Sunday, 7 June 2009
Green Dragon blasting along out of Galway. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.
by Ian Walker (skipper)
Can you believe that there were a few spectator boats out at midnight at the Fastnet Rock in over 25 knots of wind? - a final Irish farewell. Even though the Fastnet Rock wasn't a scoring gate it was a great thrill for the Green Dragon team to round the famous landmark and leave Ireland's shores in first place. We did this with a good start, a good decision to get offshore quickly and excellent crew work to pull off some heavy air gybes.
It was a fantastic sail down the Irish coast with a stunning backdrop and perfect downwind running conditions. We resisted the temptation to pull into QCs in Kerry, or 'Gods country' as Damian (Damian Foxall) calls it and kept the pedal down hard. The highlight was pulling off a gybe with the masthead chute up in 35 knots whilst sailing alongside Ericsson 4 and Puma. They weren't quite so fortunate with their manoeuvres, whilst ours was all the more remarkable as Neal (Neal McDonald) forgot to swing the keel! Now we are reaching across the Irish Sea and suffering the pain of watching miles slip away. We have lost the lead but not hope or spirit.
The weather looks complicated and far from a one way track. The first time I crossed the Irish Sea to the Fastnet was on a Mumm 36 and it was a very uncomfortable 24 hour upwind sail back. It hardly seems possible that 4 hours from the Rock, we are halfway to the Lizard. Given the right angle and wind these boats just eat up the miles. It feels strange approaching England's shores having travelled so far afield. It will feel even stranger to just sail on by.
Volvo Ocean Race