Thursday, 16 April 2009

VOR: PUMA LEG SIX DAY 5 QFB: received 15.04.09 1407 GMT

PUMA Ocean Racing, skippered by Ken Read (USA) at the start of leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Rio de Janeiro to Boston. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Kenny Read (skipper)

I wish I could say we were sailing really badly. Fact is, these boats are raising their games all the time and this drag race to Fernando has been decided so far on a couple of fairly random wind shifts and a cloud or two. It is simply that close.

Since the first night break by Telefónica Blue and Green Dragon, we have gone through a couple transition zones where the winds got a bit fluky and a couple clouds made heroes or zeroes out of il mostro.

First the zero part. One squall on night three put a five to seven mile separation between ourselves and the two Ericsson boats, which we are constantly glued to. But off they went, over the horizon at night in a squall that gave them a significant breeze advantage and headed us about 60 degree's. Boom, done, gone. Time to re-group.

A painful day later, after watching all in front get slowly and painfully further ahead - same thing but in reverse. One night time sched showed a five mile gain to the good guys for no apparent reason except that Ericsson 3 had sailed into a cloud ahead and got shut down for a bit. Kind of them to wait for us, as Magnus Olsson did say that his plan was to be glued to us the entire leg. I doubt even he thought it was going to be this literally.

Since then we have gotten back into similar water with the group and had several good scheds in a row, albeit very small gains, but gains none the less. The difference in speed out here is ridiculously small, which magnifies the small mistake or bit of misfortune that much more. It is very puffy and fluky which keeps the winches on deck constantly moving and screeching. We will all be deaf once this race is over. Any ease on a winch is brutally loud.

But the mood on board went from quite sober to remarkably upbeat with a few good scheds. We are in the hunt and understand completely how the chips have fallen so far. We simply have to avoid that one big mistake. Somehow.

450 miles to Fernando, then the sprint to Boston. Starting to smell the clam chowder from here.

Of course the scoring gate at Fernando is important but then simply being close to the pack as we enter the doldrums is critical. The boats that have a lead popping out on the other side into the northeast trades will have quite a jump and historically a fairly insurmountable lead. We have to figure out a way to be in that lead pack. Really very simple in theory. A bit more complex to deliver.

Volvo Ocean Race

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