Hometown boat, Green Dragon, made a fantastic start today as the Volvo Ocean Race fleet left Galway Bay on the 1,250 nm sprint leg to Marstrand in Sweden.
It was a great reward for the huge crowds of well-wishers, who filled every available space in Galway in order to cheer their home team on.
After a hugely successful stopover - the first time the Volvo Ocean Race has visited Ireland - 20 knots of gusty offshore breeze was on offer today and, in the most wind yet for any of the Volvo leg starts, spinnakers were set for a fast downwind start at 15:00 local time (14:00 UTC).
The fleet sailed the usual two leg loop of approximately four nautical miles, before setting off through the Aran Islands and down the west coast of Ireland and out into the Celtic Sea towards the Fastnet Rock, which although a mark of the course, is not a scoring gate.
's (GBR) Green Dragon revelled in the heavy breeze and flat water, which suited her perfectly and once clear of the start line, she overhauled Telefónica Black doing 19 knots, to take the lead at the first turning mark.
Sailing beautifully, starting in mid-field, Ericsson 4 out-muscled Telefónica Blue and fought off Green Dragon to take the lead after rounding the mark in second place and setting off up the beat towards the windward mark.
At the mark, Ericsson 4 had taken control and hoisted her spinnaker for the second time, followed by Green Dragon who kept the pressure on, Telefonica Blue, PUMA and Telefónica Black. Further back were Ericsson 3 and Delta Lloyd.
Telefónica Blue momentarily lost ground to PUMA when her spinnaker hoisted with a twist in it as the fleet blazed down Galway Bay with an increasing breeze and a building sea state and headed towards the Aran Islands.
Today saw a great display by Ericsson 4, but what a performance by WALKER and his men on Green Dragon, ensuring that the hometown crowds had a lot to cheer about, and a terrific battle for third between Telefónica Blue and PUMA.
The game changes now for this largely coastal leg of 1,250 nm, full of shipping, tidal gates, shallows and sandbanks. The course takes the fleet south around the UK, up the English Channel and out into the North Sea, where they will race around a loop set off the Hook of Holland before heading to the finish in Marstrand, Sweden on or around 11 June.
Volvo Ocean Race Leaderboard
(After Galyway In-Port Race)
1. Ericsson 4, skipper Torben GRAEL (BRA), 94.0 points
2. Telefónica Blue, skipper Bouwe BEKKING (NED), 81.0 points
3. PUMA, skipper Ken READ (USA), 80.0 points
4. Ericsson 3, skipper Magnus OLSSON (SWE), 62.5 points
5. Green Dragon, skipper Ian WALKER (GBR), 53.0 points
6. Telefónica Black, skipper Fernando ECHAVARRI (ESP), 39.0 points
7. Delta Lloyd, skipper Roberto BERMUDEZ (ESP), 31.0 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