Saturday, 28 February 2009

RC44: Image Collage from Lanzarote

BMW ORACLE Racing. Image copyright Nico Martinez/RC44.

Fleet racing to windward mark. Image copyright Nico Martinez/RC44.

Fleet racing to the windward mark. Image copyright Nico Martinez/RC44.

Islas Canarias - Puerto Calero 1. Image copyright Nico Martinez/RC44.

Fleet race start. Image copyright Nico Martinez/RC44.

Team Aqua. Image copyright Nico Martinez/RC44.

Artemis and Islas Canarias - Puerto Calero 2. Image copyright Nico Martinez/RC44.

Action on board Team Aqua. Image copyright Nico Martinez/RC44.

Match Race winners: Ceeref from Slovenia. Image copyright Nico Martinez/RC44.


RC44: The Calero Brothers Dominate Day One of the Fleet Race Event

Leonardo Armas, Jose Juan Calero and José Juan Calero, helmsman of the local team Puerto Calero Islas Canarias 1, winner of today’s second race. Image copyright Nico Martinez/RC44.

Sailed in very light winds, today’s races have been difficult for the crews, who struggled to find the favoured side of the course and get some speed because of the chop. Steering respectively BMW ORACLE Racing and Team Puerto Calero Islas Canarias 1, Daniel and José Juan Calero are the heroes of the day, with a victory for each of the local brothers.

by Bernard Schopfer

This is one of the best days of their life: José Juan and Daniel Calero have both won a race today, one day one of the fleet racing event, beating some of the best teams in the world and achieving a dream.

The conditions were particularly difficult, with a light breeze and fairly strong chop. The first regatta started just after lunch time, under a gray sky and with 5-6 knots breeze. Team Ceeref took an excellent start, and extended its lead alongside BMW ORACLE Racing throughout the race. The Slovenian team made a rare mistake during the last downwind leg, letting the American boat – helmed by Daniel Calero - cross the arrival line first.

The second race started soon after, in similar conditions. Thanks to a great start and a perfect strategy, team Puerto Calero Islas Canarias 1 took an early lead, followed by Artemis and Ceeref. José Juan Calero kept concentrated at the helm, maintaining a small lead over Torbjorn Tornqvist’s Artemis. Race Officer Peter Reggio made a wise decision to shorten the course after the second beat, as the wind was dying completely. The local team won the race ahead of Artemis and Ceeref to the great joy of helmsman José Juan Calero and the whole team.

BMW ORACLE Racing and Ceeref share the lead with 5 points, ahead of Puerto Calero Islas Canarias 1 and Artemis (6 points). Two more days of fleet racing are scheduled.

They said:

Daniel Calero, helmsman, BMW ORACLE Racing: “This experience is absolutely unique for me. For anyone who loves sailing, this team is just one of the best in the world. When Russell asked me to steer the boat, I was very nervous and felt a big pressure. To win the first race today was just extraordinary. And then my brother wins the second regatta; it’s just extraordinary.”

José Juan Calero, helmsman, Team Islas Canarias Puerto Calero 1: “I couldn’t be happier because my brother and I have both won a race today. This is my first race and I am full of emotions. This is a gift! It also shows how great our team is, and that we can do it. The race was complicated, but José Maria Ponce gave me great advice. His strategic advice was just perfect.”

Sébastien Col, tactician, Ceeref: “It was difficult to get the boat going because of the chop. The key factor was to establish a good communication between the helmsman and the trimmers. We also tried to keep clear from the other boats. The crew positioning is also very important in those conditions. Altogether, we weigh 680 kilos, so it is important to be centred, and positioned quite forward. I also think that it is essential to stabilise the heel, at approximately 15-18 degrees in this wind, so that the helmsman keeps a consistent feeling at the helm.”

Fleet-race, provisional results after two races:
(Ranking, name of team, helmsman, results, points)

1) BMW ORACLE Racing, Daniel Calero, 1, 4 – 5 points
2) Ceeref, Igor Lah, 2,3 - 5 points
3) Puerto Calero Islas Canarias 1, José Juan Calero, 5, 1 – 6 points
4) Artemis, Torbjorn Tornqvist, 4, 2 – 6 points
5) Team Aqua, Chris Bake, 3, 6 - 9 points
6) Team Organika, Maciej Navrocki, 8, 5 – 13 points
7) Puerto Calero Islas Canarias 2, Carlo Morales, 6, 8 – 14 points
8) No Way Back, Pieter Heerema, 7, 7 – 14 points


VOR: TELEFÓNICA BLUE LEG FIVE DAY 14 QFB: received 27.02.09 1717 GMT

Bouwe Bekking onboard Telefonica Blue, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Bouwe Bekking (skipper)

We had the made the choice yesterday to sail in between the Fiji islands. To our big surprise, Puma followed us, which we hadn't expected.

We think we will lose out against the boats out in the east, and most likely we have to play catch up after this passage, not much we can do about it.

The sky has been extremely clear tonight. OK, we still had our occasional shower, but mainly a view on billions of stars.

So the game has started, we are short tacking, and soon we will enter the Kalou passage (round the island passage). One thing for sure, it will be a beautiful sight, as the sun will come up soon. Of course we have been looking a bit ahead as well, and the southern ocean doesn't look vey promising yet as there are westerlies, hopefully the models are not correct, but if this is the case, than this leg might take well over 40 days.

