It was like the end of a school term at the skippers' press conference in Stockholm today as the Volvo Ocean Race fleet prepares to tackle leg 10, a final, short, sprint to the overall finish line in St. Petersburg.
With just 400 miles remaining in a race around the world that measures over 37,000 nautical miles, and the leaderboard almost entirely decided, the finish line - the real one - is now in sight.
One leaderboard duel does remain. With a maximum of eight points available to the winner of the leg, PUMA leads Telefonica Blue by 6.5 points in the battle to finish second overall in the race.
The forecast is promising for the start on Thursday afternoon. A light northeasterly breeze of 8-10 knots is expected. But as the leg progresses, the wind is forecast to ease. It could be a long 400 miles.
"This weather forecast is not perfect for us,"
said PUMA skipper Ken READ
(USA). "We don't want it to turn into a light air crap shoot because anything can happen that way. Telefonica can go and win the leg by 100 miles if they want; [but] we just have to beat one boat."
"I think, realistically, they have sewn it up,"
countered Telefonica Blue skipper Bouwe BEKKING
(NED). "But it's yacht racing and hopefully they sail the wrong way, come last and we come first. There would be a lot written if that happened. We'll certainly be pushing hard for a win."
Also making an appearance at the press conference today was Team Russia skipper Stig WESTERGAARD
(DEN), who brought the Russian boat, Kosatka, into Stockholm last night. They haven't competed since leg three and the team is now engaged in a race against time to get rule compliant ahead of the start.
With Ericsson 4 having mathematically won the Volvo Ocean Race on the leg into Stockholm, the rest of the teams are sailing for pride. And, according to Telefonica Black skipper Fernando ECHAVARRI
(ESP) that will be motivation enough.
"This is the last chance we have to win a leg and we'll try to do that,"
he said. "It's more about personal pressure and trying to finish with a leg win, rather than pressure on the overall standing. It's going to be good [weather] conditions for our boats so we'll try to do our best to arrive in St Petersburg in the top position."
Ericsson 4 skipper Torben GRAEL
(BRA) agreed it will be a competitive race: "We all owe it to our sponsors to get a good result and we are all very competitive people. A win is important to us."
There will be full coverage of the start (web tv and audio commentary) and the leg (including a live race blog) at www.volvooceanrace.org
. The start is scheduled for 12:00 UTC on Thursday, with an ETA in St. Petersburg on Saturday morning.
Volvo Ocean Race Leaderboard
(After Stockholm In-Port Race)
1. Ericsson 4, skipper Torben GRAEL
(BRA), 110.5 points
2. PUMA, skipper Ken READ
(USA), 98.5 points
3. Telefónica Blue, skipper Bouwe BEKKING
(NED), 92.0 points
4. Ericsson 3, skipper Magnus OLSSON (SWE), 73.5 points
5. Green Dragon, skipper Ian WALKER
(GBR), 64.0 points
6. Telefónica Black, skipper Fernando ECHAVARRI
(ESP), 50.0 points
7. Delta Lloyd, skipper Roberto BERMUDEZ
(ESP), 39.5 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