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8 March 2006, 10:30 am
Slow Going
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Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006

Overnight the Volvo Ocean Race fleet has been floundering in pockets of little or no wind. This morning ABN AMRO ONE still holds a clear lead of over 60 miles and are now closing in on the 500 mile to go mark to the leg four finish in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
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The leading five yachts first started snaking around to the northwest last night as they hit the wall of no wind, before gybing back to the west, as what little wind there was had changed direction. For one painful moment, there was only one knot of wind speed.

Mike SANDERSON's (NZL) ABN AMRO ONE is now 63 nautical miles ahead of Paul CAYARD's (USA) Pirates and will face light winds for the next 14 hours or so before benefiting first from any significant breeze. Based on her current speed of 9.4 knots, the finish is predicted around 1700 UTC on Friday 10 March, but there are still 576 nautical miles to cover in fickle and unstable winds.

Stress Mounting On Ericsson

Neal MCDONALD's (GBR) Ericsson Racing Team is facing the possibility of finishing this leg in last place and onboard the stress is mounting. 'We are at the back of the fleet and desperate to make gains; the anxiety of sitting here [in the nav station] for hours at a time in little or no wind, almost praying for breeze, is enough to stop you eating and sleeping, but yet, at this very moment, if you could transport me to my living room, hand me a cold beer and stick a decent English comedy on television, it would still be a hard decision to leave.'

Ericsson Racing Team is the only boat which has made any inroads into the lead during the last six hours. Although they have only gained a mile, this small gain will help bolster the flagging spirits onboard.

Bouwe BEKKING's (NED) movistar has now left the Falkland Islands behind and continues on a northerly course towards Rio de Janeiro. They are currently enjoying slighter stronger winds that the rest of the fleet as they are positioned over 1,000 miles to the south.

Snakes And Ladders

It's been a difficult few days for the Volvo Ocean Race fleet, now in the closing stages of leg four of the race from Wellington, New Zealand to Rio de Janeiro, and it will only get harder, as the approach to Rio is notorious for being difficult.

It is a game of snakes and ladders according to SANDERSON, skipper of ABN AMRO ONE. Snakes and ladders is a simple game where you work your way towards the finish, taking turns throwing dice. If you land on a ladder and you climb closer to the finish. If you land on a snake, you slide back towards the start. One of the largest scale games of snakes and ladders that can be played is happening out on the race track right now.

'Yesterday,' explained SANDERSON last night, 'We slid down a nasty snake and lost 29 miles on the fleet and 39 miles to Brasil 1. We made our play to the west again that we had tried earlier in the day and had chickened out due there just being no wind, then, over the hours of darkness during last night, we gained back all that we had lost plus some nice interest on a good ladder as we shot out to the biggest lead we have had for the whole leg. No champagne cork popping sounds going through our heads here though, we are about to slide down another nasty ladder as we charge into a light spot and we just know we will lose miles.'

Making The Difference

There will continue to be some big gains and losses in the fleet as all the teams fight to stay in the hunt to win this leg. At this level of professional racing, every boat is sailed extremely well and while tiny little gains can be made by sailing the boat well, the winner will be the team who gets it right with the weather and that is going to take a lot of hard work and a little bit of good luck.

Aside from the frustrations with the weather, Simon FISHER (GBR) from ABN AMRO TWO says life is good. 'It is a far cry from the rigours of the Southern Ocean. We are sailing along in shorts and t-shirts in the sun. The boat is now dry and you sleep well without being tossed around like a pancake in your bunk.'

CAYARD and the lost souls onboard The Black Pearl are pragmatic. 'If it takes forever to get there, so be it. We just want to win this leg and we are prepared to stay out here for however long it takes to get the job done.'

Is West Best?

The strategy varies across the fleet and currently the east west positioning of the fleet remains the big tactical question. Leader ABN AMRO ONE is currently the most westerly boat. Unfortunately, before the fleet makes it to the finish, there is very likely to be more light air as another area of high pressure moves off the coast and towards the fleet. This will even more frustrating and could well be the cause of yet more last minute position changes in the dying moments of the leg before the fleet crosses the finish line.

Position Report At 1000 Hours UTC, 8 March 2006
Team Nation Skipper Latitude Longitude DTF DTL DTLC CMG SMG VMG ETA
ABN AMRO ONE NED Mike SANDERSON (NZL) 31 35.09S 47 46.01W 576 0 0 43 9.4 15.2 10/03/2006 - 1600 UTC
Pirates of the Caribbean USA Paul CAYARD (USA) 32 53.02S 47 21.01W 639 63 3 27 9.5 15.1 10/03/2006 - 2200 UTC
ABN AMRO TWO NED Sebastian JOSSE (FRA) 33 31.02S 47 15.03W 673 97 -8 25 7.7 15 11/03/2006 - 0100 UTC
Brasil 1 BRA Torben GRAEL (BRA) 33 47.02S 47 32.02W 693 117 -6 4 8.3 14.9 11/03/2006 - 0300 UTC
Ericsson Racing Team SWE Neal MCDONALD (GBR) 34 29.10S 47 21.60W 729 153 1 21 9.3 14.9 11/03/2006 - 0700 UTC
movistar ESP Bouwe BEKKING (NED) 50 11.04S 56 33.30W 1753 1177 -7 30 7.9 12.4 15/03/2006 - 0800 UTC

DTF: Distance To Finish
DTL: Distance To Leader
DTLC: Distance To Leader Change; the difference between the distance from the boat to the leader taken at the time of the last six hour poll, and the distance from the boat to the leader at the previous poll
CMG: Course Made Good; the average course steered over the period of the past six hours up to the time of the last poll
SMG: Speed Made Good
VMG: Velocity Made Good; the average velocity of the boat towards the finish over the entire leg
ETA: Estimated Time of Arrival

Overall Leaderboard
(Up to and including Leg Four Scoring Gate - not yet ratified)

Pos Team Nation Skipper Pts
3 movistar ESP Bouwe BEKKING (NED) 26
5 Pirates of the Caribbean USA Paul CAYARD (USA) 24.5
4 Brasil 1 BRA Torben GRAEL (BRA) 22.5
6 Ericsson Racing Team SWE Neal MCDONALD (GBR) 18
7 ING Real Estate Brunel AUS Grant WHARINGTON (AUS) 11.5

For a complete list of all the news about the Volvo Ocean Race 2005-2006 CLICK HERE.

Lizzie GREEN (As Amended By ISAF). Image, It has been slow going for the VO 70s:© Pepe RIBES
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