a large freighter hove into view. The leaders had a clear rounding, but Delta Lloyd was forced to alter course by the ship and rounded in last place.
While the two Telefónica boats showed a clean pair of heels to the rest of the fleet, PUMA ate into Green Dragon's margin and Ericsson 4 put pressure on PUMA.
At the second turning mark the two Telefónica boats, Blue and Black, led the fleet. PUMA stole third place from Green Dragon as they nipped inside at the mark, followed by Ericsson 4. Ericsson 3 sailed 'through the eye of the needle' between PUMA and Green Dragon as the fleet dropped their spinnakers and flew headsails for the final leg of the course.
As the fleet sailed back towards the gate at the start line off Fan Pier, the freighter reappeared and the coastguards ushered the fleet away from it, the drama unfolding right in front of the huge crowd of spectators watching the racing from the shoreline.
The final order as the fleet left Boston and disappeared into the mist heading for Galway in Ireland, was Telefónica Blue, Telefónica Black, PUMA and overall race leader Ericsson 4.
The first boat is scheduled to arrive in Galway one week from today, but first the fleet has to cope with ice further south than normal, a scoring gate off the island of Newfoundland, a whale exclusion zone just off Boston, and an ice exclusion zone in the shape of a pouch hanging to the east and south of Newfoundland.
It this isn't enough to keep the minds of the 77 sailors occupied, in 2005-06 on this Atlantic leg Bouwe BEKKING (NED) and his crew had to abandon their yacht movistar and were rescued by the crew of ABN AMRO TWO who, days before, had had to cope with the loss of crewman Hans HORREVOETS (NED) who drowned after being washed over the side.
The 2,550nm leg seven to Galway promises to give the seven competing crews plenty to think about.
Volvo Ocean Race Leaderboard
(After Boston In Port Race)
1. Ericsson 4, Torben GRAEL (BRA), 81 points
2. Telefónica Blue, Bouwe BEKKING (NED), 68.5 points,
3. PUMA, Ken READ (USA), 65.5 points
4. Ericsson 3, Magnus OLSSON (SWE), 55.5 points
5. Green Dragon, Ian WALKER (GBR), 45.0 points
6. Telefónica Black, Fernando ECHAVARRI (ESP), 31.0 points
7. Delta Lloyd, Roberto BERMUDEZ (ESP), 24.0 points
8. Team Russia, 10.5 points, DNS
Go here for all the news on the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09
Volvo Ocean Race - www.volvooceanrace.org