Saturday, 14 February 2009

VOR: Blow for Telefonica Blue


In a dramatic opening to leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race, minutes before the start gun fired, Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED) dropped her sails and returned to port, leaving a fleet reduced to three boats to contest the start in Qingdao. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Volvo Ocean Race media

Telefonica Blue’s bid for a third straight leg win hangs in the balance after a collision before the start gun left them with serious damage to their keel fin.

The team had been jostling for position at the pre-start when they seemingly ran aground, causing the boat’s speed to drop suddenly from seven knots to zero.

They attempted unsuccessfully to diagnose the problems on the water, but after suspending racing and returning to shore the boat was hoisted out and it emerged there was a crack on the port side of the keel fin.

Bekking, who is gunning for his third straight leg win, has now revealed the team will remove the keel bulb for inspection and repairs could take up to 24 hours.

“We can’t take any risk on a 12,000-mile leg so we just have to take a real thorough look at it now to see what the consequences are. We need to give it a good look.”

The incident came as a surprise to the crew, most notably because they were sailing in depths of 11 metres and the nearest chartered shallow area was 110 metres away.

“We were in the middle of the ocean and we knew there was one shallow spot that is charted at three metres, but we were 110 metres away from that,” Bekking added. “We went from 11 metres of water to full stop. There shouldn’t be any reason for that.

“Everyone just looked at each other, I was driving at that stage and we knew we were away from the charted shallow spot. We tried to send one of the chase boat guys over to look but the water is so murky it was not possible to see so we came back.

“We suspended racing two and a half minutes before the start.”

The success of the team’s leg now hangs, quite literally, in the balance as the boat heads to a cradle for a full inspection of the keel. Bekking is keeping his fingers crossed.

“We are going to take the bulb off and have a look,” he said. “That crack shouldn’t have been there. We have to do it the proper way. I think it’s closer to 24 hours and most likely we are going to be ultrasounding. We have to be 100 per cent sure.”

“(A structural problem) would be a major and then it’s a drama. I don’t want even to think about that.”

Meanwhile, Ericsson 3 was 12 miles from the finish of their eventful leg four.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: GREEN DRAGON LEG FIVE DAY 1 QFB: received 14.02.09 0821 GMT


Three boats have so far set off on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Ian Walker

Goodbye Qingdao!

It was with a heavy heart that I left Qingdao today. It was not the most romantic of Valentine’s Days to jump on a boat, say goodbye and abandon my wife and children for 40 days. We have all the adventure and our families have all the worry.

It was hard to leave our new friends in Qingdao too. The stopover has been fantastic with excellent facilities and super-kind people. Nothing was too much trouble in China and it has been good fun to meet our Chinese sponsors and supporters. It was very satisfying to see how enthusiastic all the Chinese people are to Irish food, music and dancing in our hospitality marquee. I hope some of them make the trip to Galway. I will definitely be visiting China again and hope to see a bit further afield. Unfortunately, that is the reality of the Volvo Ocean Race. No sooner have you arrived somewhere and got comfortable, than it is time to leave again. There is seldom time to explore.

It has been a slow start to this leg but already there is drama with the late arrival of Ericsson 3 and the suspension of racing by Telefónica Blue. I am sure both boats will be back in the race and fighting with the leaders by the doldrums - we are certainly not getting away from them too fast. In the first three hours we have managed to sail nine miles. At this rate we will take six months to get to Rio!

Spare a thought for our newest crew member Chris Main. He flew in on Thursday and has never stepped on a Volvo 70 before today - his first sail will be a 12,300 mile trip including the infamous Cape Horn - I hope he likes it and doesn't want to get off. We will miss Anthony Merrington (Youngster) who is injured as he is one of our best drivers and most experienced trimmers.

Also spare a thought for our shore crew who have worked tirelessly since we arrived from Singapore, often in freezing conditions. I am sure they will have a good party now that we have left - you know what? Lads (and lasses) - you deserve it - thank you.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: PUMA Leads the Fleet Out of China


Ericsson 4 and PUMA at the start of leg 5 out of Qingdao. Image copyright Sally Collison/PUMA Ocean Racing.

by Kate Fairclough

True to form, PUMA today led the Volvo Ocean Race fleet out of Qingdao, China, at the start of the longest ever leg in the history of the Volvo Ocean Race. As the fog lifted and the breeze freshened, PUMA led Ericsson 4 and Green Dragon round a five mile course just off the headlands of Qingdao, before heading out to sea, en route to Rio de Janeiro, 12,300 miles away.

The team left after a spectacularly ceremonious departure, which saw the eleven PUMA sailors parade the ‘Emperor’s Walk’ along Qingdao’s ‘Great Wall of China’ to the beat of several hundred drummers. The Mayor of Qingdao offered each of the team’s skipper’s gifts, while a flock of doves, symbolizing peace, were released and flew over the crowds. Scenes on the dock before departure were somber, as the PUMA Ocean Racing team considered the long journey ahead.

Skipper Ken Read (USA) commented: “This leg is going to be a real adventure, as well as a boat race. We’re looking forward to going round the tip of Japan, down the Ring of Fire, and down to Cape Horn, and all the other really cool things that are out there. These are all places that we may never go for the rest of our lives.”

“It’s going to be a windy drag race out of here for the first few days, so we’ll be concentrating on keeping the boat in one piece. I’m really looking forward to sailing for 35 to 40 days. Though none of us have sailed this exact course before, coming out of China and down the Pacific, we’re fortunate enough to have guys like our navigator Capey [Andrew Cape, AUS] who have a lot of experience sailing in the second half of this leg. We rely on guys like Capey, a lot.”

“As I’ve said all along, we just have to be there in the end to give ourselves an opportunity in this race. This leg is long and it will be hard, but we just have to get there in one piece. We don’t have to win every leg to win this race, but just give ourselves a shot. By staying on the podium, developing our boat and our team, that’s the way to do it.”

“China has been great. The hospitality we’ve been shown by everyone we have met here has been amazing. From the day we arrived, until leaving today, it’s been a wonderful experience. A lot of our families aren’t here, though my wife is, and none of us have our kids here. You see less tears on the dock today, it’s a little easier this way, as people know we’re going away for a long time.”

Leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race is expected to take 35 – 40 days to complete. The Volvo Ocean Race is made up of ten legs, finishing in June 2009 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

PUMA Ocean Racing

Volvo Ocean Race

The National Bank Youth International Match Racing Championships: Update After Racing on 14th February

by Barry Davies

Results Day Three (14 Feb):
7th & 8th place:

Sam Goodchild bt Sam Sexton 2-0

5th & 6th place:

Jay Griffin bt Jordan Reece 2-0

Places 1 to 4 sail offs:

Josh Junior bt Lucinda Whitty 2-1
William Tiller bt Adrian Short 2-0

Petite Final and Main final will be sailed Sunday 15 Feb.

Petite Final: Lucinda Whitty v Adrian Short

Main Final: Josh Junior v William Tiller

Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron

VOR: PUMA Leads as Telefonica Blue Suspends Racing at Start of Volvo Ocean Race Leg 5


Telefonica Blue is lifted out of the water after sustaining damage to their keel on the start of leg 5 in Qingdao. Image copyright Helena de la Gandara/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Volvo Ocean Race media

In a dramatic opening to leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race, minutes before the start gun fired, Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED) dropped her sails and returned to port, leaving a fleet reduced to three boats to contest the start in Qingdao.

Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR) was first over the line in a slow-motion start in-front of her home town crowd, only to relinquish to the lead to PUMA (Ken Read/USA) as the reduced fleet began their epic journey of 12,300 nautical miles around the infamous Cape Horn and into Rio de Janeiro in Brasil.

Minutes before the five-minute warning signal, the crew of Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED), currently second in the overall standings and winner of the last two offshore legs, dropped their mainsail and skipper Bouwe Bekking turned his boat back towards Qingdao. He had informed the Race Committee that his team were suspending racing, which under the rules, must be for a minimum of two hours.

The boat was immediately hauled out of the water assess the damage caused when the boat went aground briefly, at a speed of six or seven knots. A crewman immediately went into the water, but was unable see clearly the extent of the problem and Bekking made the decision to suspend racing. The boat could possibly need a full structural check, something which could take up to 24 hours.


Damage sustained to Telefonica Blue's keel. Image copyright Helena de la Gandara/Volvo Ocean Race.

"The biggest concern is a crack just above the bulb," said skipper Bouwe Bekking after a brief look at the keel. "All the paint has disappeared - something has moved from over there. We are going to take the bulb off and have a look. That crack shouldn’t have been there. We want to make 100% sure because we aren’t going to the quietest place. We have to do it the proper way."

Out on the race course, code zero sails were set and PUMA (Ken Read/USA) overhauled Green Dragon to take the lead as the three boats edged their way up the first two-mile stretch of the course in the very light and variable breeze towards the first rounding mark.

