Wednesday, 29 April 2009

VOR: Bouwe Bekking - 3rd into Boston, 2nd Overall

Telefonica Blue, skippered by Bouwe Bekking (NED) (pictured) finish third on leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Rio de Janeiro to Boston, crossing the finish line at 21:23:02 GMT 26/04/09. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Javier Sobrino

Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 finished April 26 in Boston, USA, after 4,900 nautical miles from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Bouwe Bekking and TELEFONICA BLUE crossed the finish line off the Bostonian Fan Pier in 3rd place, two places behind the main goal but good enough to jump one step forward on the leader board. TELEFONICA BLUE is now in 2nd overall (64.5 points), between the leader Ericsson 4 (77.5 points) and Puma (64 points).

A fast resume of the leg says that Bouwe's boat left the Brazilian Guanabara Bay on April 11 standing 3rd in the overall rankings, two points behind Ken Read's Puma, just one week after winning the Rio in-port race. Six days later (April 17), TELEFONICA BLUE won the scoring waypoint of Fernando de Noronha, closing the gap with the American boat to just half a point. "Sailing from Rio to the scoring waypoint was just fantastic," Bouwe explains, "so was being in the lead. We sailed brilliantly over there and added four valuable points. What else can you say?"

Too early
From Fernando de Noronha on, things changed quickly for the Spanish blue boat. As Bouwe wrote in his exclusive report for on April 22, "ahead of us lies an area where we have to cross a front line, which means a big change in the wind. A very tricky call has to be made. You gybe too early, and you run out of pressure; you gybe to late, and you end up with a bad angle approaching the whale exclusion box, as the breeze will come rapidly forward until we are hard on the wind. That will be the race call." A couple of days later, Bouwe confirmed it: they gybed too early, and today he recalled that moment as the turning point in Leg 6. "The gybe was horrible. We gybed too early, with a little bit of pressure because we knew Ericsson 4 was faster than us, but we wanted to be on the inside. Then, it just didn't materialise the way we expected and straight after we ran out of pressure, and that was basically an expensive loss."

That was a key moment, as TELEFONICA BLUE moved from first to fourth in just a few position reports. "From that moment until we got to the whale exclusion zone, we went well, but then we broke the check stay when we were right next to Ericsson 3. We lost a little bit of ground at that stage, and we lost again a little bit in the Gulf Stream as well. That moved us like 20 to 25 miles behind. We managed to come back again after that, and as soon as we got to the exclusion zone, the water became flat and we seemed to be really quick in that stuff."

Intense approach to Boston
Before getting into Boston to complete Leg 6, a final obstacle was waiting for the fleet off the coast of Massachusetts: the whale exclusion zone, a broad area that the boats have to sail around in order to avoid the whales. "It's difficult to say whether the exclusion zone was an opportunity or a handicap," Bouwe said once at the dockside, "but I think it was nice for us, because we passed Puma, sailed away from them and gained a lot on the Ericsson boats. So, good in that sense."

The final stretch to Boston was a fight against Puma for the delicate 2nd place on the leader board. Finishing ahead of Ken Read's "shoe boat" would mean getting back to 2nd overall for Bouwe and TELEFONICA BLUE.

In a fantastic final approach to the city of Paul Revere, the Boston Red Sox and the Freedom Trail, Bouwe Bekking and his crew managed not only to finish third, but to cross the finish line less than one mile behind the second boat -Ericsson 3- and less than half an hour after the winner of the leg. And all this after close to 5,000 nautical miles from Brazil!

As a result, TELEFONICA BLUE added 6 valuable points to their basket, jumping to 2nd place on the leader board. "We lost against Ericsson 4, but we gained against Puma and Ericsson 3, so in that sense has been a really good result," Bouwe highlights.

"The boat was nice," Bouwe continued. "The shore crew has really done a fantastic job. We broke one check stay but it was in a gust of 40 knots, and you know that these kinds of things happen when you push hard to sail faster. But it was the only thing that broke on the boat. The job list before the in-port race is basically limited to washing and replacing the check stay."

Next step in TELEFONICA BLUE and Bouwe Bekking's agenda is May 9, with the Boston in port race. Another four points to fight for and another chance to reduce the gap with the current leader of the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09.

Bouwe Bekking
Volvo Ocean Race

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