Weather forecaster, Matt SANDERS, explains that the countdown to the 'launch' began over the weekend as the teams readied their boats and steered into the best position to rocket across the South Atlantic. Navigators hoped this south west-south-west course positioned their boats on the launch pad with the best fuel to reach Cape Town. The fuel is, of course, strong, steady winds generated by the pressure gradient between lows moving along the South Atlantic storm track, and the semi-permanent South Atlantic High.
Green Dragon, in third place, is the most southerly yacht in the fleet and skipper WALKER says that all the effort his team put into getting south is now wasted. "We will have lost miles on the fleet as we will no longer be gybing south," he says. Ericsson 4 (Torben GRAEL/BRA) and PUMA (Ken READ/USA), leading the field, are 26nm to windward of the Dragons.
Telefónica Black (Fernando ECHAVARRI/ESP) in fourth, is following the same east-south-easterly course as PUMA and Ericsson 4, who has fifth-placed Telefónica Blue (Bouwe BEKKING/NED) 17nm to windward, and is being followed by Ericsson 3 (Anders LEWANDER/SWE) who is behind and to leeward. Delta Lloyd (Ger O'ROURKE/IRL) in seventh position, is the most northerly yacht and Team Russia (Andreas HANAKAMP/AUT) is following in the wake of Ericsson 3.
WALKER reported this morning that the Dragons had averaged 25 knots for the past hour. This would equate to a 600-nm day. "Clearly, doing this for 24-hours is another thing altogether and we are on the edge," he said.
The pressure is mounting for the leading two boats, Ericsson 4 and PUMA. They are back in sight of each other, racing just 100 metres apart after a 15-hour spell when Ericsson 4 managed to break free from PUMA's stranglehold. "We knew they would be back," reported PUMA skipper READ in a radio interview this morning. "The first boat to break loose will win. We will keep the pressure on. We are literally right next door to Ericsson 4," READ said.
Onboard Delta Lloyd navigator Matthew GREGORY (USA) describes the storm that is brewing as 'the gateway to hell'. The crew reported damage to the starboard side of their rig over a week ago and since making the repair, the Dutch/Irish team has sailed only on port gybe. A gybe to starboard is imminent, possibly coinciding with the cold front passing over the team as the storm deepens to the south of them.
The best 24-hour run is chalked down to Team Russia who has registered 450nm, but the highest average speed still lies with Green Dragon, whose skipper says: "Watch this space over the next three days. I guarantee records or drama - or possibly both."
Leg One Day 18: 13:00 UTC Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to leader)
Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben GRAEL/BRA) DTF 2292
PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken READ/USA) +2
Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian WALKER/GBR) +41
Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando ECHAVARRI/ESP) +44
Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe BEKKING/NED) +47
Ericsson 3 SWE (Anders LEWANDER/SWE) +58
Delta Lloyd IRL (Ger O'ROURKE/IRL) +117
Team Russia RUS (Andreas HANAKAMP/AUT) +186
Volvo Ocean Race Leaderboard*
(After Leg One Scoring Gate)
1. Telefónica Blue (Bouwe BEKKING/Iker MARTINEZ), 6 points
2. Telefónica Black (Fernando ECHAVARRI), 6 points
3. Puma Il Mostro (Ken READ), 6 points
4. Ericsson 4 (Torben GRAEL), 6 points
5. Green Dragon (Ian WALKER), 6 points
6. Delta Lloyd (Ger O'ROURKE), 2 point
7. Ericsson 3 (Anders LEWANDER), 1 points
8. Team Russia (Andreas HANAKAMP), 1 points
Volvo Ocean Race - www.volvooceanrace.org