A small, but well-behaved flotilla of spectators gathered to watch the start under clear blue skies, keeping clear of the racing yachts so as not to impede their progress.

At first mark, PUMA had gained control and, with a man at the top of the mast searching for wind, rounded 53 seconds ahead of Green Dragon. Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA), sailing with the same crew that started the race in Alicante, was in third place, seven seconds behind.

At the second mark, it was PUMA from Ericsson 4 and Green Dragon as the skyline of Qingdao faded into the distance and the crews settled down to face up to 40 days at sea as they race around the bottom of the world and across one of the most desolate oceans on earth.

Meanwhile, yet to complete leg four from Singapore, is the fifth contender for leg five, Ericsson 3 (Magnus Olsson/SWE). The team has just 21nm to run to the leg four finish line in Qingdao in order to collect four more points. The team resumed racing in leg four on Wednesday having been forced to stop in Taiwan to repair damage to their boat in a leg which saw two other boats failing to finish.

The race is now on for Telefónica Blue to assess and fix their problem and for Ericsson 3 to re-provision the boat and start leg five as quickly as possible. Ericsson 3 is expected to cross the finish in approximately two hours time.

Overall Leaderboard
1. Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA): 49 points
2. Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED): 42 points (3 points deducted for change of rudders)
3. PUMA (Ken Read/USA): 41 points
4. Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR): 30 points
5. Ericsson 3 (Magnus Olsson/SWE): 24 points (pending finish of leg four)
6. Telefónica Black (Fernando Echávarri/ESP): 21 points
7. Delta Lloyd (Roberto Bermudez/ESP): 12 points
8. Team Russia (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT): 10.5 points

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: ERICSSON 3 LEG FOUR QFB: received 14 February 2009 0420 GMT

by Gustav Morin

Close but yet so far...

That is the situation for us on Ericsson 3. We have managed, with a massive effort from our shore crew, to get the boat ready in just a couple of days. We have sailed the boat to China with just seven sailing crewmembers. We have been through heavy sail changes in complete darkness and biting cold winds of 30 knots.

And now, only about 40 miles outside Qingdao, the wind has died. And there are only two hours until the start.

How about that for a frustrating moment?

Maybe if we would have left just one hour earlier we would have had some more breeze and made it. Maybe if we did that, or thought about that or planned that... we would have made it.

Who knows?

But, to be honest, we did everything we could and actually we left earlier than we, for a moment, thought was possible.

For sure the guys are bitter but now. We are in the stage of tiredness and frustration when we can only laugh at the situation and try to make the best of it. Even if it is hard to think about now, we are really happy to have reached China and to be able to do the next leg. We will soon have our four points for leg four and we will start to sail to Rio, instead of putting the boat on a ship.

We have probably 40 days to catch up. If our competitors get stuck in a no-wind area we can see that in the scheds, then we can choose another path and pass them.

We have far from given up.

Ericsson Racing Team

Volvo Ocean Race

Vendée Globe: Davies Posts the Second Fastest Time Ever for a Female Sailor


Sam Davies celebrates finishing on Roxy. Image copyright Jacques Vapillon/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

by Justine Ozoux

Saturday, 14th February, at 00:41 (GMT), British female solo sailor Sam Davies, onboard Roxy, crossed the Vendée Globe finish line in third place. After 96 days, 12 hours, 39 minutes and 1 second at sea and 27,470 miles of racing, Sam became only the third Briton ever to achieve a podium place finish in the infamous race that starts and ends in Les Sables d’Olonne, France.

At the end of December, Sam Davies and Roxy altered course to help in the daring sea rescue of fellow competitor Yann Eliès, who suffered a broken leg while alone at sea. Roxy was given 32 hours redress, to be deducted from her finishing time, meaning that Sam’s final official racing time stands at: 95 days, 4 hours, 39 minutes and 1 second. She must beat French skipper Marc Guillemot, who was given a redress of 82 hours after his help in the same rescue, by 50 hours to secure third place.

At the age of 34, Sam Davies becomes the second fastest female ever, after Ellen MacArthur, to complete the race. Sam is also the first Briton to cross the finish line of the 2008/2009 race, beating the likes of sailing legend Brian Thompson and the only other female competitor, Dee Caffari, both racing on new boats and not expected over the line for another couple of days.

Roxy

Vendée Globe

Vendée Globe: Sam dit on Samedi


Sam Davies with pink flares on the bow of Roxy after finishing the Vendée Globe. Image copyright Jean Marie Liot/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

by Vendée Globe media

Sam Davies' first words after finishing her Vendée Globe:

“I have just sailed around the world. It is amazing.

“It was an incredible finish, pretty full on. I managed to make the most of a nice sunset with 20 knots of wind and on the helm with my I-pod on singing out loud, then some fast reaching and then I was taken by surprise because the boats came out to meet me so early and stayed with me for about an hour. And so it was a bit full on because there was a lot more wind than I anticipated and so I had to do a bit of sail changing and so lots of action right up to the end of the race.”

On what it felt like to cross the line:

“It was kind of almost disbelief when I crossed, it really does just seem like yesterday when I was leaving, and I can’t believe I have sailed all the way around the world, so it is really a weird feeling and I think it is going to take a couple of days to sink in what I have done.

“It does not feel like 97 days, it went really, really quickly. It is only when I think things like when I left here it was 2008 and now it is 2009 and things like that, that has been a bit of time.”

On her finishing third, way beyond her expectations:

“I never ever thought I might finish in third place, not at all, not at all, I could not even imagine being able to finish in fifth in the top five, I was kind of hoping to make the top 10, this really is a dream finish.”


Sam Davies at the end of her round the world race. Image copyright Jean Marie Liot/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

On her abundant energy and good humour, even in the face of adversity:

“It really was all such fun. Maybe as well that is just my way of getting through the hard moments, trying to find the positive side of everything and use that energy to battle through the tough times, but, no I enjoyed every single day of this race, and I surprised myself even, I knew I would enjoy it, but I did not realise I would enjoy it this much and it is an amazing way to do the race.

“It was brilliant to see everyone at the finish. They have done such a good job, supporting me, and sending me messages every day, and answering the phone whenever I called, and so it is really nice to see them, but because we have been so close and they have been supporting me, then it does not feel like we have been apart throughout the whole race. And it is nice, nice to see their faces. My mum and dad look really proud.”

And anticipating the welcome when she goes down the canal at around 0900hrs local time:

“I am quite glad I finished at low tide, giving me a little bit of peace to think about the welcome, and to think about the race I have done, instead of just going straight on land and having tonnes of people around me, so it is nice.”

Vendée Globe

LVPS: Emirates Team New Zealand Wins Louis Vuitton Pacific Series Cup


Yves Carcelle of Louis Vuitton presents Emirates Team New Zealand skipper Dean Barker with the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series Trophy after ETNZ won the regatta three races to one against Alinghi. Image copyright Chris Cameron/Emirates Team New Zealand.

by Warren Douglas

Emirates Team New Zealand has won the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series with three wins today against Alinghi.

Starting the day one race down in the best of five series, Emirates Team New Zealand won in style, winning the starts and then controlling the races and remaining cool in the face of persistent Alinghi attacks.

Skipper Dean Barker and the crew hit form on the final day of the regatta, thrilling the crowd with a display of match-racing finesse that will be long remembered.


Bruno Trouble of Louis Vuitton on stage with Grant Dalton and Dean Barker of Emirates Team New Zealand for the presentation of the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series Trophy after ETNZ won the regatta three races to one against Alinghi. Image copyright Chris Cameron/Emirates Team New Zealand.

The team has little time to reflect of its success. On Monday the new Emirates TP52 will be delivered to the base and the team swings straight into preparing a campaign which will take them through five tough regattas in Europe over the northern summer.

After the racing today, Barker paid tribute to the crew. “ A helmsman is only as good as the people around him. The win is theirs. They left the dock this morning fired up. I don’t think anything could have stopped them.”


Emirates Team New Zealand helmsman Dean Barker punches the air after ETNZ beat Alinghi in the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series Trophy three races top one. Image copyright Chris Cameron/Emirates Team New Zealand.

In today’s three races, Barker got what he wanted in all the starts, forcing a penalty on Alinghi in the second, and then sailed confidently to the finish line.

Alinghi attacked from behind throughout the three races, but were given no opportunity to break ETNZ’s iron grip. Emirates Team New Zealand led around every mark but there was not a moment to relax and the deltas were close – race 2 , 29sec; race 3, 33sec; race 4, 20sec.

Barker said: “We are very happy to have beaten the best team in the world. Alinghi showed their class throughout the regatta and the win gives us a lot of confidence for the future.”


Emirates Team New Zealand helmsman Dean Barker shakes hands with Alinghi helmsman Ed Baird after ETNZ beat Alinghi in the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series Trophy three races top one. Image copyright Chris Cameron/Emirates Team New Zealand.

