Thursday, 11 June 2009


Telefonica Black, skippered by Fernando Echavarri (ESP), at the Rotterdam Gate. Image copyright Ronald Koelink -

by Roger Nilson (navigator)

Onboard Telefónica Black we are now 63 nm from the finish and are involved in a good fight with Telefónica Blue close ahead and Delta Lloyd close behind.

We are reaching fully loaded up in 14 knots of breeze from the north. Our large masthead genoa is up, which gives us a boatspeed of 15 knots along the Danish coast. The sail got the nickname, The Anaconda, earlier, as it looks like a huge snake when it is rolled up and put in its bag.

Hirsthals is the next corner we will pass on this misty, cold Scandinavian night. The traffic here is intense and as I write, we are overtaking a small cargo ship, only 200 metres to windward. They turn on their huge strobe light as they surely wonder what is coming along sailing at this speed.

This race has kept me as navigator at full alert almost 24 hours a day. It has been very hard to find enough time to sleep. A rough guess is no more than 2-3 hours a day. The same goes for most of our crew and the pressure has been the same on all other boats. Certainly life at its extreme.

After we left the gate outside Rotterdam, in third place, we were painfully slow as we were missing our biggest gennaker. The sail literally exploded as we were in leading position approached the Rotterdam gate.

After leaving the gate, Puma came like an express train from behind and we could witness when her biggest gennaker also exploded. Missing her important running gennaker probably made them choose the gutsy route crossing the Low, going North West for a while in order to catch the strong NW’ly flow on the North Western quadrant of the low... A calculated gamble of which outcome was clear tonight when she came reaching more from the north and could slide into third place behind Ericsson 4 and Dragon. My hat off for Puma’s brave move which was very close to make them win this race.

The rest of us went the more conservative route, running on the east side of the Low.

At Horns reef just off the Espbjerg we had an unexpected rendezvous with our stablemate Telefónica Blue. She appeared out of the mist as a Flying Dutchman and we crossed gybes, only two boat lengths behind her. After losing contact, we met again tonight after we picked up a favourable wind shift, but she is still a few hundred metres ahead...What a race!

With this speed all the boats could finish within 1 hour and 45 minutes if the lifting N’ly holds all the way into Marstrand. More than ever I am longing for a good rest, but in a few days we carry on to Stockholm. During this stopover we are not allowed to have the shore crew taking care of the jobs. As in the good old days we have to fix the repairs ourselves, not something we are looking forward to during this brief visit in The Pearl of the Swedish West coast.

Volvo Ocean Race

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