Ian WALKER and his team on Green Dragon extended their lead at the front as the Volvo Ocean Race fleet emerged from the Doldrums, into the south-easterly trade winds and now head towards the scoring gate at Fernando de Noronha.
The Irish boat final left the Doldrums yesterday afternoon and since then have been making good speed on their more westerly course, recording around 12 knots boatspeed in the south-east trade winds. American skipper Ken READ
and the PUMA team lead the chase, 30nm behind the Irish at the latest polling at 10:00 UTC this morning. Torben GRAEL
's (BRA) crew of international stars on Ericsson 4 are just a couple of miles further back in third place.
(GBR) and his Green Dragon team now look very well placed to take a maximum 4 points at the Fernando de Noronha scoring gate sometime tomorrow, with PUMA and Ericsson 4 battling for second-place honours, and with it the overall points lead, just behind.
PUMA had held the advantage going into the Doldrums, but Green Dragon built their lead by opting for a more westerly course, a strategy also adopted, albeit at a slightly later stage, first by PUMA and then Ericsson 4.
Yesterday READ reflected on a particularly tough couple of days onbaord, "Early in the race we knew that this was going to be a major trap. The Doldrums as described by Capey [Andrew CAPE] in his typical understated tones were 'unusually large', which translates to, 'Holy crap, there isn't any wind forever!' Actually what he described is that the Doldrums are exactly where they usually are, and aren't really that large, but there is a huge band of no wind to the north of the doldrums making it seem like the world's largest Doldrums. And he was right."
Their tactic to get through the extended light airs was to stay between their enemies and the scoring gate at Fernando de Noronha but in retrospect READ wonders if they were too tactically conservative. "In the Green Dragons case, they did a really nice job, back a hundred miles at one point, sailing right around the fleet to the west. Same thing with Ericsson 4, who after dropping off Tony [Tony MUTTER (NZL)] for medical help found a way back and also boogied to the west."
(AUS), bowman on Ericsson 4, reported on the crew's jolly mood yesterday, "We have been in relatively good sailing conditions compared to our competitors and are slowly earning back the ground that we had sacrificed for a more westerly route several days ago. So far, we have managed to avoid any major 'park-ups' in the numerous windless zones that dominate this doldrums area."
Behind Green Dragon, PUMA and Ericsson 4, best of the rest is Telefónica Black. Skippered by Beijing Olympic gold medallist Fernando ECHAVARRI
(ESP), the Spanish entry is somewhat isolated between the leading group of three 30nm ahead and its sistership Telefónica Blue, 80nm behind.
Onboard Telefónica Blue, skipper Bouwe BEKKING
(NED) yesterday described the inherent difficulties and frustrations the teams have had to cope with as they made their way through the Doldrums, "It was our turn again tonight to have a park-up. We saw thunder and lightning on the horizon appear, so switched our radar on to see if there was any rain. Rain in general is bad news, especially if you are in the wake of a cloud. We could see that the rain was about 16 miles away, so roughly 30km, and you would expect that there is no impact over such a big distance. But we know better, Ericsson 3 had seen the same thing, and we both tried to sail higher to avoid it as well as possible.
"But again we both ran into the wall. FULLSTOP for two hours, sails flapping. Anyway nice to have a boat right next to you in these conditions, as you can see immediately if you do things right (or wrong) as you have good gauge right next to you. In that sense we have been sailing well."
Leg One Day 12: 10:00 UTC Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to leader)
Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian WALKER
/GBR) DTF 3648
PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken READ
Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben GRAEL
Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando ECHAVARRI
Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe BEKKING
Ericsson 3 SWE (Anders LEWANDER
Team Russia RUS (Andreas HANAKAMP
Volvo Ocean Race Leaderboard
(After In-Port race 1)
1. Telefónica Blue (Bouwe BEKKING
), 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