Grant Dalton: “This morning we were one down and under the hammer. We debriefed Friday’s race and couldn’t put our finger on anything that was wrong so we didn’t change our approach. We clicked and it all came together.


Emirates Team New Zealand MD Grant Dalton shakes hands with Brad Butterworth after ETNZ beat Alinghi to win the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series Trophy three races top one. Image copyright Chris Cameron/Emirates Team New Zealand.

“For me the telling moment occurred on the first beat when we crossed Alinghi. We didn’t put a foot wrong from there.”


Emirates Team New Zealand Dick Meacham, Grant Dalton and Dean Barker celebrate with Moet and Chandon Champagne after winning the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series Trophy three races top one against Alinghi. Image copyright Chris Cameron/Emirates Team New Zealand.

Emirates Team New Zealand

LVPS: Emirates Team New Zealand Wins Louis Vuitton Pacific Series



by Keith Taylor

Emirates Team New Zealand today laid claim to the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series, convincingly beating the Swiss team Alinghi with three consecutive wins on a grey, rainy and windy day on the Waitemata Harbour.

The home team’s come-from-behind 3-1 victory marked the end of a 15-day match racing regatta in modified America’s Cup boats that drew praise for its format and its originality from all of the nine international teams that took part.

Ship’s sirens and boat horns drowned out the cheering as the Emirates boat docked alongside the Swiss team for the last time. Emirates skipper Dean Barker accepted the silver and crystal Louis Vuitton Pacific Series trophy for his team in a Moët et Chandon, champagne-soaked ceremony watched by hundreds of spectators at the regatta village in Auckland’s Viaduct Harbour.

Today’s win reversed a losing streak that saw the New Zealand team lose four out of its previous five starts. In all, the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron as the organiser and host club succeeded in starting and finish 53 races for the competitors.

Brad Butterworth the Kiwi skipper and tactician for Alinghi had high praise for the event. “Its been three weeks of very good sailing here, although obviously we don’t sail very well in the rain,” Butterworth said.

“But it has been fantastic. I can’t say that enough. Today was a great day. It was a little hairy for both crews. You really saw how good the crews are. We couldn’t quite close it out today but the sailing and the competition was at a really top level and that’s what we love and that’s what we want to see more of.”

Yves Carcelle, president and CEO of Louis Vuitton Malletier refused to be drawn on whether his company would run a similar event in the future. “We don’t know for the moment what the future will be but I would like to concentrate on the last two weeks,” Carcelle said. “I think we’ve seen here a fantastic sports series. The teams respected one another in an amazing way. The level of the competition was extraordinary.”



Racing today, the Kiwi team was on fire after its loss yesterday. Barker and his tactician Ray Davies made the right calls in the first prestart, allowing them to convert an even start into the thin end of a winning wedge. Emirates beat Alinghi by 29 seconds after leading the helmsman Ed Baird and the Swiss team around the course to make the series 1-1. The defining moment came when a small left shift in the early part of the first leg gave Emirates the leverage to make a close, heart-stopping port tack cross, barely in front of the right-of-way Swiss boat. From there they covered Alinghi and worked the shifts to sail steadily away.

The breeze was at 20 knots and gusting higher at the start of the second race when Barker/Davies helm/tactician duo shut Alinghi out before the gun while laying a penalty on the hapless Swiss and then starting clear ahead. With the penalty hanging over his head, Baird worked hard stay in touch and bring the race back to the Kiwis but without success. That made the score in the best-of-five series 2-1 for Emirates.The New Zealand team was just one win away from the series victory.

Alinghi had early control of the third start but broke off to make a start near the pin, leaving the Kiwi boat to start at speed in the middle as the breeze got up to 25 knots. The Swiss enjoyed a small early advantage, getting out 23 metres in front of the New Zealanders. However when Ed Baird tacked Alinghi back on port, Emirates was there on starboard and pushed them back to the left side. Alinghi made tack after tack in their attempt to break through but were quickly on the port tack layline and had to follow Emirates into the mark, rounding 29 seconds astern. New Zealand had the upper hand and cruised to a 20-second victory.



Louis Vuitton Pacific Series

LVPS: Alinghi Congratulates Emirates Team New Zealand for Winning LVPS in Auckland


Alinghi are gracious in defeat at the prizegiving.

by Daphne Morgan Barnicoat

Alinghi, Defender of the 33rd America’s Cup, congratulates Emirates Team New Zealand on winning the inaugural Louis Vuitton Pacific Series Cup in Auckland, New Zealand today. Alinghi won the first match of the best of five series, but ETNZ took the next three to claim the LVPS Cup. The event has been a great opportunity to get back to some racing and the caliber of the teams – most of them 33rd America’s Cup challengers – has been high for the three week event on the Waitemata.

Next for these 33rd America’s Cup teams are the pre-regattas scheduled for July and October this year, followed by the Spanish Challenger of Record’s annual regatta in November. “This has been a great fun event, with hard competition on the water and a great atmosphere ashore,” said Brad Butterworth, team skipper and four-time America’s Cup winning tactician. “We look forward to getting on with the multi-challenge America’s Cup now in Valencia, starting in July this year and culminating in 2010 with the 33rd America’s Cup Match.”

Emirates Team New Zealand remains one of the most powerful challengers entered in the 33rd Cup: “There is no doubt, they are a very strong team and we look forward to our next match with them – hopefully in the lead up to the 33rd America’s Cup. They have managed and run a very good event here in Auckland alongside Louis Vuitton," said Butterworth.

Alinghi

VOR: Leg 5 Start - They're Off (Well, Some of Them, Anyway)


Leg 5 race start in Qingdao. Telefonica Blue sustain damage and return to the dock for repairs. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

PUMA is quick out of the starting blocks with Green Dragon and Ericsson 4 squabbling over second place. Misfortune strikes for Telefonica Blue.

by Volvo Ocean Race media

Saturday 14 February 2009 06:50 GMT

PUMA has got caught out too close the coast, the northerly course they were sailing has put them into a hole and they are parked up, averaging just a couple of knots of boat speed over the last 15 minutes. To the south, Green Dragon and Ericsson 4 are bow to bow, and pulling ahead from their southerly position, which has a couple of knots more wind speed. It’s still very light for all these guys...

And meanwhile, Ericsson 3 is charging towards Qingdao from the east-southeast – almost on a parallel but opposite course to the three boats leaving China. Magnus Olsson and co. have less than 15 miles to run in good breeze – blowing ten knots from the south-southwest. So we can expect the pace to pick up for the leading trio as they get away from the coast.

06:35 GMT

There is still nothing much in it for the three boats racing, PUMA holding the lead and a more northerly line than the other two, with Ericsson 4 and then Green Dragon to the south of them. The gaps between them are around a few hundred metres. All three boats headed just a little south of east. The breeze is still very light, just four knots, and it now seems to have gone round to the south...

06:20 GMT

PUMA is holding her lead, about a couple of hundred metres ahead of Ericsson 4, with Green Dragon about the same distance astern of Torben Grael and his men. All three boats headed east, with PUMA holding a bit further north than the other two – but that’s slowly separating them from the coast, which runs away to the north-east.


Telefonica Blue is lifted out of the water after sustaining damage to their keel on the start of leg 5 in Qingdao. Image copyright Helena de la Gandara/Volvo Ocean Race.

News on Telefonica Blue – they came to a dead halt from six or seven knots on a shallow patch just off the harbour. They put a man in the water immediately to try and check the damage, but it was too murky to be sure of the extent of the problem – so Bouwe Bekking took the decision to suspend racing and the boat is now out of the water. The really bad news is that it looks like they are going to need a full structural check, and that could mean as much as 24 hours.

05:50 GMT

PUMA extending on Ericsson 4, and Ericsson 4 extending on Green Dragon in turn – no surprises there as they are heading out into that stronger breeze offshore. But it’s still generally pretty light, so big gains to be made for those that can get into the better breeze first.

05:45 GMT

PUMA around that start mark and headed for Rio – whether it’s via Hawaii or New Zealand we can only guess…

Ericsson 4 goes through in second place, one minute and six seconds behind, with Green Dragon a further minutes and 19 seconds behind in third.

Telefonica Blue is about to get pulled out of the water, so we should have a damage report soon. Ericsson 3 is 27 miles away, and doing 15 knots, so there’s plenty of breeze offshore.

05:40 GMT

PUMA around the last headland and on course for the start-line buoy, which is the final mark that they must round before being free to pick a course for Rio. It does look a little lighter near the start area though, and we could see the fleet compress again...

05:35 GMT

PUMA stretching away now, while Ericsson 4 have got themselves in front of the Green Dragon.

