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13 October 2008, 10:22 am
Ericsson 4 Lead Whilst Telefonica Blue Suffer Early Setback
Telefonica Blue officially suspended racing having reached landfall near Gibraltar
Telefonica Blue officially suspended racing having reached landfall near Gibraltar

Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09

Ericsson 4 are the early leads in leg one of the Volvo Ocean Race whilst Telefonica Blue suffered an early setback when they suspend racing to make repairs to steering gear damaged during the opening night at sea.
Ericsson 4 have established a narrow lead at the front of the fleet, five miles ahead of PUMA Ocean Racing, with Telefonica Black just one mile further back. However, it has not been such a smooth start for the second of the Spanish entries as skipper Bouwe BEKKING (NED) and notified race HQ at 18:53:26 UTC on Sunday that Telefonica Blue had stopped at the port of Algeciras in the Bay of Gibraltar. The team, who won the opening in-port race in Alicante, have served their 12-hour penalty under the pit stop rule and resumed racing at 06:53 UTC today.

BEKKING and his crew had been making a good start to the race, racing neck a neck with Ericsson 4 at the front, before they suffered an early setback.

"All of a sudden a sickening crack," explained BEKKING. "It turned out that a part of our steering broke, only 20 miles out from the start. Only one rudder was working, so we made a beauty wipe-out."

The team were forced to sail slowly without the spinnaker and after some deliberation decided to stop to make the necessary repairs and incur the 12-hour penalty. After getting back racing today, BEKKING revealed his obvious frustration in an email sent back to race HQ this morning: "How do I feel? Not very happy, but we have to carry on and see if we can claw back all the lost miles. Still a long way to go, and we know we can sail optimal again," he said.

"We were moored overnight in between all the big container ships, as the marina was closed, because of the all the damage a big storm caused two days ago over here. The shore crew, formed of Campbell, Maria, Claas, Clayton and Stu have done AN EXCELLENT JOB. They set up a temporary workshop, and had a car full of tools with them.

"Just after arrival we had a short chat with them, and their wish was to do all the work themselves, and they sent us off to a local hotel for a couple of hours of sleep."

The Telefonica Blue team now has to sail through the Straight of Gibralter and try to begin hauling in the rest of the fleet.

At the front of the fleet, the two Ericsson boats pulled out an early advantage and led by around 40nm as they passed through the Straight of Gibralter on Sunday. However since emerging into the Atlantic Ocean their advantage disappeared as they were left virtually becalmed in a depression. This morning, speeds across the fleet have picked up again to 12-13 knots and now just 9nm cover the first five boats.

Meanwhile, the rest of the fleet has passed through the Straight of Gibralter and out into the Atlantic Ocean. Overnight, the fleet compressed dramatically, with the two Ericsson squads seeing their hard-won lead slowly evaporate. This turn of events at least provided some consolation to the crew on Telefonica Blue. "The other boats had a re-start as well and can imagine that the Ericsson boys are feeling sick, as they had an excellent first day, but now got caught up again by the rest," said BEKKING.

It has been a particularly frustrating night for Ericsson 3, who led at the Straight of Gibralter but have since dropped down to fourth in the latest polling. "The first part of the leg went just as we planned; hard work with many gybes and never-ending sail shifts did pay off and our aim to be the first boat to hit the trade winds seemed to become reality," explained media crew member Gustav MORIN (SWE).

"But in the tricky Gibraltar area someone hit the breaks. From a roaring down wind with boat speed up to 30 knots, we were now lying still. We had no wind, and at the same time the current was pushing as backwards.

"I could really feel that our competitors were soaking in the distance we had earned from the hard work during the night. Worry, frustration, tiredness. We couldn't do anything. Before we got control over the situation we had been going backwards for over a mile."

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

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