"It was a very difficult day, the wind shifted a lot but we had a good time, both boats did very well and we enjoyed ourselves," said Bouwe BEKKING after his win.
Tension has been mounting in Alicante, Spain, all week in anticipation of Saturday's in-port race where the eight-strong Volvo Ocean Race fleet showed their form for the first time. The in-port race marked the first scoring opportunity in the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race, whilst the first the of the offshore legs - from Alicante to Cape Town, South Africa - is set to start on 11 October. Telefónica Blue's success means they take up the top spot on the race leaderboard, picking up four points. (Scoring is based on a high-points system: leg winners gain a points' score equal to the number of competing teams, second place a points less and so on. The same system, but with the points halved, is used for the ocean gates and the in-port races. The team with the highest points total at the end of the race is the overall winner.)
For Saturday's action, the short windward/leeward track set close to the shore was lined by over 500 spectator craft and thousands of people watched from the many vantage points on the shore. The quay walls which gave an excellent view, were packed, and huge crowds gathered around the big screen in the race village as well as around the screens showing the race live in nearby hotels. Four helicopters hovered overhead, beaming back live footage to www.volvooceanrace.tv.
The first of two races got away at just after 13:00 local time in a light south-easterly breeze, and was led from start to finish by BEKKING and Iker MARTINEZ with local boat, Telefónica Blue, putting in an impressive performance.
The battle for second place in race one was hard fought but at the gun it was Telefónica Black (Fernando ECHAVARRI) who claimed second place with Green Dragon (Ian WALKER) in third. Both Telefónica boats have their training base in Alicante and their experience in this light and fluky breeze was evident, sailing high and fast throughout.
Green Dragon displayed some impressive speed in these conditions and led the fleet across the pin-end of the start line, while the rest of the fleet did not look so comfortable in this wind range.
Race two was postponed just 30 seconds before the start as the wind shifted violently and then carnage ensued at the committee boat end of the line when the gun eventually fired. Team Russia (Andreas HANAKAMP) collided with Delta Lloyd (Ger O'ROURKE) and both boats were holed close the water line. Team Russia subsequently took a penalty turn and Ericsson 3 (Anders LEWANDER) had to dip back across the line after being OCS (on course side) when the gun fired.
Puma (Ken READ) smoked away from the fleet looking very impressive, flying her massive Code Zero headsail with ease, but Telefónica Blue was hot on her heels. This short course was very effective in churning out the action today as the rest of the fleet struggled to hoist and drop their massive headsails at the turning marks and the latest generation of Code Zero sails caused problems across the fleet as the boats experimented.
Telefónica Black and Green Dragon scrapped as they approached the spectator fleet in third and fourth place while Ericsson 4 (Torben GRAEL) sailed confidently in clear air and Green Dragon was spat back into fifth as the group approached the top mark for the second time.
Telefónica Blue closed to within a boat length of Puma as they approached the mid-course gate for the final time and Puma struggled to hold onto their lead. Telefónica Blue finally rolled Puma as the American team went slightly wide at the gate and Telefónica Blue snatched the advantage to claim a double victory.
Puma skipper READ said, "We are really pleased with the day. It was an ugly first race, but we're happy with a third overall. The guys like each other and, after so much time, it's good to go racing. It was a hard day and you have to put yourself in the right spot."
The duel for third place between Telefónica Black and Ericsson 4 continued, while Ericsson 3 and Green Dragon continued to scrap and the two damaged boats, Delta Lloyd and Team Russia held a private fight at the back of the fleet.
The points for the day were calculated from the finishing positions in both races.
1. Telefónica Blue (Bouwe BEKKING/Iker MARTINEZ), 4 points
2. Telefónica Black (Fernando ECHAVARRI), 3.5 points
3. Puma Il Mostro (Ken READ), 3 points
4. Ericsson 4 (Torben GRAEL), 2.5 points
5. Green Dragon (Ian WALKER), 2 points
6. Delta Lloyd (Ger O'ROURKE), 1 point
7. Ericsson 3 (Anders LEWANDER), 0.5 points*
8. Team Russia (Andreas HANAKAMP), 0.5 points
*one point has been deducted from the Ericsson 3 score as per the jury decision number JN04 2 October.
Two races were held with a mid-course gate set as a pinch point in the windward/leeward race course. Points from both races were amalgamated to give an overall score for the day's racing. Tie breaks were decided by finishing positions in race two.
Volvo Ocean Race - www.volvoceanrace.org