Meanwhile, news from the pit-lane… Ericsson 3 is about 30 miles away from Qingdao, and doing more than 10 knots, so it looks like they could end up starting this leg with Telefonica Blue. The good news is that they have plenty of breeze, so it’s out there, and this leg is going to kick-off as soon as these first three boats get into it.

05:30 GMT

PUMA still using the Code Zero, although this return leg to the start line – which they must go around before they are free to set sail for Rio - pretty much upwind. Ericsson 4 setting up to leeward of Green Dragon, and trying to push her bow out in front.

A return to form for Ken Read out of the starting blocks – leading comfortably at the turning mark, with Green Dragon holding off Ericsson 4. We have about six to eight knots of breeze, and with the big sails up they were all moving pretty nicely on a reach to that mark. A bit of a procession, but a good show for everyone promenading on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in downtown Qingdao.

05:25 GMT

Telefonica Blue have got into the harbour before the tide dropped too much, but they can’t get back out for another two to three hours at least – the boat will be pulled out of the water, so they are worried about some damage from touching the bottom.

05:20 GMT

PUMA are still leading, then Green Dragon and Ericsson 4 – all reaching west along the waterfront of Qingdao, to this first mark.

The early word on Telefonica Blue is that they hit something on the way out – but we’ll confirm that for you as soon as we know for sure. If so, they will almost certainly need to haul the boat out, and that would mean a three to four hour stop at the minimum.

It’s all pretty slow at the moment, just a light offshore breeze - but this is a coastal course, not the windward/leeward triangles that we’ve done on the previous Leg Starts. So the first goal is a headland out to the west, along the 40 kilometre seafront boulevard of the city of Qingdao.

05:15 GMT

PUMA working herself into a reasonable lead, with Ericsson 4 and Green Dragon just behind her, as they get to this first headland.

05:10 GMT

Green Dragon got the best of the start, in the middle of the line, PUMA at the committee boat, and Ericsson 4 a little late at the pin end buoy. Then we had a little right hand wind shift, that put PUMA into a controlling position.

No word yet on what the problem is for Telefonica Blue – because they suspended racing before the start, the rules only enforce a two hour minimum stop.

05:00 GMT

The start gun for Leg 5 has gone. The fleet are heading round a five mile loop, out to the west along the city front and back, before they set off south on their 12,300 nautical mile odyssey.

Telefonica Blue have suspended racing, and dropped their mainsail. They had a man in the water before the start, and have some sort of problem. And still no sign of Ericsson 3, so right now only three boats are headed for Rio on a perfect day...

04:00 GMT

And then they arrived in droves. What initially was a band of some 100 drummers has, in the last hour or so, swelled to roughly 900. The beat is the same: bam, bam, bam-bam-bam. But now it is so loud that MC Guy Swindells might need a bigger amplifier if his wisdom is to be shared.

He continues to bellow through his pre-race routine, but the army of red and gold drummers and percussionists are putting up a good fight. The show is drawing huge numbers of camera-clicking spectators, people waiting for the real action to start. Visitors in the race village are measureable in their thousands this morning and they have now had their first glimpse of the stars in the drama.

Crew by crew, the sailors walked the huge model of the Great Wall, striding across the last stretches of land before stepping on a boat for up to 40 days. The skippers, like in the arrival ceremonies, are dressed in cloaks and helmets, axes in hands. There’s a battle on the horizon, but Volvo Open 70s will be the weapons of choice.

Among the hordes watching on is Gerd-Jan Poortman. He is one of the few original members of Team Delta Lloyd that has retained his position onboard, but today is one of mixed feelings for him. He was unable to sail past Cape Horn with ABN AMRO TWO in the last race because of a serious back injury, and now he misses out again because his boat is damaged. “It’s pretty annoying,” he says. “But I’m young and I’ll get other chances. I’d have loved to sail this leg.”

Elsewhere, the build-up continues. Guo Chuan is, as ever, being followed by camera crews, capturing every movement of the only Chinese sailor to have raced this event. Telefonica Blue skipper Bouwe Bekking is smiling, taking his sixth lap of the globe in his stride. He has cause to be confident, having won the last two legs, but Ericsson 4 control the leaderboard and their skipper, Torben Grael, appears to have not a trouble in the world. He’ll be in his native Brazil in about six weeks, but in-between the whole complexion of the race might have changed. Exciting times.

Not so much for Ericsson 3. They always knew they faced a race against time to get here from Taiwan – where they suspended racing in leg four before resuming two days ago – and now it is looking highly unlikely they will start with the fleet. They are currently 43 nautical miles from the finish and making just five knots.

03:45 GMT

The sailors are dockside and the departure ceremony is about to begin as the boats leave the dock for the longest leg in the history of the race. A light rain has started to fall, and the wind, already light, has eased to near calm. It looks like it will be a slow start to the race.

02:45 GMT

The flags are flapping, the spectators are arriving, drummers are beating and sailors are milling around. It’s early on the start day of the longest leg in the history of the event.

The crews, with the exceptions of a few short-handed circumnavigators and record chasers, have never sailed a course like the 12,300-nautical mile marathon before.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” said Neal McDonald, Green Dragon’s veteran watch captain. He admits he’s not quite sure how many times he has rounded Cape Horn – “I think it’s five” – but he’s certain of one thing. “I love it, it’s part of the adventure that I do this race for. This leg has a bit of the unknown and that really is part of the fun for me.”

His team-mate, Damian Foxall walks past with his wife, Suzy-Ann, and one-year-old son, Oisin. There are still a couple of hours before dock-out but the emotional farewells have been going awhile.

One guy not used to saying goodbye from the shore is Richard Mason, the Ericsson 3 watch captain. He suffered a prolapsed disk in his back during leg four and is missing the one leg he wanted to sail most. “The guys will be battling on this leg, they all will, and it’s the leg not to miss. I love that kind of sailing, you get pretty sentimental about Cape Horn and I’m pretty annoyed about missing it.”


Start Day for Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race from Qingdao, China, to Rio De Janeiro. At over 12,000 miles, Leg 5 is the longest leg ever attempted in the history of the race. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

Down on the dock, the preparations are in full swing. A Mandarin sound-check is going out around the race village, 100 or so drummers are hitting a dramatic beat. The boats are pretty much deserted. “Everything’s done,” Neil Cox, the PUMA shore boss says. His predictions of a top-three were less illuminating. “Any boat that finishes is a winner.”

The wind, meanwhile, is around six to eight knots. It’s not ideal, but then again the memories of the in-port race postponements are still fresh in the mind.

It’s nearly a complete picture, but for Ericsson 3, who are less than 50 miles from the finish and making 'stately' progress at about four knots.

02:30 GMT

Ericsson 3 is still charging - well, at least making progress - towards the finish line in Qingdao in an effort to finish leg four, collect 4 points, turn the boat around, and start leg 5 within reasonable distance of the fleet. The team hopes to be able to re-provision and ready the boat for leg 5 within two or three hours of finishing. At 02:30 GMT, Ericsson 3 was 49 miles from the finishing line, but making just four knots in light conditions.

Volvo Ocean Race

Louis Vuitton Pacific Cup: Race Report from Final Day of Racing



by Louis Vuitton Pacific Series media

Race 2: Emirates Team New Zealand beat Alinghi, 29s

The host New Zealand team was on fire on a grey rainy morning after its loss yesterday. Skipper/helmsman Dean Barker and his tactician Ray Davies made the right calls in the pre-start, allowing them to convert an even start into the thin end of a winning wedge. Emirates Team New Zealand beat Alinghi by 29 seconds after leading the Swiss team around the course to make the series 1-1.

Alinghi has the favoured entry into the start box. The boats dialed up and then circled warily but without any obvious advantage. When they broke away to sail back to the line, Alinghi went for the committee end and Emirates headed for the middle in a mirror version of yesterday's start. This time the Kiwis made fractional gains until a small left shift gave them the leverage to make a close, heart-stopping port tack cross. From then they covered Alinghi and worked the shofts to sail steadily away.

Deltas
Mark 1 - 0:18 ETNZ
Mark 2 - 0:21 ETNZ
Mark 3 - 0:34 ETNZ
Finish - 0:29 ETNZ

Race 3: Emirates Team New Zealand beat Alinghi, 33s

Emirates Team New Zealand shut Alinghi out of the second start while laying a penalty on the hapless Swiss and then starting clear ahead. With the penalty hanging over his head, Alinghi skipper Ed Baird worked hardto stay in touch and bring the race back to the Kiwis but without success. The Barker/Davies helm/tactician duo was in perfect synch in this prestart, the Kiwis engaging Baird in a dialup, and a chase, then testing him in a souple of pre-start circles. With time in hand, Baird broke away to head back to the line, pushed by Emirates. The Kiwi boat drove the Swiss above the layline. Baird wriggled frantically with two sharp low speed tacks before gybing away as the umpires flagged him for overrotating and failing to keep clear.

