Skipper Bouwe BEKKING and the team of Telefónica Blue became the fifth boat to finish leg one of the Volvo Ocean Race in Cape Town today, followed a few hours later by Andreas HANAKAMP and crew onboard Team Russia.
Telefónica Blue crossed the finish at 11:18 UTC (13:18 local time) after an elapsed leg time of 22 days, 23 hours, 18 minutes and 37 seconds (22:23:18:37). Even though the team has been sailing for fifth position, the crew has been working as hard as if it had been for first place. Telefónica Blue had been relegated to last place early in the leg after taking a mandatory 12-hour penalty when a damaged rudder forced them into a stop for repairs. However, they came back strongly to and with the three points scored for their fifth-place finish, jump up to fourth on the race leaderboard.
On arrival, skipper Bouwe BEKKING
(NED) said, "It feels great to be here in Cape Town. It was a hard leg and we learnt a lot and I think we came back well after the breakages of the first night. It is nice to be here with my family. Seeing my family is my biggest thing to look forward to."
A few hours after Telefónica Blue's arrival, Austria's Andreas HANAKAMP
brought Team Russia's Kosatka safely into Cape Town at 15:29 UTC (17:29 local time). The sixth-place finish gives the Russian entry an overall points total of 4, which puts them in seventh place on the race leaderboard.
A relieved HANAKAMP said, "It has been an intense leg with very close racing, I've never sailed in a race where the fleet was so close and fighting so hard. It exceeded all our expectations. All the boats sailed well and everybody got the position they deserved. We believed we would get Telefónica Blue in the end, but they just beat us."
Telefónica Blue has been playing catch-up for the entire leg when an early setback cost them dearly. After motoring out to the start area, with His Majesty King Juan Carlos 1 of Spain and his daughter the Infanta Dona Elena onboard for a short time, on day two, just 20 miles from the start, part of the steering broke. As only one rudder was working, and the crew was flying a large spinnaker, the boat immediately wiped out as the crew lost control. The boat slowed for nearly six hours while the crew tried to make a repair, but the decision was made to divert to Algeciras, in the bay of Gibraltar, for a 12-hour pit stop.
"I think we were unlucky with the breakages, which put us on the back foot,"
said navigator Simon FISHER
(GBR). "It was frustrating, though we were improving all the time. We have learnt a lot in the last week, which will help us to be a lot more competitive."
Back out on the track, the team found good breeze and the pit stop did not appear to be as harmful as the crew first thought. BEKKING and FISHER watched the computer carefully, looking at all their options. But, by day six, they were still trying to claw back the miles, and patience was wearing thin.
On day eight, 18 October, the crew dared to fly their big repaired spinnaker. "For the first time, we are back up to our potential numbers,"
BEKKING wrote. As the fleet ran into the Doldrums' brick wall, Telefónica Blue was back in contention, just 48nm behind PUMA.
Narrowly avoiding a partially submerged log on day 15, the team had another near miss, this time with something living. "Judging by the hole it left in the water, and the speed it went away, it was pretty big and not best pleased to see us,"
said FISHER at the time.
As the fleet waited for the anticipated 40-knot gales to arrive, the crew of Telefónica Blue found themselves situated to the east and rather too near the centre of the South Atlantic High for comfort. "It just hurts badly,"
BEKKING said when the crew had to sail on the unfavoured gybe, away from Cape Town, to escape.
But, as the gales swept over the fleet, Telefónica Blue had to throttle back and watch the leaders streak off into the sunset. "We were way too close to the edge, too early,"
Day 20 and the Spanish crew took a dive south and spotted their first Albatross. The sun was shining, the wind had eased and the waves were just a little bit smaller. For the first time in days, life onboard Telefónica Blue was a good. The team had overhauled three boats and was now in fifth place, but, on day 22, once again the boat flipped on its side as she careered out of control. All hands were called on deck to drop the spinnaker, which had fallen in the water, but miraculously had stayed in one piece.
The leg finished with the boat playing her StealthPaly card yesterday and keeping the advances from Team Russia in abeyance. "We sailed tactically well this last couple of days, and played the 'stealth' card very well,"
said BEKKING this morning.
Team Russia, backed by St Petersburg businessman, Oleg ZHEREBTOV, is the first Russian entry in the race since 1993. It is HANAKAMP'S first stab at a Volvo Ocean Race, but flanking him in the afterguard, he has two Volvo veterans as watch captains: Guillermo ALTADILL (ESP) and Stig WESTERGAARD (DEN), as well as and Wouter VERBRAAK (NED) as navigator. In the crew, he has Mike JOUBERT (RSA), who is on his fourth race.
Leg one has been a big test and the crew will undoubtedly be disappointed with their finishing result. They suffered a problem with the seals around the canting keel that separate the sea from the inside of the boat and although they had thought the problem had been solved before the start, by day three it was clear that it had not and a temporary repair was made.
When they reached the Doldrums, HANAKAMP was happy with their entry, but disappointed with their exit. "The first half of the crossing was OK,"
he said, "but then we were faced with light head winds which took us nowhere."
The leaders were, by then, 200nm away, and there was a lot of work to do for the Russian crew to move up the rankings.
On day 20, Kosatka crept four miles ahead of Team Delta Lloyd. Twenty-four hours later and the gap had increased to seven miles and they had overtaken the damaged Telefónica Black as well. Forty-eight hours later, the delta between Team Delta Lloyd and the Russians had lengthened to 47nm and Telefónica Blue was almost within range. But, Kosatka had run out of runway, and Telefónica Blue finished ahead, but still within striking distance, and only three hours ahead.
The next boat to finish will be Team Delta Lloyd later tonight.
Leg One Finishing Order into Cape Town
1. Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben GRAEL/BRA)
2. PUMA USA (Ken READ/USA)
3. Ericsson 4 SWE (Anders LEWANDER/SWE)
4. Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian WALKER/GBR)
5. Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe BEKKING/NED)
6. Team Russia RUS (Andreas HANAKAMP/AUT)
Volvo Ocean Race Leaderboard - Provisional
(After Leg One)
1. Ericsson 4 (Torben GRAEL), 14 points
2. Puma Il Mostro (Ken READ), 13 points
3. Green Dragon (Ian WALKER), 11 points
4. Telefónica Blue (Bouwe BEKKING), 10 points
5. Telefónica Black (Fernando ECHAVARRI), 6 points*
6. Ericsson 3 (Anders LEWANDER), 5 points
7. Team Russia (Andreas HANAKAMP), 4 points
8. Delta Lloyd (Ger O'ROURKE), 2 point*
Go here for all the news on the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09
Volvo Ocean Race - www.volvooceanrace.org