Tuesday, 16 June 2009

VOR: Green Dragon Secure Fifth on Leg Nine

Green Dragon, on leg 9 from Marstrand to Stockholm. Image copyright Guo Chan/Green Dragon Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Lucy Harwood

Leg 9 has been a 24/7 battle for the all the crews as they fight for the final points on offer on the penultimate leg of the race. After a close fought battle over the final 12 miles between Telefonica Black and Green Dragon, Ian Walker and his crew had to settle for fifth place in Sweden tonight. The battle for second was set to play out between PUMA and Telefoncia Blue during this leg, but after a run in with some rocks just outside of Marstrand Telefonica Blue were forced to suspend racing and have not competed in the leg, as a result second place could be in the bag for Ken Read and his crew. After two podium finishes in succession, fifth place on Leg 9 adds four points to Green Dragon’s overall total. Ericsson 3’s second placing means an 8.5 point difference between the two boats with 12 points left to play for until the end of the race.

The fleet remained close from the start, never more than 15 miles from front to back. Whilst the battle at the front between the Ericsson twins and PUMA was being fought, Green Dragon found themselves in a close match race with Telefonica Black and Delta Lloyd. The three boats stuck together like glue for the 525 nm leg, and the Dragon pushed hard until the end to chase the Spaniards.

Tactical decisions once again proved key as they fleet raced along the coast of Sweden, south and then north towards the capital Stockholm. It was a strong start for the crew onboard Green Dragon as they led the fleet from the bay, but the downwind conditions favoured by Ian Walker and his crew were soon replaced with the more challenging reaching conditions. Eight hours and in the fleet had covered a third of the distance of the leg and it was clear that if conditions held it would be a fast and furious race to the finish. The fleet kept up consistent speeds of over 15 knots, with the final miles providing a straight drag race to the finish off Sandham a small Island on the eastern end of the archipelago approximately 2 hours hours from the capital Stockholm.

With 12 miles to go at Almagrundet lighthouse the Dragon and Telefonica Black were caught in a duel to the finish. PUMA managed to hold off Ericsson 3 with just a few hundred metres separating the two boats as they crossed the finish line, this marks the first win for PUMA on a leg so far and a crucial 8 points for the team.

Ericsson 4 finished shortly afterwards to take third and secure six points, this potentially wraps up the overall win for the race. With just a few miles to go, Telefonica Black hooked into stronger winds and allecerated away from Green Dragon, they managed to hold them off until the line to take fourth place.

“We knew it would be similar to the previous leg and we were prepared to push hard all the way to Stockholm. This leg has been fast and furious. The coastal sailing is good fun but very demanding in these boats. I think we have moved more sails on this leg than any other! We have had a good match race between Telefonica Black and Delta Lloyd, and we tried to hold onto fourth but it just wasn’t possible this time around”, said Ian Walker.

Leg 9 (provisional results)
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)
1. PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA)
2. Ericsson 3 SWE (Magnus Olsson/SWE)
3. Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA)
4. Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP)
5. Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian Walker/GBR)
6. Delta Lloyd IRL (Roberto Bermúdez/ESP)
Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) SUS

Green Dragon Racing
Volvo Ocean Race

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