In a lighter breeze, Emirates turned an early 80 metre advantage into a 100 metre lead only to see it evaporate as Alinghi came back on a big left shift. They tacked up to the top mark until Emirates got clear again and led by 30 seconds. Alinghi pulled up close again at the finish but the margin was 34 seconds after they completed their penalty turn. The score in the best-of-five series is now 2-1 for Emirates and the New Zealand team has only to win one more race to claim the series and the Louis Vuitton Pacific Trophy.

Deltas
Mark 1 - 0:31 ETNZ
Mark 2 - 0:25 ETNZ
Mark 3 - 0:29 ETNZ
Finish - 0:33 ETNZ



Race 4: Emirates Team New Zealand beat Alinghi, 20s

The host Emirates Team New Zealand made it three in a row to win the series. Alinghi had control of the start but theer appeared to be divergent opinions about the favoured end of the line. Alinghi broke off to make a start near the pin, leaving the Kiwi boat to start at speed in the middle. The Swiss enjoyed a small early advantage, getting out 23 metres in front of the New Zealanders. However, when Ed Baird tacked Alinghi back on port, Emirates was there on starboard and pushed them back to the left side.

With the breeze shifting left and increasing, Alinghi made tack after tack in their attempt to break through but were quickly on the port tack layline and had to follow Emirates into the mark, rounding 29 seconds astern. The Swiss boat brought more wind down on the first run and closed the gap at the leeward mark to 21 seconds but New Zealand had the upper hand and cruised to a 20 second victory.

Deltas
Mark 1 - 0:29 ETNZ
Mark 2 - 0:15 ETNZ
Mark 3 - 0:21 ETNZ
Finish - 0:20 ETNZ


Louis Vuitton Pacific Series and Louis Vuitton Pacific Cup final results, copyright Louis Vuitton Pacific Series.

Louis Vuitton Pacific Series

Vendée Globe: Roxy Returns in Third Place


Sam Davies is ecstatic as she crosses the line on Roxy at the end of the Vendée Globe. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

by Vendée Globe media

Samantha Davies, GBR, (Roxy) crossed the finishing line at 00hrs 41mins 01 secs as the third competitor to complete this epic sixth edition of the Vendée Globe solo non stop around the world race and return to Les Sables d'Olonne.

Ironically Davies will have to wait two days and two hours (50 hours) to see whether she hang on to third place in this sixth Vendée Globe as the final result will depend on Marc Guillemot's finishing time.

Guillemot was given a time compensation for standing by the badly injured skipper Yann Elies who was rescued from his Open 60 Generali on 20th December.

95 days 4 hours 39 mins 01 sec WITH redress: Roxy crossed the finish in the midst of a dark February night, in the small hours of St Valentine's day, having sailed 27 470 actual miles on the water at an average speed of 12.02 knots.


Sam Davies is overwhelmed by her achievement and welcome home. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

Davies is the first British competitor to complete this edition of the race, which began off Les Sables d'Olonne back on 9th November 2008, and leads home Brian Thompson, GBR (Bahrain Team Pindar) and Dee Caffari, GBR, (Aviva) who are on course to finish in fifth and sixth places respectively. They are likely to finish late Sunday or Monday.

If she is not displaced from third place (if Marc Guillemot does not finish before Monday morning), she will become only the second woman on the podium in the history of the race and the third British sailor after Ellen MacArthur in 2000-2001 and Mike Golding in 2004-2005.

Regardless if it proves to be third or fourth, it is an exceptional result for the 34-year-old, who with her Roxy team prepared Finot Conq designed boat which won the previous two races and is now nine years old.

Davies' sparky enthusiasm has been one of the constants of this remarkable race. Her effervescent moods, no matter the weather or her situation, belie a steely determination and a very accomplished attack around the race course. While se modulated her pace showing prudence when required, she equally proved capable of 'sending it' - keeping up high average speeds for long periods and she was also one of the few sailors in the race to cover more than 400 miles in one day (making 414 miles in 24 hours).

From the starting gun, Sam managed to keep the pace, staying with many of the newer designs simply by sailing smart and making astute routing decisions. Up to the Equator she occupied between tenth and fifteenth place.

Ater the Doldrums, as she crossed into the Southern Hemisphere, Samantha Davies was in fourteenth place 235 miles from the leader, Loïck Peyron. The voyage down with the SE'ly trade winds proved more difficult for the polka dot pink Roxy, which does not have the same power as the newer boats.

The British soloist proved she has stamina in all weather, in spite of an unfavourable stretch around the St. Helena high: she lost more than 300 miles in four days stuck in light airs, while the frontrunners made their getaway into the Roaring Forties and those chasing after were able to take a short cut across.


Roxy approaches the finishing line off Les Sables d'Olonne. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

Davies on Roxy surfed along on the Southern Ocean swell and crossed the longitude of the Cape of Good Hope still in fourteenth place, 560 miles behind Jean-Pierre Dick, who led the at that point.

Apart from her race performance, it is has been her ebullient, outgoing nature and her ability to convey her feelings that have gained her a huge following from all ages and both sexes, and immense respect and admiration from her fellow racers: nothing seemed to change her mood at sea in spite of finding herself up against such exceptional sailors.

The preparation of the pink Open 60 was a key factor, as she did not suffer any major damage. She chose to change as little possible from the proven features which had worked so well for Michel Desjoyeaux in 2000-1 and Vincent Riou in 2004-5 on this boat.

She sailed close to her first iceberg before reaching the Kerguelens. This stretch of the race was to see the downfall of many of her rivals, so that by Cape Leeuwin, Samantha Davies was tenth, 1035 miles behind Michel Desjoyeaux.

When Yann Eliès was in difficulty 800 miles south of Perth, Australia with a fractured femur she suspended her race to sail at full speed to offer assistance alongside Marc Guillemot.

She got to within a few hours of the area just as the Australian Navy vessel had taken off Yann Eliès, and restarted the race with Marc Guillemot in conditions that were far from favourable: light winds and a heavy swell.

Already very much alone between the Kerguelens and Australia, Davies found herself totally alone, while Marc Guillemot carried out a pit stop off Auckland Island. Heading back up to the Pacific Ice gate was particularly tough with a series of very active low-pressure areas, which put an end to the race for a few more of her fellow competitors. By the Antipodes, the British sailor was up to eighth place.


Roxy finishes the Vendée Globe. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

But there was a whole ocean to still to climb. After a little under 63 days at sea, she rounded Cape Horn in fourth place in the rankings. Marc Guillemot was right behind her, in reality on corrected time ahead of her with his extra 50 hours redress. And there were still 7000 miles to go to les Sables d'Olonne.

Once again, Sam found herself alone, as Marc Guillemot stopped again in the Falklands to carry out more repairs to his mast track.

She was really to suffer during the climb back up the South Atlantic: once she had reached the latitude of Uruguay, she was taken prisoner by a thundery system and found herself stuck in the calms, which allowed Guillemot to get around her via the west by sailing close to the Brazilian coast, less than 30 miles at times.

The duel between the two competitors reached its high point in this stretch with positions changing several times. Davies had the advantage in this duel at the Equator and was in fourth place in the rankings.

She chose a rather risky route to get by the Azores high to the east and once again fell victim to the calms, while Marc Guillemot managed to find his way around the west: the battle continued until Safran lost her keel. Third place was now within her grasp!


Sam Davies waves in response to her welcome, from Roxy. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

Samantha Davies's times
Crossing the Equator: 13d 01h 51'
Passing the Cape of Good Hope: 28d 05h 28'
Passing Cape Leeuwin : 40d 00h 48'
Crossing the International Date Line: 48d 11h 43'
Rounding Cape Horn: 62d 21h 18'

Finish in Les Sables d'Olonne : 95 days 4 hours 39 mins 01 sec WITH redress


Sam Davies waves from Roxy. Image copyright Jean Marie Liot/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

Vendée Globe

Vendée Globe: Sam Davies Finishes Vendée Globe in Third Place at 0041 GMT

by Vendée Globe media

Sam Davies finishes the Vendee Globe, third across the finish line early on this Valentine's mornng, an incredible achievement, finishing at 00hrs 41 mins and 01 seconds GMT. Her Roxy boys shore team are on board immediately - hugs all round...

On the way to the finish line, Sam was smiling broadly, and waving like a lunatic, under constant blitz of flashes from cameras, accompanied by a cacophony of cheers and whistles.

Sam's time is 95 days 4 hours 39 mins 01 sec WITH her redress of 32 hours. Her shore crew are on board and the scrutineer will go on board to check Roxy's engine seals.

Sam looks delirious, and no doubt exhausted, elated and will be sad her great adventure is over. She has sailed impeccably and shared her race widely and freely, without any pretension. 10.87 knots average speed on a theoretical distance of 24840 miles.

