Sunday, 12 April 2009

VOR: Preparing to Leave Rio de Janeiro for Boston

The Volvo Ocean Race fleet at the dock ahead of the Rio re-start. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Volvo Ocean Race media

Each of the crews were escorted to their boats by samba dancers and they are now heading out to Guanabara Bay, the noise of Brazilian bagpipes supplying the soundtrack. Not the soundtrack you'd expect, but a soundtrack nonetheless.

At 1500 local time they will start leg six, a 4,900-nautical mile trip across the equator to Boston.

There are points and places up for grabs and a sense among the chasing pack that Ericsson 4 cannot be allowed to get further ahead on the leaderboard.

On that note, chief measurer James Dadd eyes an opportunity. “Look at Delta Lloyd,” he says. “New rig, new sails, new crew and a boat originally built for the legs coming up. I wouldn’t write off the chance of them upsetting a few people along the way.”

On the dock, tears have started to fall and the crowd is starting to clear. Marco Grael, Torben’s son, is wandering around in Ericsson gear, a contrast to earlier in the stopover when he was helping out Delta Lloyd.

Who knows what will happen? The next chapter is about to be written.

The Volvo Open 70 fleet departs the dock in Marina da Gloria for the start of Leg 6 from Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

Brazilians play the bagpipes. Hard to believe, but definitely true. There’s a 100-strong band marching around the race village as the crews make their final preparations before sailing to Boston.

Some sailors are laughing and joking, Ericsson 4’s Phil Jameson is throwing a rugby ball, and others are cramming in a little extra family time. “It’s always hard to say goodbye to the family,” says Telefonica Blue’s Jonno Swain.

“Never easy to leave my girls,” adds his skipper, Bouwe Bekking.

But there’s also a sense of excitement in the air. “Looking forward to it very much,” says PUMA watch captain Sidney Gavignet. “We have a good chance this leg.”

He is one of the few sailors already on his boat. “Just going over a few things, just checking.” He says he has no pre-race ritual, but his superstitions are typically French. “I never say the name of the animal with long ears,” he says. “Never joke about the animal with long ears.” Um, okay.

It’s all very sedate onboard, but there is plenty happening elsewhere. The crowds are now measured in their hundreds, and interviews are happening all over. Lars Grael, Torben’s brother, is talking to Brazilian TV about the new Brasil 1 project, Bekking is holding court with the international media. Local lad Joao Signorini is posing for pictures with passers-by.

Behind the scenes, Craig Rodgers, who works in logistics, is urging haste in his colleagues. He has to pack up this show and move it to Boston and containers need packing. He can't wait until the boats leave the dock and the real work can begin.

The clock is ticking for everyone.

Morning Report

A fish-eye view from the top of the Ericsson 4 mast on start morning in Rio. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

It’s oh so calm in the Marina Da Gloria this morning.

The boats are gently bobbing in their moorings, just a few shore crew onboard to bake in the 30-degree sunshine. Race photographer Rick Tomlinson is up a mast, hardly in danger of being blown away in a south easterly breeze of just six knots.

A few spectators have turned up early, sitting in whatever shade they can find. One asks if the party is about to start. He is planning a barbeque at Copacabana Beach when the boats go by shortly after the 1500 kick-off (local time).

A group of three Telefonica shore guys are chatting on the grassy bank adjacent to the boats. Javier De La Plaza walks down to the Black boat, soon to be his home for 4,900 nautical miles. A chorus bellows out from his shore guys. De La Plaza issues a mock wave.

The measurers, meanwhile, are making a few late checks to the boats. Sailing manager Jim Allen is also doing the rounds. He has a reputation for breaking things.

Up some steps in the eating quarter of the race village, Delta Lloyd skipper Roberto Bermudez is sat in a sushi bar with Ed van Lierde. Their in-port podium finish has raised expectations, but they seem relaxed.

“I feel good,” Bermudez says. It was a short chat.

All the while, Ericsson shore manager Herve Le Quilliec is chatting with some old friends from his Brasil 1 days. It would be tempting to call it the calm before the storm, but the storm shows no sign of turning up.

Early indications are for conditions to be light and bright today as the sun comes out in force over Guanabara Bay in Rio.

There is very little gradient breeze in the forecast, so the sea breeze will be the driving force today. The forecast is for it to build to as high as 10-12 knots near start time, at 15:00 local (18:00 GMT).

Volvo Ocean Race

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