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26 October 2008, 04:00 pm
Volvo Fleet Gearing Up For Sleigh Ride To Cape Town
Helmsman/Trimmer Stefan MYRÄLF grinding and Eivind MELLEBY onboard Ericsson 3
There's stormy weather ahead for the Volvo Ocean Race fleet

Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09

The fleet racing in leg one of the Volvo Ocean Race is about to have its first taste of 'Life at the Extreme' as the crews prepare to ride a 40 knot westerly gale straight towards Cape Town.
Leaders Ericsson 4 (Torben GRAEL/BRA) has started to make her turn to the east, followed by the chasing pack of four, PUMA (Ken READ/USA), Green Dragon (Ian WALKER/GBR) and Telefónica Black (Fernando ECHAVARRI/ESP). But, while high winds are forecast, the fleet still has to negotiate a light patch of wind, before they can enjoy the sleigh ride east.

According to Volvo Ocean Race weather forecasters, the slow down should not last long, and, by the beginning of week three, there will be a series of strong lows moving east towards the Cape of Good Hope. But, although the fleet is gearing up for a quick ride to Cape Town, the predicted 40 knots of wind will be a big test for the Volvo 70s.

"In the old Volvo Ocean 60s, 40 knots would be towards the upper end of racing mode, but in these boats, 40 knots is a lot more like survival mode," wrote Media Crew Member Guy SALTER (GBR) from Ericsson 4 this morning. "It will be bumpy, wet and very uncomfortable, but hopefully fast," he adds.

Across the fleet, the crews are trying to get as much rest as possible, in anticipation of the gale yet to come. Cooking is going to be difficult, so topping up on freeze-dried food is a priority too. Everyone is triple checking their areas of responsibility and concentrating on the onslaught that lies ahead.

"We have been preparing for war since early morning," writes Mikel PASABANT (ESP) from Telefónica Black. The team is expecting in excess of 40 knots, which for them is good news. "We will at last catch up with the winds which will take us closer to the finish line and be able to fight for the leading place," says PASABANT. From their position at the back of the leading group, they are beginning to experience a drop in wind, with big wind shifts.

Ian WALKER (GBR), skipper of Green Dragon, says the race is about to get 'interesting' as all the boats behind get the wind further north and cut the corner on the leaders. "The boats should align north/south and it will look like a fairly equal dash for Cape Town," he says. Those that do not keep up with the pace will drop off the back of the system and lose hundreds of miles. "It's our job," says WALKER, "not to let that happen to us."

The gales could see the fleet cover in excess of 500 nautical miles in a 24-hour period, which means looking for an average boat speed of around 24 knots. So far, it has taken the fleet three days to cover almost 900nm south from the scoring gate at Fernando de Noronha.

Green Dragon's navigator, Ian MOORE (IRL) says, "The reward for this southerly dash is brewing just south of Cabo Frio, and hopefully will start ploughing east following the south side of the St Helena high, dragging the entire fleet with it."

"We will have to hold on tight and stay concentrated to keep the crew and equipment in one piece. We have a long a long trip in front of us," says Eivind MELLEBY (NOR) from Ericsson 3 (Anders LEWANDER/SWE).

The distance between the top four boats is starting to spread. At 13:00 UTC today, Ericsson 4 led PUMA by one mile, but Green Dragon was 26nm behind the leader, and Telefónica Black 34 nm.

Telefónica Blue (Bouwe BEKKING/NED) leads the second group which are now very strung out, all losing miles to the leader in the last three hours. Ericsson 3 has had the best average boat speed of 15.5 knots, but Team Russia (Andreas HANAKAMP/AUT) has had the best 24 hour run of 372nm. Delta Lloyd (Ger O'ROURKE/IRL) in sixth place is still proving that his generation one boat is up to the mark and has been level pegging with the rest of the fleet in terms of boat speed, averaging 14.8 knots in the past three hours.

Leg One Day 16: 13:00 UTC Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to leader)

Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben GRAEL/BRA) DTF 2958
PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken READ/USA) +1
Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian WALKER/GBR) +26
Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando ECHAVARRI/ESP) +34
Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe BEKKING/NED) +39
Delta Lloyd IRL (Ger O'ROURKE/IRL) +78
Ericsson 3 SWE (Anders LEWANDER/SWE) +81
Team Russia RUS (Andreas HANAKAMP/AUT) +183

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

*Provisional standings

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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