Sunday, 31 May 2009
Green Dragon in the InPort Race off Galway. Image copyright Yongtao Jiang/Green Dragon Racing.
by Lucy Harwood
As the words of the song ‘Galway Girl’ boomed out across Galway town this morning, the biggest cheer was for the home team Green Dragon. The fleet headed out into Galway Bay for the sixth In Port race of the Volvo Ocean Race with all the weather expects forecasting for light fickle breezes in Galway Bay. Over 100,000 people lined the headlines and beaches of the bay, to watch the fleet race in local waters. It was a perfect 12 knot breeze that greeting the fleet at the start of race one.
The Dragon opted for a port tack start heading to the right hand side of the course with Delta Lloyd in close pursuit. The rest of the fleet opted to go left and it paid. The Dragon rounded the top mark in sixth place with Telefonica Blue and Black leading the way. An excellent hoist enabled the Dragon to sail low and make good gains on the boats ahead. At the bottom mark the Dragon was right back with the pack having extended away from Delta Lloyd, right on the tail of the Ericsson twins and one boat length behind PUMA.
Being so close to the boats ahead meant that on rounding the bottom mark the Dragon was forced to tack to clear their air, taking them to the now unfavoured left side of the course. The wind speed was starting to drop and a big right hand shift did the Dragon no favours. Delta Lloyd managed to round the bottom mark in clear air and sail on the favoured right hand of the course, giving them the advantage over the Dragon at the final top mark.
The wind on the final downwind leg continued to drop to just 4 knots, then a huge shift on the final run meant the fleet had to drop their spinnakers as the run turned into a beat. Telefonica who had led from the start, relished in the light winds and extended away from the fleet to win in emphatic form, continuing their winning streak for the In port racing. Telefonica Black gave their sistership a much needed cushion from third placed Puma. Outside the podium in fourth place was race leader Ericsson 4, followed by Ericsson 3, Delta Lloyd and home town favourites Green Dragon unfortunately coming in last place. After an hour and a half delay for the boats a steady 11-13 knot breeze filled in on Galway Bay and Northern Ireland’s own top race officer Bill O’Hara was able to get race two started.
These were the conditions Green Dragon’s skipper Ian Walker was dreading, speaking before the race he was quoted as saying windy or very light conditions would be the best for the team. “We finished in fourth place in Alicante when it was pretty windy and were very close to winning the in-port race in China when it was light. So in many ways I won’t worry if it is really light and fluky that might help us, the worse scenario for us is medium steady winds. Very, very windy or very, very light is our best hope of getting a good result.”
Green Dragon headed off on their own again to the right hand side of the course, Telefonica Black were called over the line and had to re-cross the line before following Green Dragon out to the right hand side of the course the rest of the pack headed left. At the first mark it was tight with PUMA leading from Telefonica Blue, Ericsson 4 right on their tale in third place. Ericsson 3 rounded fourth followed by Delta Lloyd, Telefonica Black and then Green Dragon not liking the conditions at all.
The second and last beat provided an opportunity for Ericsson 3 to break free choosing the opposite side of the course. The move proved fruitful and took them ahead of Telefonica Blue taking the Nordics from fourth to second. At the last mark before the sprint to the finish the order was PUMA, Ericsson 3, Telefonica Blue, Telefonica Black showing excellent speed in these conditions after their premature start, Ericsson 4, Delta Lloyd and then Green Dragon. It was a case of steady nerves for the crew onboard PUMA who needed to hold off Telefonica Blue in order to secure their first ever podium win. With a strong downwind leg PUMA crossed the line to take pole position, with Ericsson 3 holding second after their comeback and Telefonica Blue being forced to finish third, securing second overall on the day. Green Dragon continued to struggle in the medium air conditions and were forced to settle for seventh, the jinx of the home port continues!
“It wasn’t to be today,” commented skipper Ian Walker. “It was amazing looking at the crowds that lined the shore, we didn’t come back with the result we wanted but we gave it our all. That’s yacht racing I guess, sometimes things just don’t go your way. We showed good speed on the downwind sections of the course, and we are hoping for some good downwind sailing to Sweden. I would like to say a huge thank you to all the local support we have received, we have been blown away. We need to re-group now and focus on the next leg. There are still points to be gained and our battle for fourth place overall is not over.”
GALWAY IN PORT FINAL RESULTS
2. TELEFONICA BLUE
3. TELEFONICA BLACK
4. ERICSSON 3
5. ERICSSON 4
6. DELTA LLOYD
7. GREEN DRAGON
Green Dragon Racing
Volvo Ocean Race