Tuesday, 16 June 2009

VOR: Green Dragon - A Sprint to Stockholm

Green Dragon, skippered by Ian Walker (GBR) at the start of leg 9 from Marstrand to Stockholm. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Lucy Harwood

It was a strong start for Green Dragon as Leg 9 of the Volvo Ocean Race kicked off in Marstrand this afternoon. This leg at 525 nm is the second shortest of the race. The fleet will sail south from Marstrand down the west coast of Sweden, and then north up the east coast to the finish at the capital Stockholm. It will be another full on sprint for the fleet and a list of tactical and navigational challenges as they take on the sea breezes and shipping, as well as the bands of high and low pressure that are common along the shoreline and islands during this leg.

The shifty conditions on the race course caused lots of issues for the seven boat fleet as they raced a short course before heading off into open water. Green Dragon had a rocky start off the line alongside Ericsson 4 as they both found themselves in dirty air and parked up soon after the start. PUMA took the best start and were soon holding a strong lead over the chasing pack. The fleet were seen off by a flotilla of boats, one of the biggest the race has seen so far but it was this spectator fleet that caused the Volvo 70’s some addiotnal issues as they left the confines of the spectator area and on occasion sailed into the race course itself. Green Dragon were the only boat to have the Code Zero furled and ready to go and it paid dividends after finding some solid breeze on the left hand side of the course, they soon made progress and gained on the pack ahead. By the first turning mark they had taken pole from Telefonica Blue and led the fleet back downwind towards the spectator fleet. It was a battle at the bottom mark, the Dragon was left exposed after holding the right hand side of the course and allowed Telefonica Blue to sneak in front, Ericsson 3 paid dearly after an issue with their spinnaker, which saw PUMA slide through to take second. But the close mark rounding for both boats allowed Green Dragon to roll them as they sailed past on the inside line at pace. Telefonca Black and Delta Lloyd were next to round as they managed to hold off Ericsson 4 who were still recovering after a slow start off the line.

Speaking at the skipper’s press conference Ian Walker commented, “It is going to be tricky, lots of coastal sailing and the crew could get very tired again, but it isn’t as long as the last leg. The weather is complicated and I’m sure most of the crew will be on deck a lot and we will push hard all the way to Stockholm. We are in good shape, we had no job lists so we are ready to go. We have two thirds and Ericsson 3 have had two lasts, but it’s not easy they are one of the fastest boats in the fleet and it is hard to wriggle away from them, but we are going to give it our best shot.”

Navigator Ian Moore talked through the forecast for the start: “I don’t think it will be as exciting as the exit from Galway but current forecasts suggest 10 – 18 knots from the north west. The position of the low which is driving the breeze will allow the wind to wrap around the southern tip of Sweden and and it will continue to be downwind until the boats reach the Island of Oland on the east coast of Sweden. This is where things look like they will get really tricky as the wind is forecast to decrease for up to 12 hours. There is every chance that the fleet could compress and re-start at this point with a fight to the finish in some extremely light and tricky conditions”.

The fleet are now sailing south, but with one boat less in the pack. Shortly after heading into open water Telefonica Blue ran aground, they have suspended racing and have returned to port in order to assess the damage. For more information click here. Skipper Ian Walker updated us from the race course: “We are all sailing down the channel off Copenhagen and the sun is setting over the city behind us. We are back past Delta Lloyd after they had a very scrappy spinnaker drop - getting the spinnaker halyard caught over the top of the mainsail. They seem to also be trapped behind a large ship in the channel”.

Leg Nine Day 1: 1900 GMT Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)
1. PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) + 422
2. Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) + 2 nm
3. Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) + 3 nm
4. Ericsson 3 SWE (Magnus Olsson/SWE) + 3 nm
5. Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian Walker/GBR) + 6 nm
6. Delta Lloyd IRL (Roberto Bermúdez/ESP) + 7 nm
Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) SUS

Green Dragon Racing
Volvo Ocean Race

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