Ian WALKER (GBR) and his Green Dragons are reaping the reward of their easterly course as they reel in the leaders, gaining 147nm from 13:00 on Saturday to 13:00 UTC today. The team is still well over 100nm to the east of where the leaders passed and this could mean big gains or huge losses if things go against the team. They have overtaken Telefónica Blue, who is sailing in the wake of the leading trio, but not without a very close incident with a huge whale first thing this morning.
"The whale breached the surface about three boat lengths to windward of us when we were charging along at 17 knots. It does make you wonder what the impact would be like if you hit one of these fantastic creatures flat out. It's probably better not to think about it too much," wrote WALKER. Spirits are high and the team is reporting a very easy doldrums passage so far, with only one cloud bringing the team even close to stationary.
Controlling the pack, Ericsson 4's crew are describing the sailing conditions as glorious. "The sea was very flat today and wind has topped out at about 12 knots, but been in the 8 - 10 knot range for most of the afternoon. We have been cruising along at around 10 knots with the code zero up and have been sailing on the wind. It's been glorious," wrote Guy SALTER (GBR), Media Crew Member (MCM), whose brother Jules SALTER (GBR) is the navigator onboard.
The team passed back into the southern hemisphere today, which invoked some discussion among the Antipodean members of the crew who feel that the boat has returned to the 'proper' side of the world. Sightings of wildlife on this boat have been limited to one lone dolphin, a whale and a few birds. "We were hoping for a better turn out, but then, if you were a sea creature, you would also probably stay well away from a Volvo Open 70," says Guy.
The crew of third placed Ericsson 3 is fully back in the game. "During the night, we made huge gains on the front of the fleet and, in the morning, we could see PUMA. And by then, we were still gaining," explains an excited Gustav MORIN (SWE), MCM. "They were sailing much lower than us, but pretty much at the same pace, and for a while, it seemed like we were going to come really close to each other. But, suddenly, they got some breeze that we didn't, and just took off. Fortunately for us, that only lasted for about 30 minutes and we were back in the game," he said.
Although life onboard has been universally improved across the fleet by the opening of hatches in the galley and further aft to create airflow downstairs, onboard Green Dragon the team has a bug, which is working its way through the crew. The team has taken the precaution of sterilising all the cups, bowls and spoons as best they can, but, according to WALKER, the reality of life on these boats is that if one person gets ill, it is a fair assumption that everyone will. Freddie SHANKS (GBR) is the latest victim and he has commandeered MCM Guo CHUAN's (CHN) bunk as a sick bay. Over half the crew have suffered with the bug so far.
As the fleet races on through the endless atolls and islands, the crew of Telefónica Blue was rather shocked to receive a message on their navigational warning system, which indicated volcanic activity very close to a position the team crossed two days ago.
"Good it didn't happen when we were there as I am not sure how we would have reacted, and rather don't want to know the consequences," exclaimed skipper Bouwe BEKKING (NED). This incident led him to consider what other dangers lurk in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. "Radio-activity is one of them. Some of the atolls are still high radio active and the Pacific pilot recommends a wide berth around them," he said. That said, BEKKING says that the Pilot has provided some nice reading material and says it is a shame that they are racing through this area. "Wouldn't have been nice to make several stops here and to explore some of the atolls? The pictures say it all, it is paradise."
At 13:00 UTC today, Ericsson 3 was just one mile astern of PUMA, who in turn was only 21 miles behind the leaders, Ericsson 4. Green Dragon was nine miles ahead of Telefónica Blue and both these two boats continue to make small gains on the leaders at every position report. Boat speeds hover around 10 knots, although, for the past three hours, Telefónica Blue has averaged 11.8. Green Dragon gets the prize for the best 24- hour run, sailing 330nm since 13:00 UTC yesterday. It is likely to be a week before the fleet rids itself of the light airs and arrives in the Southern Ocean proper.
Leg Five Day 10: 13:00 UTC Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)
Ericsson 4 SWE, Torben GRAEL (BRA) DTF 9,303nm
PUMA Racing Team USA, Ken READ (USA) +21
Ericsson 3 SWE, Magnus OLSSON (SWE) +24
Telefónica Blue ESP, Bouwe BEKKING (NED) +126
Green Dragon IRL/CHN, Ian WALKER (GBR) +135
Delta Lloyd IRL, Roberto BERMUDEZ (ESP) DNS
Telefónica Black ESP, Fernando ECHAVARRI (ESP) DNS
Team Russia RUS, Andreas HANAKAMP (AUT) DNS
Volvo Ocean Race Leaderboard
1. Ericsson 4, skipper Torben GRAEL (BRA), 49 points
2. Telefónica Blue, skipper Bouwe BEKKING (NED), 42 points
3. PUMA, skipper Ken READ (USA), 41 points
4. Green Dragon, skipper Ian WALKER (GBR), 30 points
5. Ericsson 3, skipper Magnus OLSSON (SWE), 24 points
6. Telefónica Black, skipper Fernando ECHAVARRI (ESP), 21 points
7. Delta Lloyd, skipper Roberto BERMUDEZ (ESP), 12 points
8. Team Russia, skipper Andreas HANAKAMP (AUT), 10.5 points
Go here for all the news on the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09
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