Saturday, 28 March 2009

VOR: PUMA takes Second Place Overall in Volvo Ocean Race

Post-Leg feast. Image copyright Sally Collison/PUMA Ocean Racing.

by Kate Fairclough

After an incredibly hard-fought 41 days at sea, the PUMA Ocean Racing team crossed the finish line of leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 in Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro at 01:47 local/04:27 GMT/23:27 EST [March 26] today. The longest ever leg in the history of the Volvo Ocean Race took the team over 13,000 nautical miles from Qingdao, China to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Rounding Cape Horn in third place and maintaining their podium position to the end of this leg, the PUMA team, led by Skipper Ken Read (USA), moves up to take second place overall on the Volvo Ocean Race leaderboard.

The PUMA logo needs some work after Leg 5. Image copyright Sally Collison/PUMA Ocean Racing.

At the beginning of this epic leg almost a month and a half ago, the team had said their final goodbyes to loved ones in freezing cold China on Valentine’s Day. They today emerged looking relieved at the other end of a marathon leg. Having scaled the Pacific Ocean from north to south, skirted icebergs in the Southern Ocean, rounded Cape Horn in rough seas and made agonisingly slow progress northwards to Brazil over the past week, this leg will truly go down in sailing history. For the PUMA team, the journey has been long and arduous, with extreme highs and extreme lows, together with yet more close racing amongst the fleet. PUMA led the fleet for a large part of the first half of the leg, before rounding Cape Horn in third place on Tuesday 17th March. Ten days later, the PUMA team were being teased by the bright lights of Rio, beckoning the team in as they battled with patchy light winds to make it to the finish.

The PUMA Ocean Racing team were welcomed on the dock by family and the PUMA shore team along with local samba dancers. After celebrating onstage the eleven dishevelled crew were ushered to a banquet fit for kings in the PUMA Lounge before much-needed showers and sleep.

Kenny Read with sandwich in hand. Image copyright Sally Collison/PUMA Ocean Racing.

On the dock in Rio Skipper Ken Read (USA) commented: “I don’t think any of us, before we began this leg, knew quite what it would be like. It was not only a boat race but a real adventure. It was non-stop excitement from beginning to end, right out from China. You don't realise how daunting the Southern Ocean is until you're there. Rounding Cape Horn is something I'll never forget as long as I live. If you were going to write the script for it, it was this squally, eerie, hazy day. The sun would break through and then there was pouring rain, blowing 30 knots.”

“It’s an emotional day to be here safely in Brazil and see our families again. We’ve finished the leg on the podium, solidified second place overall, rounded Cape Horn, and I’ve done it all with my friends. The guys on Ericsson 3 sailed a heck of a leg. They made the break at New Zealand and made it hold up all the way to the finish – it’s a great effort by their squad and hard earned. The leg itself was like a 41-day day race, every day you were pushing just as hard as you would in a one day regatta. I wondered if we would begin to have to pace ourselves but the fact is, there’s no such thing – if you try to pace yourself you just lose. So you can’t.”

Casey and the Samba girls. Image copyright Sally Collison/PUMA Ocean Racing.

“We will have this experience to look back on forever – although I don't think the magnitude of this leg will really sink in until after the completion of the race. It says a lot when you can't get the route that we just sailed on one computer screen because it covers half the planet. With half the points in this race still available it is still anyone’s game, not only for the podium but for victory. Anything can happen. We will stay on our toes and keep pushing as hard as we can until someone grabs our lines in St Petersburg.”

PUMA Ocean Racing
Volvo Ocean Race

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