Sunday, 24 May 2009

VOR: PUMA Pips Green Dragon by Three Miles

PUMA Ocean Racing, skippered by Ken Read (USA) finish second on leg 7 from Boston to Galway, crossing the line at 02:19: 56 GMT 24/05/09. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

by Sophie Luther

It has been edge of the seat stuff watching the fight for the top three places in leg seven of the Volvo Ocean Race play out right to the bitter end. This morning, at 0219 GMT, PUMA pipped hometown boat Green Dragon to second place, but only by three miles. The Dragons finished 11 minutes later at 0231 GMT, greeted by a very large and noisy Galway crowd.

Celebrations tonight in Galway are huge. With three Irish sailors on board - Ian Moore, Damian Foxall and Justin Slattery - the Dragon has completed her circumnavigation, and earned one of its strongest leg finishes to date.

Green Dragon, skippered by Ian Walker (GBR) finish third on leg 7 from Boston to Galway, crossing the line at 02:31:18 GMT 24/05/09. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

“It's unbelievable. Phenomenal,” said Green Dragon’s Irish navigator Ian Moore. “This is pretty special. Being an Irishman on an Irish boat finishing in an Irish port... I don't think anyone will ever forget this.”

This leg has been far from easy for Green Dragon, who rounded the scoring gate in last place. ““To be so far behind at the beginning and then to catch up was just through hard graft... The guys worked so hard. We're a bit slower than the others and the only way to catch up is to work harder,” Moore explained.

Green Dragon skipper Ian Walker celebrates coming third on leg 7 in Galway. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

Ian Walker/GBR, skipper of Green Dragon, his first entry in the Volvo Ocean Race, was almost lost for words on arrival in Galway.

“I'm flabbergasted. The number of people, the number of boats. There must have been 500 boats out there. All at four in the morning. Some of them in little RIBs 30 miles offshore, shouting us on. Is the whole town here? Did anyone stay in bed tonight?

“Given our recent run, third place was beyond our expectations, but that is what we strive for. We knew if we got heavy downwind conditions, that was the one thing we could do well in,” he said.

For Green Dragon, the strategy was to stay in touch with the fleet and wait for the right moment to pounce. They did just that.

“I think we managed to just keep going, keep going... We did a number of things well. First, we stayed close. We stayed close enough that we could attack when it got windy. We managed to pull more miles and we chose the perfect place to gybe. I think we got just the right spot,” Walker explained.

It has been 20 years since Ireland made its debut into what was then the Whitbread Round the World Race (1989-90) with NCB Ireland. Finishing third in their homeport means everything to the Green Dragon team.

“We desperately wanted to get third. We desperately wanted to get on the podium,” said an elated Walker.

Although PUMA has posted a string of second places (legs one, three, four and seven), the coveted winners’ position has, so far, eluded them, but the team was still thrilled with second place, particularly as they lost one of their rudders in the heavy seas two days ago and had to fit their emergency steering.

“This is as good as it gets,” said skipper Kenny Read. “That was some of the best sailing we've ever done in our whole lives. To come back after breaking the rudder like that. This crew is unbelievable. It's almost like we thrive on adversity. We don't know how to be normal. “

Telefónica Blue finished in fourth place at 0242 GMT. Yesterday, skipper Bouwe Bekking wrote, “We are fighting like gladiators, but we can’t get more speed out of our puppy. We feel we made improvements, but we are still missing that little bit of pace to stay up front.”

The finishing order tonight does not change the overall top three positions.

Ericsson 4, who won this leg earlier today, continues to steal a march and top the leaderboard while just 1.5 points separate Telefónica Blue in second from PUMA in third. Green Dragon lies fifth overall.

Leg Seven Finishing Order Galway
1. Ericsson 4: 8 points
2. PUMA: 7 points
3. Green Dragon: 6 points
4. Telefónica Blue: 5 points

Overall Leaderboard (Provisional)
1. Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA) 92.0 points (FINISHED)
2. Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED) 77.5 points (FINISHED)
3. PUMA (Ken Read/USA) 76.0 points (FINISHED)
4. Ericsson 3 (Magnus Olsson/SWE) 58.0 points (RACING)
5. Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR) 52.0 points (FINISHED)
6. Telefónica Black (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) 33.0 points (RACING)
7. Delta Lloyd (Roberto Bermúdez/ESP) 25.5 points (RACING)
8. Team Russia 10.5 points (DNS)

Scoring Gate Order
1. Telefónica Blue
3. Ericsson 4
4. Ericsson 3
5. Telefónica Black
6. Delta Lloyd
7. Green Dragon

Volvo Ocean Race

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