Vendée Globe

The National Bank Youth International Match Racing Championships: Update on 14th February


Undefeated from two round robins, Josh Junior from Wellington. Image copyright RNZYS media.

by Barry Davies

With two round robins completed, the 8 boat fleet has now been split in two.

Saturday - places 5 to 8 will sail off, and 1 to 4 will sail off.

Skippers are currently placed:

1. Josh Junior (RPNYC, NZL)
2. Adrian Short (RNZYS, NZL)
3. Lucinda Whitty (RSYS, AUS)
4. William Tiller (RNZYS, NZL)
5. Jay Griffin (CYCA, AUS)
6. Jordan Reece (RSYS, AUS)
7. Sam Goodchild (OSC, GBR)
8. Samuel Sexton (RPAYC, AUS)

Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron

VOR: Volvo Ocean Race Crew List Leg Five: Qingdao – Rio de Janeiro


Entertainment at the Leg 4 Prizegiving of the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 in Qingdao, China. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Volvo Ocean Race media

ERICSSON 4
1. Torben Grael/BRA - skipper
2. Jules Salter/GBR - navigator
3. Guy Salter/GBR - MCM
4. Brad Jackson/NZL – watch captain
5. Stu Bannatyne/NZL – watch captain
6. Dave Endean/NZL - pitman
7. Horacio Carabelli/BRA - trimmer
8. Tony Mutter/NZL - trimmer
9. Joao Signorini/BRA - trimmer
10. Ryan Godfrey/AUS - bowman
11. Phil Jameson/NZL – bowman

No changes


Qingdao: Ericsson 4 lifts for a quick repair to the keel root, damaged by a mooring chain at the dock in Qingdao. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

ERICSSON 3
1. Magnus Olsson/SWE – skipper
2. Aksel Magdahl/NOR - navigator
3. Gustav Morin/SWE - MCM
4. Thomas Johansson/FIN - helmsman
5. Arve Roaas/NOR – trimmer/helmsman
6. Magnus Woxen/SWE – trimmer
7. Eivind Melleby/NOR - helmsman
8. Martin Strömberg/SWE – trimmer
9. Jens Dolmer/DEN - pitman
10. Anders Dahlsjö/SWE - bowman
11. Martin Krite/SWE - bowman

On: Arve Roaas/NOR – trimmer/helmsman
Magnus Woxen/SWE – trimmer
Eivind Melleby/NOR - helmsman
Off: Richard Mason/NZL - watch captain
Klass Nylof/SWE – helmsman
Jann Neergaard/DEN

GREEN DRAGON
1. Ian Walker/GBR - skipper
2. Wouter Verbraak/NED - navigator
3. Guo Chuan/CHN - MCM
4. Neal McDonald/GBR – watch captain
5. Damian Foxall/IRL – watch captain
6. Tom Braidwood/AUS – pitman/trimmer
7. Phil Harmer/AUS – helmsman/trimmer
8. Andrew Mclean/NZL – pitman/trimmer
9. Chris Main/NZL – helmsman/trimmer
10. Justin Slattery/IRL – bowman
11. Freddie Shanks/GBR - bowman

On: Wouter Verbraak/NED - navigator
Damian Foxall/IRL – watch captain
Chris Main/NZL – helmsman/trimmer
Off: Ian Moore/IRL – navigator
Anthony Merrington/AUS – watch captain
Ian Budgen/GBR - helmsman/trimmer

PUMA OCEAN RACING
1. Ken Read/USA - skipper
2. Andrew Cape/AUS - navigator
3. Rick Deppe/GBR - MCM
4. Sidney Gavignet/FRA – watch captain
5. Robert Greenhalgh/GBR – watch captain
6. Rob Salthouse/NZL – helmsman/trimmer
7. Justin Ferris/NZL – helmsman/trimmer
8. Erle Williams/NZL – helmsman/trimmer
9. Jerry Kirby/USA – bowman/pitman
10. Casey Smith/AUS – bowman
11. Michael Müller/GER – helmsman/bowman

On: Jerry Kirby/USA – bowman/pitman
Off: Shannon Falcone/ANT – trimmer/pitman


Qingdao: Telefonica Blue comes out of the shed ready for leg 5 start. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

TELEFÓNICA BLUE
1. Bouwe Bekking/NED - skipper
2. Iker Martinez/ESP - co-skipper/helmsman
3. Tom Addis/AUS – navigator
4. Simon Fisher/GBR- strategist/helmsman
5. Gabriele Olivo/ITA - MCM
6. Jonathan Swain/RSA – watch captain
7. Jordi Calafat/ESP – helmsman
8. Xabier Fernandez/ESP - trimmer
9. Pablo Arrarte/ESP - trimmer
10. Michael Pammeter/RSA - bowman
11. David Vera/ESP - bowman

On: David Vera/ESP – bowman
Michael Pammeter/RSA - bowman
Off: Pepe Ribes/ESP - bowman
Daryl Wislang/NZL - bowman

Volvo Ocean Race

BMW Auckland Regatta: Quality Fleet Signs on for Auckland's Premier Regatta


Fun n Games is one of the favourites in its division. Supplied image.

One week out from the first gun we preview the diverse sailing fleet racing in the BMW Auckland Regatta starting Friday 20 February on the Hauraki Gulf

by Zoe Hawkins

The biggest boats in the fleet, including the Cookson 50 Pussy Galore, the Brett Bakewell-White 52 Wired and the Transpac 52 V5, use high-end design and technology to gain an edge on their rivals. Fitted with swing keels and other gadgetry, these boats are designed primarily for ocean sailing and courses with long reaching legs, meaning that the BMW Auckland Regatta’s selection of short, upwind-downwind courses and Gulf races will test crew to the maximum as each turn of the corner is an exercise in crew-work and logistics.

Pussy Galore and Wired are both returned from a season in Australia, where their fleet racing skills were honed by the Queensland regattas of last winter, but V5 is dominating line honours results in summer’s Wednesday night racing racing. Also in their division is Higher Ground, a very well sailed Murray Ross design that can put on a great show and achieve results results that go far beyond its 35 foot of waterline, particularly if conditions don’t favour its bigger, swing keeled rivals.


Close, back to back races are one of the hallmarks of the BMW Auckland Regatta. Pictured is the The Farr 40 Psycho Circus. Supplied image.

Favourites for line honours in the forty foot division are the Farr 40s Psycho Circus and Bobby’s Girl. Bobby’s Girl is tipped to have had a very good summer season, and will face off against the Z-39 BMW Yachtsport, which has recently been fitted with a new keel for a significant improvement in boatspeed, and Andy Anderson’s 12m Elliott sloop Sure Thing. Bullrush, based at Bucklands Beach Yacht Club, will be the unknown in the fleet which is otherwise resident in Auckland’s inner city, but impressed on the Auckland to Fiji race last year and is known as a consistently well-sailed performer.

In terms of close racing that is going to demand exceptional sailing performance to win, the event may well be dominated by the IRC division.

The BMW Auckland Regatta is the third and final event in the national IRC championship series. 2007’s IRC National Champions Georgia ONE goes into the series with a win at Bay of Islands Sailing Week, while Hard Labour is second and Powerplay third.

The 10.2m Farr designed Hard Labour is the smallest of the championship contenders and will be pitted against bigger, more modern rivals in Georgia ONE and Powerplay, hoping that good sailing will be enough to give them the national title for 2009. The IRC boats will be joined by members of the Platu 25 fleet, including Chris Brodie’s SLAM. The Platu 25s arrived in New Zealand late last year and are still unproven against other Auckland boats. They are nearly ten feet shorter than the next smallest boat but the IRC rating attempts to equalise boats of different speeds, and the final results could be determined by seconds.

Multihulls have embraced the BMW Auckland Regatta and consider it one of the premier events of the year for the fleet, which has recently made the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron its headquarters. Favourites are Taeping, Predictwind.com and Dirty Deeds.

Boats to watch within B division are the Elliot 9m Overload which sports a canting keel and has proved very quick in summer racing to date. But Whatever, and Mark and Kevin Mulcare’s Fun’n’Games is a modern, powerful design with a versatile sail wardrobe that is very fast in the right conditions, and other competition, including Wild Blue, Future Feedback and Pacific Sundance, will push them every step of the way.

The remaining divisions, based on the PHRF handicapping system, are represented by a selection of smaller cruiser racers, including Fantail, Hysteria, Cool Change, Stratocaster, Private Dancer, RnB, FX, Rattle n Rum, and Gladiator.

Other notable entrants are the little 6m class boat Scout, which is believed to be the world’s oldest member of its class and has swapped its carbon fibre rig for a wooden one in preparation for the 6m World Championships in Newport Rhode Island later in the year, and a strong Young 88 division, readying itself for the intensely competitive national championships event later in the season.

