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20 October 2008, 10:25 am
Green Dragon Hit The Front As Volvo Fleet Enter The Doldrums
The Green Dragon crew hit rough weather on leg one of the Volvo Ocean Race
Green Dragon have moved into first place after a testing night in the Doldrums

Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09

Irish entry Green Dragon has moved into the lead on leg one of the Volvo Ocean Race with their westerly strategy paying dividends as the fleet entered the Doldrums over the weekend.
British skipper Ian WALKER and his team are the big beneficiaries of a major shake up in standings after the fleet of eight VO70s hit the Doldrums yesterday afternoon. At the latest poll this morning, Green Dragon held a lead of 39nm over Ericsson 3 (Anders LEWANDER/SWE) and Team Russia (Andreas HANAKAMP/AUT), who are both currently following a more easterly course.

Progress has been rapid for the Irish team who are now looking for a podium position when they round the scoring gate at Fernando de Noronha in a couple of days time. "West is best they say and we've had to give up a lot to get out here," said navigator, Ian MOORE (IRL) in a radio interview yesterday. "We all talked about it and so often it pays, but it was pretty hard watching the other guys turn south towards the Doldrums," he said.

In contrast to the good fortunes of the Irish, the PUMA team and skipper Ken READ (USA) have dropped from first to sixth after putting in a gybe yesterday afternoon to join the Irish team on a more westerly course (a strategy also employed by Ericsson 4).

"The heaters have been turned on and the grinders have been turned off - for the moment anyway," said READ yesterday as PUMA entered the calm, oily stillness of the Doldrums. Whilst the PUMA team have dropped back to sixth, they are currently making the best speed across the fleet, at 13.3 knots compared to just 7.3 knots for Green Dragon.

Temperatures rise as the eight-strong fleet dodges the big black clouds and the squalls which accompany them, typical of the Doldrums. "We are being hunted by clouds," said Ericsson 3's navigator Aksel MAGDAHL (NOR). "It does not feel fair that once again it pays off to be behind. It should not be like that in sailing. The rich should always get richer."

Over the past 24 hours and in contrast to the chopping and changing amongst the rest of the fleet, Ericsson 3 has maintained a steady position amongst the front two. The all-Nordic team will be hoping to avoid a repeat of their exit from the Mediterranean earlier in the week when their comfortable lead was sucked away by an adverse current and they were 'parked' for half a day, being passed by several boats. "After finally fighting our way back into contention, the same is happening again," worried MAGDAHL yesterday.

After the lead changes overnight it promised to be another exciting 24 hours as the fleet bunches together, but it is a very fickle part of the world and the whole fleet could very easily be turned on its head. It will be the Wind Gods who will decide the fate of the fleet and who gets free first, back into the trade winds.

The effects of being one man down onboard Ericsson 4 (Torben GRAEL/BRA) in fourth place are being felt, according to Guy SALTER (GBR). Tony MUTTER (NZL) was one of the top trimmers and drivers onboard and his lack of presence in the team has made it a lot harder on the rest of the crew. It is frustrating SALTER, himself a competent sailor and previous competitor in this event, as the media crew member (MCM) not being able to join in with sailing the boat.

"We are suffering from not being as far west as we would have liked to have been at this point," said SALTER, whose brother Jules SALTER (GBR) is the navigator onboard. "Skipper Torben GRAEL has had to stand a watch now as well as being involved in the major decisions which is proving very difficult physically," he said.

The team on Delta Lloyd (Ger O'ROURKE/IRL) has been putting in a superb performance, although they have now slipped back to eighth place after holding fifth yesterday. The team is watching the weather carefully, particularly a tropical storm which is approaching the fleet. "It's 75 nm wide and heading straight for the fleet's path," said O'ROURKE last night. "There could be big wins and losses in how the fleet manages this obstacle. These storms suck up and disturb the direction of the wind. Let's hope we get our timing right," he said.

Capitalizing on the front runners hitting the Doldrums wall, Telefónica Blue (Bouwe BEKKING/NED) is right back into contention, and now up to fourth overall, helped by the wind moderating at the head of the fleet and by being able to use their repaired spinnaker to catch the fleet.

"For the last few days with the sail problems we have had, it has been a bit like boxing with one hand tied behind your back," said BEKKING.

Gone now are the big waves and nose diving for Telefónica Blue as the sailing becomes more subtle with the crew teasing the best speeds possible out of the boat as the team edges south into softening winds and, eventually, the Doldrums.

Onboard Telefónica Black (Fernando ECHAVARRI/ESP), media crew member Mikel PASABANT (ESP) says that the crew is missing cookies and chocolate, but otherwise they are eating and drinking very well. "Some of the crew say they are even getting fatter," he reports. The black Spanish boat is just behind Telefónica Blue, 43nm off the lead.

Keeping hydrated in the Doldrums sauna is very important. "The water make is a value that we could not do without and seems to get run overtime down here," says PUMA's READ. "We are constantly preaching 'drink water'. If you don't, you develop hangover symptoms pretty quick. Not that I have those symptoms often when on land, but I have been told," he says.

As the fleet negotiates the big, black clouds of the Doldrums, the race veterans onboard PUMA wisely nod their heads and say, 'welcome to the Doldrums, and if this isn't it, then we are really close.' "I can't wait for them to say, 'welcome to the south east trades," laughs READ.

Leg One Day 10: 07:00 UTC Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to leader)

Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian WALKER/GBR) 4058 DTF
Ericsson 3 SWE (Anders LEWANDER/SWE) +39
Team Russia RUS (Andreas HANAKAMP/AUT) +39
Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe BEKKING/NED) +42
Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando ECHAVARRI/ESP) +43
PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken READ/USA) +48
Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben GRAEL/BRA) +67
Delta Lloyd IRL (Ger O'ROURKE/IRL) +82

Volvo Ocean Race Leaderboard
(After In-Port race 1)

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.

Go here for all the news on the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09

Volvo Ocean Race - www.volvooceanrace.org

Lizzie Ward
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