Saturday, 27 June 2009

VOR: Bouwe Bekking and the Last Leg of the Volvo Ocean Race

by Javier Sobrino

Bouwe Bekking's expression has changed in the last few days. On June 14, leading at the start of the Volvo Ocean Race Leg 9 from Marstrand, his boat TELEFONICA BLUE hit a rock and ended the aim of the Spanish Volvo Open 70 to add a win to their scoreboard. Bouwe was anything but a happy man. But only five days later on June 19, the Dutch skipper arrived in Stockholm as proof that the phrase "give up" is not part of his team's vocabulary. "The arrival was dreadful, in last place and with second place almost gone", Bouwe recalls.

On June 21st, just one week after the grounding in Marstrand, the last in-port race of the Volvo Ocean Race started badly for Bouwe's team, as they rounded the first mark of the first race of the day in last place. Again, TELEFONICA BLUE managed to sail better than most of their competitors, and finished in third place. The second race was "Blue" from start to finish, and Bouwe's team came back t o Stockholm with their fourth in-port race win.

"I'm really happy for the team, because we really needed this result. After what happened to us in Marstrand, this is great for our morale," Bouwe wrote that day on his website. That win changed not only his expresión, but those of the whole team: "Now that we have won the in-shore racing, we are all smiling."

TELEFONICA BLUE scored the maximum points in four out of seven in-port races of the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-2009, and that's an achievement in this fleet.

Leg 10, the final 400 nautical miles of the race, started today, from Stockholm; again, there are eight points for the winner. Bouwe knows that, and he is clear on the tactics for this final sprint: "Start ahead and stay ahead." Of course it won't be easy, but the team showed all the way from Alicante to Cape Town, Cochin, Singapore, Qingdao, Rio de Janeiro, Boston, Galway, Marstrand, and Stockholm that there are ten (plus one) fighters onboard ready to keep on fighting for every single nautical mile.

Since the leg start at 1400 on Thursday, until the arrival in St Petersburg (ETA Saturday), there are 400 nautical miles to fight for. This is just a little bit more than the 312 miles they managed to sail in 24h during the last leg, which was the best record for the whole fleet for that leg.

Bouwe's extensive sailing experience includes these waters, though not to the Russian port: "I have sailed off of Stockholm and Helsinki, but never to St Petersburg. I'm sure it will be a cool experience. Of course, we know there are many rocks out here, and we will be very careful."

Bouwe leaves Stockholm with mixed feelings, as he wrote on his website: "Knowing that this is the last leg gives me a strange feeling. In a day and a half, the racing will be over, in four days we will be on a plane, leaving everybody "behind", and on the 30th of this month, my employment officially ends."

"Mornings such this are always hectic, packing your bag for the airfreight container , a quick weather briefing, and some interviews. Saying goodbye to some of the shore crew, who can't come to St. Peterburg was not enjoyable and gave me a quick reminder how it will all unfold once we are in Russia."

But, in general, this has been a good stopover for the Dutch skipper. "It's been unbelievably busy as we arrived late, but Stockholm had a great atmosphere and was really well set-up. The city is a great one to visit, and thousands of people visited the race village throughout the whole event; it was quite impressive."

The Russian VOR boat unofficially joined the fleet in Stockholm for the start of the last leg of the Volvo Ocean Race 2008/09. The race finishes in St Petersburg next Saturday, where Bouwe Bekking and his TELEFONICA BLUE team hope to arrive in first place. That would be their third offshore win in the Volvo Ocean Race 2008/09, and Bouwe feels, "this would be best way to thank our sponsors, team, and fans for their support throughout the entire race. They were with us not only in the best moments, but also in the toughest, and they deserve this final effort."

Bouwe Bekking
Volvo Ocean Race

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