The race course will centre on the western side of Browns Island. Two windward leeward and a harbour course will be sailed on Friday and Sunday, and four windward leeward courses will be sailed on Saturday.

The BMW Auckland Regatta is organised by the Auckland Regatta Trust, a joint initiative between the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron and the Bucklands Beach Yacht Club, in order to foster and promote amateur sailing in the region.

"Sailing focuses on our beautiful harbours and coastal features," says Auckland City’s Mayor John Banks. "There is no doubt that the region offers world-class facilities for sailors, and the BMW Auckland Regatta makes the most of these great assets."

The event is sponsored by BMW, KPMG, Auckland City Council and Manukau City Council, and is further supported by North Sails, SeaSpray, BSP Design, Mount Gay Rum, Yanmar, OKI and Fullers.

Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron
Bucklands Beach Yacht Club

Vendée Globe: Sam Expected To Finish 0200 GMT 14th February


Sam Davies on board Roxy. Image copyright Vincent Curutchet/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

Saturday morning arrival expected for third placed British female sailor Sam Davies in Vendée Globe

by Jake Motion

Sam Davies onboard Roxy, currently travelling at around 10 knots, is expected to cross the finish line in the Vendée Globe solo, non-stop round the world race at 02h00 (GMT) tomorrow (Saturday) morning. Roxy will then will make her way into the harbour at around 08h00 (GMT). Sam, sailing in her maiden Vendée Globe, is now just over 150 miles from the finish line in Les Sables d’Olonne, where a crowd of hundreds of thousands of her supporters are waiting to welcome her and Roxy home.

Sam has defied the odds to maintain third place in the race despite having one of the oldest boats in the fleet, and is on course to post the second fastest time ever for a female Vendée Globe sailor.

Roxy

Vendée Globe

Vendée Globe: Sam's Town Awaits


Sam Davies sailing Roxy at speed. Image copyright Vincent Curutchet/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

by Véronique Teurlay

She said again today that she has not been even looking at the course, the speeds, and the weather that her pursuer Marc Guillemot has been making, so intense has her focus been on reaching Les Sables d’Olonne as quick as possible, but Sam Davies will have 50 hours to fill as best she can, waiting to see if Marc Guillemot can save his time on her and wrest third place on the Vendée Globe podium from the British skipper.

One thing is for sure, at least until the arrival of her compatriots Brian Thompson and Dee Caffari on Monday, the Vendée Globe start and finish destination of Les Sables d’Olonne will be Sam’s Town.


Roxy. Image copyright Francois Van Malleghem/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

Davies had just 116 miles to sail Friday afternoon and was making a profitable 10 knots boat speed, which should bring her and her pink, polka dotted Roxy across the finish line around 0200hrs GMT (0300hrs local time), to complete her remarkable race. Overnight and this morning she was parked, hardly moving some 130 miles off the bay of Port La Foret where the British skipper did so much of her training, first in the Figaro in which she raced and trained for four years, and then latterly with the Open 60 which has already won the Vendée Globe twice in succession. If she can hold on to third place it will be a remarkable record for British skippers with Ellen MacArthur taking second in 2000-01 and Mike Golding third in 2004-5. She is assured of being only the fourth woman to finish the course, and the second quickest to MacArthur. She is leading her two British compatriots home, seeming set to land three of the top six places in this most grueling and demanding edition which has seen 19 of the 30 starters retire.

Her rival Guillemot sounded more upbeat and cheerful today, having had some rest last night and pulled back over 80 miles on the young British skipper. He was still saying that third place on the Vendée Globe podium is not his priority but his chances seem to have improved over the last 24 hours, and so far he has not had the slow down or indeed the park up that Davies had at the same time yesterday. He was making 6.9 knots this afternoon on Safran but will be sailing mainly on the wind with no keel and he had not yet tried port tack on his smaller daggerboard.

If Samantha Davies no longer needs to worry, she can happily look in her mirror and see her two fellow Brits, finishing neck and neck. Brian Thompson (Bahrain Team Pindar) and Dee Caffari (Aviva) were still speeding towards the Bay of Biscay, which is exceptionally quiet for the season. They too will have to tack upwind to the finish, but can look forward to crossing the line on Monday... Early in the morning for the « giant »and ten hours or so later for Dee. The arrival of three boats in the same day is a first for the Vendée Globe. As is seeing three Brits in the first six... Especially as behind there is another one: Steve White (Toe in the water), who is unlikely to overtake Arnaud Boissières (Akéna Vérandas), but this is the closest he has been for many weeks. The French sailor is finding it difficult to get away from the ridge of high pressure and his stop-and-go movement is not allowing him to pick up the SW’ly airstream, which can be found a few hundred miles ahead. While the Weymouth based sailor is still in the trade winds on his way around the high pressure system via the west...


Nauticsport-Kapsch experienced up to 80 knots in the south Atlantic. Image copyright Norbert Sedlacek/Nauticsport-Kapsch/Vendée Globe.

The South Atlantic is still just as violent. After the storm which surprised Norbert Sedlacek (Nauticsport-Kapsch), the wind backed southerly. It will become variable during the night as another thunder low arrives. No rest for the Austrian who will be facing headwinds in excess of forty knots. Fortunately as for Raphaël Dinelli (Fondation Océan Vital) the trade winds will be there in a couple of days off Rio de Janeiro. A strong easterly airstream, but at least it will be steady.

Rich Wilson (Great American III), is managing to get away from the coast of Brazil off Recife. But close to the shore, the winds are not cooperating: he had to change tack to get further away, but once around the point (sometime tonight), things should start to look a little more pleasant, but that will only last for a couple of days as the Doldrums lie ahead...

Sam Davies, GBR, (Roxy): “The wind got up to a maximum of 3-4 knots during the night. It was fairly hard to make any headway. There was so little wind that I had to work on the sails all the time. I had to take the helm to be able to move in the right direction. I’m now up to 10.7 knots, which is a speed record. I think things should start to improve in the next hour or so. I should cross the finish at around 2 in the morning, which isn’t a very sociable time. I’m a bit sad as this is my final radio session as I enjoy them each day. My boat is great. She had a great list of successes before this race, so I’m hoping to add to that. I hadn’t had much experience on a 60-foot boat when I got this boat. My priority was to improve the skipper rather than the boat. The boat has allowed me to sail a lot and train a lot too. She is so solid that I’m able to hoist the sails without fear of breaking anything. I’ve learnt a lot during this round the world race. I really think I’m sailing ten times better now than at the start. I haven’t finished learning yet as there’s something to learn every day. So I’m going to learn how to progress until 2012.”

Marc Guillemot, (Safran): “Early in the night, the wind came around more to a headwind so I changed to staysail and got the mainsail back up to second reef. In the middle of the night, the wind got up to 15 knots so I changed to a bigger jib, but then it eased off again this morning. The big change aboard Safran is that I was finally able to get some decent sleep and even had a dream, which hasn’t happened since I lost the keel. So now I’m upwind, but there is a lot less stress and the rest has done me a lot of good. It wasn’t something I’d calculated or worked on but when I looked at my computer, I could see Sam was having a difficult time in the ridge of high pressure. After all, this is a race and Samantha is very confident, so I’m not going to feel sorry for her, if I manage to claw back a few miles. It offers me a tiny hope in the rankings, even if they are no longer the priority, but at least that gives me something to fight for and motivates me. When I’m feeling good, the boat does too. I’m remaining very cautious, as I said yesterday. I’ve seen that it is possible to sail upwind with reduced sail on the starboard tack with the big daggerboard in place, and things are going better than I expected. The unknown factor will be Saturday morning for the final 180 miles to Les Sables, when I move to the port tack using the smaller daggerboard as I don’t know how the boat will sail. So for the moment, I’m still planning to finish on Monday afternoon, but there a lot of unknown factors to consider.”

“ To be honest, I don’t think I have lost any weight, except around the legs due to the lack of exercise. Since the start, I’ve been eating correctly and have always been careful about that. I’ve had three good meals a day with a big breakfast. I had a lot of stuff with me like ham and mountain bison from the Alps. I’ve got some chocolate and cereals left. I shan’t be inviting you to dinner, as I only have freeze-dried meals left now. I know there are people who eat only freeze-dried food during the race, but I only had it on board as a reserve. I find it difficult to eat. I’ll have to give it a try and if I can’t stomach it, I’ll put a line over to get some fresh tuna.”


Dee Caffari's disintegrating mainsail on board Aviva. Image copyright Dee Caffari/Aviva/Vendée Globe.

Dee Caffari, GBR (AVIVA): “I am pointing in the right direction, I am hanging on to this breeze for as ling as I can, I know it is going to light ahead of me so I am just trying to make the most of it. Earlier this morning I did manage to hoist a reef out and so the horrible damaged area is further away from me, and so as long as I don’t look up it is not too bad. It is good to be able to do that because it was beginning to stress me, my mainsail was. I did not think it was going to last.”

