Wednesday, 27 May 2009
Telefonica Blue, skippered by Bouwe Bekking (NED) (pictured) finish fourth on leg 7 from Boston to Galway, crossing the line at 02:42:25 GMT 24/05/09. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.
by Javier Sobrino
In just one month, on June 27, the Volvo Ocean Race 2008/09 finishes in St. Petersburg, Russia. Bouwe Bekking and the crew on board TELEFONICA BLUE have just arrived in Galway, Ireland, after seven months and two weeks of sailing seven Legs and 35,150 nautical miles around the globe. After adding the maximum number of points at the scoring waypoint of St. Johns, Newfoundland (Canada), Bouwe Bekking's boat finished Leg 7 in fourth place, not the result they were fighting for, but enough to maintain their second place position on the overall leaderboard of the race.
Leg 7 was 2,550 nautical miles from Boston (USA) to Galway (Ireland), including the scoring waypoint and the ice gate to avoid any risk of sailing too far North. In the words of Bouwe, the Leg could be divided into two parts: "The beginning part was as expected in terms of wind conditions, while in the second part we had more breeze than we had hoped for." That first part was where TELEFONICA BLUE showed her true potential, crossing the scoring waypoint first, just 40 seconds ahead Puma after 1,000 miles of racing from Boston. Bouwe described the situation on May 19 in one of his exclusive reports for www.bouwebekking.com: "It was a nail-biter right until the end. The last two hours I was on the helm, and the regular trimmers were in their positions while the rest of the crew was hiking. When we crossed the line, I let out a breath of air as it had been some intense hours."
For TELEFONICA BLUE that crossing was the key moment of Leg 7, and in the words of Bouwe: "I think for us the key moment was winning the scoring gate, as we knew we would sail in conditions where all the boats would be close in performance, so it was important to win that part."
That was the second consecutive scoring waypoint won by TELEFONICA BLUE in this race and the seventh partial win since the start of the race in October 2008 (Leg 3, Leg 4; the scoring waypoints of Leg 5 and Leg 7; the in-port races in Alicante, Rio de Janeiro and Boston). For Bouwe, these results show the strength of the team and the boat, which has improved her performance in this last leg after receiving some changes during the Boston stopover: "In heavy downwind conditions we were moving better than ever before, and we have managed to hang in there. Compared to the previous legs in similar conditions, we were hanging in better than expected. The best comparison we have is against our sister ship, and we have hugely improved in that sense."
Telefonica Blue encounters rough weather in the north Atlantic Ocean. The spray makes it look like a snowstorm! Image copyright Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race.
What about the best and worst moments of Leg 7, Bouwe? "The best was the win at the scoring gate. We didn't actually have any moments where you thought 'this is really bad,' so in that sense maybe the worst was getting to Galway in 4th." But one thing that Bouwe is always proud of is his crew: "The mood has been incredible, always positive and believing in ourselves." Two days before getting to Ireland, Bouwe wrote: "The guys are giving everything they have, pushing, pushing all the time, wanting a good result on his leg. The word sleep is not a real word in our vocabulary right now, that is only a thing everybody dreams about." Enough said.
Next Saturday, May 30, TELEFONICA BLUE will face off with the fleet in Galway for the sixth and penultimate in-port race of the Volvo Ocean Race 2008/09. Until that moment, Bouwe is enjoying a couple of days with his family back home in Denmark while the shore crew is "doing some work on the boat to get it at 100% for the in-port race. No big changes are planned, we plan to go sailing on Thursday."
It is just one month, three legs and 1,845 nautical miles to go before the finish in St. Petersburg. There are 32 points left to fight for (8 per each of the three legs, plus 4 per each of the two in-port races left) before it's over, and Bouwe is realistic but positive about their chances to catch up to Ericsson 4, curr ent leader of the race: "We'll keep on trying to win each leg, as usual; that never changes. On the other hand, I have to be realistic, it will be getting harder and harder, but we are not giving up until it is over. I've said it before: very strange things can happen in sailing..."
Volvo Ocean Race