“I think it has been more about changing gears as the wind changes, I cant hoist as early as I would like to, and I have to hoist completely depowered and so I do feel sometimes I am missing the gear changes that I would have, which is a little frustrating, because every time I close the gap to Pindar he is getting away again, so I think that maybe it is those gear changes that I am missing.”

“I ran the boat at 80% of Polars (theoretical target speeds derived from accumulated performance data) when I was first back in the Atlantic and I was over-running the Polars all the time, so went back to 90% and I would probably say that I am near there or maybe 85% at the moment, because of the gear changes that are needed, but I am amazed that I am still producing the gear changes that are needed given the state of my mainsail.”

Arnaud Boissières, (Akena Verandas): “The days are starting to resemble each other and I had my usual six hours of light airs at three in the morning. The sun is out and there’s a little breeze, so I’m currently sailing at 7.5 knots again now. From until nine this morning, I was parked up. I moved a bit to the west to be able to get going to the north again. There are light winds with occasional darker clouds, where the wind freshens a bit and there’s still a heavy swell. It could be a lot worse, and I hope to get more wind this afternoon. I’ve still got a week to ten days out here to take advantage of this before returning to all the annoyances of life ashore, like getting stopped for using my phone when driving, or getting the same bill several times. I’ve been taking advantage of the sun to recharge the batteries on my i-Pod and I have two, so that lasts. I really like listening to music as the sun goes down. When the wind drops off, that soothes my nerves. I like up-tempo stuff by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Doors or the Streets. A friend loaded up my iPod for me with some rock.

"After the Vendée Globe, I shall be repairing everything I broke and then sailing in the 60-foot events later in 2009 like the Jacques Vabre and then I would like to look forward to a four-year campaign and a new project for the next Vendée Globe, as I’ve learnt a lot of things. But that will require discussions. We’ll see about that when I get back."

Brian Thompson, GBR, (Bahrain Team Pindar): “ I am sailing in beautiful flat water, little bit of sunshine and getting closer to France all the time which is good. The breeze is starting to head. Fortunately it looks like the high is moving away the NE.

"It has been just incredible for me, unrelenting. There has not been a day since Australia that I have not been fixing something, and I have had very little time for actual sailing it is mostly down below laminating, fixing engines, alternators, working on the keel hydraulics. At the end I am really amazed at where I am in the fleet, and very happy. And today and a bit of yesterday I have been able to relax and enjoy the sailing, and even today I have some Christmas presents to open which I have not had time to open. I have to do that before I reach Les Sables d’Olonne, and enjoy the sailing in. So many things are not working now, but there are far fewer things to fix, so that makes it easier. It has been quite a lesson and quite a journey. I know the boat very, very well now.

"Half way through the race I thought there was a completely outside possibility of getting into the top 5, but touch wood, it can happen. And at the start to have thought top five I would have been very, very happy. It is a different way to how you would have expected, more for reasons of attrition to every one else, but top five is top five and if I get to the finish I will be very, very proud of getting the boat round the course and keeping it going the whole way.”


Roxy's spinnaker. Image copyright Francois Van Malleghem/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

Vendée Globe

VOR: Bouwe Bekking Ready to Face the Longest Leg in the History of the Volvo Ocean Race


Bouwe Bekking. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Javier Sobrino

The gruelling 12,300 nautical-mile Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2008/09 starts on Saturday, 14 February from the freezing Chinese port of Qingdao taking the fleet to the colourful Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro. This is the "monster leg", in the words of Bouwe Bekking, skipper of TELEFONICA BLUE, winner of the two previous legs.

Bouwe arrived in Qingdao with a serious back injury suffered during the atrociously tough Leg 4 with very little time to recover before the restart. Straight after jumping off the boat on 29 January, Bouwe started working on his recovery. The objective was nothing less than 100 per cent readiness by Valentine's Day. The effort has paid off. The relief is written all over his face. "The physio work has been steadily reducing and I'm sitting a lot on the bike. We brought one over to my hotel room and I spend roughly an hour a day sitting on it with a 'view' over the city."

The schedule of the race, always meant the 2 weeks stay in Qingdao would be tight. Tighter still for those teams with the long job lists after the body and boat breaking of Leg 4. The absence of the minimum wind conditions for the in-port race scheduled for last Saturday, which was rescheduled for Sunday and eventually raced on Monday did not help team preparations either. "It was annoying to waste two days just waiting, and I would rather have ticked it off on the scheduled day, but that is sailing", Bouwe says. "We lost one day for the shore crew to work on the boat out of the water, but in reality this has not had a negative effect."

A LONG LEG WITH DOUBLE SCORING
Leg 5 is an extremely important link in the chain of the VOR 2008/09. Apart from being the longest, with including time in the Southern Ocean and rounding Cape Horn, it is the only leg with double scoring. There are two scoring waypoints at Latitude 36ºS and Cape Horn. This makes a big difference in the approach to the leg, according to Bouwe Bekking, "of course the scoring way points are every important. They count as a full leg. If you win the race to first one, there is a big chance you will be first into the westerlies, which will be a good set-up to win the second one as well. We won't be alone in pushing to the max."

Aside from the scoring waypoints, such a big racetrack offers up more key points than previous legs. Rather than explaining his strategy for the leg, Bouwe puts some questions on the table, "how do we cross the first ridge somewhere around Taiwan? Where are we going to cross the doldrums? How far south are we going to dive once past New Zealand? And, last but not necessarily least, inside or outside of the Falkland Islands"? All valid questions that will be answered as the fleet adds considerable miles to their hulls.

Sailing his sixth Round the World race, Bouwe is one of the most experienced sailors in the fleet, yet even he knows very little about sailing the first part of the course. At least this leg means "a return home" to waters with which the fleet are more familiar. A relief in many ways, "once we are around New Zealand we know what to expect, so that makes it a bit easier." But 'easier' doesn't mean 'easy', especially when the Southern Ocean. "This is the leg where we can get everything, from calms to storms in the Southern Ocean is involved. The temperature will play a key part as the yachts move "from freezing to soaring hot and back to the freezing cold before the searing heat again!" And an underlying threat is the possibility of encountering one of the sailors' main enemies: "Ice is always a fear", Bouwe says.

The official ETA in Rio de Janeiro for the fleet is 20 March. Thirty-four (34) days of non-stop, full-on racing. No small feat, and yet Bouwe prefers to be even more conservative, expecting, "anything from 32 to 45 days."

CHANGES ON BOARD TELEFONICA BLUE
Since the start of the race, in October last year, and after four legs and after more than 15,000 nautical miles, we've seen only one crew change on-board TELEFONICA BLUE: Tom Addis replacing the injured Laurent Pages after Leg 2. For Leg 5, two new faces will be jumping on board the Spanish VO70: David Vera and Michael Pammenter, both sailors from sistership Telefonica Black. "David Vera is coming for Pepe (Ribes, the bowman); he can fix everything. Mike is coming for Daryl (Wislang, second bowman); Mike is under 30, which we need to comply with the rules".

Apart from these changes to the "human power" of TELEFONICA BLUE, the VO70 is undergoing another important change for this Leg 5: new rudders. The alteration means a penalty of 3 points for the Spanish boat according to the rules, but in words of Bouwe, "it's worth it". Before this modification, TELEFONICA BLUE was 4 points behind Ericsson 4 in the leaderboard, and 4 points in front of Puma. Now, Bouwe Bekking's team stands 7 points behind the leader and only 1 point ahead third, "I'm confident we've made the right call. We really think we will go faster in the coming legs. We think both in heavier downwind conditions and in reaching this will give us benefits."

"This is not a 'last minute' decision", Bouwe continues. "We had in mind to swap them for the second half of the race, especially in view of the expected heavy reaching and running conditions of this long leg. In the next leg to Boston there will also be reaching and then crossing the Atlantic to Europe there will be more reaching and running. Add to this the good feedback received from our team mates on Telefonica Black (who have already made the change), it makes sense to change the rudders now. We are in this race to win and I think this will help us do that."

INTERESTING CHINA
This stopover has been Bouwe's first introduction to China and he is clear when you ask him that it's been a good experience, "I have been pleasantly surprised, you can buy everything over here and I think people are more focused on making money than in the west. Some words from my history teacher at high school have been stuck in my head: 'even the hardest line communists will become the best capitalists over time'. I think China is heading that way."

According to Bouwe, the Volvo Ocean Race visiting Qingdao will help the growth of sailing in the country. "For sure sailing will become more popular. Remember the Chinese won their first Gold medal in this discipline at the Beijing Olympics, plus the Green Dragon in this race is attracting a huge amount of attention. The consequence of this is that more people will want to go sailing." Mission accomplished.

Bouwe Bekking

Volvo Ocean Race