Food wise we are ok, fuel we think we have enough, but the stop in Rio becomes way to short.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Bouwe Bekking Explains How They Made Magic in the First Two Weeks of Leg 5

Xabier Fernandez and skipper Bouwe Bekking onboard Telefonica Blue, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Javier Sobrino

Leg 5 is the longest in the history of the Volvo Ocean Race: 12,300 nautical miles from Qingdao, China, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, including the third equator crossing of this Volvo Ocean Race, a visit to the Southern Ocean and a turning of Cape Horn. Bouwe Bekking's TELEFONICA BLUE began this leg as one of the favourite teams after two offshore wins in a row, Leg 3 and Leg 4, but only a couple of minutes prior to the start, a crash against a rock in the exclusion zone of the start in Qingdao switched on all the alarms. After almost 19 hours of repairs and checking the Spanish VO70 skippered by Bouwe Bekking finally started Leg 5, 150 miles behind the leaders.

But this is all in the past. After almost two weeks of racing, TELEFONICA BLUE has managed to star in an impressive comeback. On day 4 of this 5th Leg, the Spanish blue boat was 285 nautical miles behind the leaders, trying not to lose too many miles despite an unfavourable scenario with no room for tactical movements. After one week of fighting, TELEFONICA BLUE passed Green Dragon, and before the end of the second week, on February 26, the position report on the VOR website showed Bouwe's boat in second place: an impressive recovery.

The first question for skipper Bouwe Bekking is simple: how can you explain that? "First of all we are a team that never gives up," the Dutch sailor explains. "After the dramatic departure delay we just had to push on and keep believing in ourselves. How else could you explain the gains on the leaders and on Green Dragon."

After 4,000 nautical miles, TELEFONICA BLUE is still sailing in the same tack, reaching along all the way down from China. "Booooooring!" Bouwe says. Not that boring when you check the record numbers of the boat: maximum boat speed of 32 knots and several days of covering close to 500 Nm in 24 hours.

But that amazing rhythm was before entering the Doldrums. The head of the fleet contacted the ICZ -Intertropical Convergence Zone- on Sunday the 22nd, and what they found differed with what is expected of the Doldrums and was way different in comparison to the last two Doldrums crossings -Leg 1 in the Atlantic Ocean and Leg 2 in the Indian: "The big difference is that none of us really stopped, I think the worst average over a 3-hour period was just over 6 knots of boat speed. Of course we were hoping for a full stop to create a 'proper' restart for us."

Bouwe is experienced when it comes to sailing around the world and has thus had his fair share of experiences with the Doldrums. "They are definitely not our friends," Bouwe explains, "we have been sailing in more headed breeze all the time like the other boats." This difficulty makes it even harder to understand the impressive performance of TELEFONICA BLUE. Don't forget that the Spanish team changed the rudders of their VO70 in Qingdao in order to improve the performance and steering despite a 3-point penalty according to the rules: "They feel really good, better than I had ever hoped for," Bouwe recognises. "We always knew that when reaching we would be faster, but it seems upwind they do well also, like for example, right now we are sailing with our big code 0 in 13 knots of breeze and have full control and we're going fast. With the old rudders the zero had to come down in 12 knots of breeze. We expect a similar gain for heavy running, so the choice has been right."

Apart from the improvement shown by the rudder change, Bouwe takes the opportunity to give credit to his crew, the whole team and the designers of the Spanish VO70: "Give a bunch of good guys a good boat and the results will come by themselves! Just kidding; of course this has not come together as easily as it sounds. All the hours of homework, preparation and work done by the designers, the builders of boat and rig and the shore crew have created what we have."

This part of the world has been named by some of the fleet as a "squall zone." Squalls are an important factor to keep in mind when sailing, as the behaviour of the wind in these conditions tends to be very extreme.

Controlling the clouds and squalls is no easy matter, but TELEFONICA BLUE has managed to take advantage of the situation. "If anybody could tell me how to control them, he would be onboard in an instant," Bouwe laughs. "The reality is that we can't control the clouds. On this leg they travel at roughly 90 degrees to our course, so you are very limited with your course changes as the clouds are big. But keeping an eye open during the day tells you roughly how quickly the breeze will hit you."

This means experience and good eyesight play key roles, but all this changes during the night when visibility drops to zero. "At night time the only 'eyes' you have is the radar," Bouwe says. "You can predict pretty well when entering or departing a cloud. We are using the radar also during the day to see how big a squall is, and once we are in, to see roughly how long it will take to get out of it."

When TELEFONICA BLUE and the rest of the VOR fleet left Qingdao, the water temperature was around 5 degrees Celsius and the air temperature was just above zero. Sailing south means heading towards the equator, and as the boats add miles to their hulls the temperature around them changes. Bouwe tells us about the change and how it affected life on board: "The temperature change came rather quickly; within one day the water temperature went from 6 to 23 degrees. The air temperature was a bit more gradual, as the wind was coming from the north and still kept another two days of chill in it. In particular the rise of the sea temperature was nice as the spray is not freezing anymore. You judge quickly how many layers of clothing you have to take off. Right now we are in very warm weather, which means a lot of rashes appear, and sleeping during the day time is much harder."

After the 'dramatic' departure from Qingdao and two weeks of magical performance, a new race started for TELEFONICA BLUE once they contacted the fleet, a race that now includes new tactics. "From now on it will be very tricky," Bouwe Bekking says, as his boat sails less than 20 miles behind the leader approaching the Fiji islands. "First of all, we want to stay close to the fleet, as we seem not to be slow, so we'd rather keep slowly chipping away than go for the big fish. It will crucial to see if everyone will make it to the east of Fiji; if that is the case than I can 'relax' and keep doing what we are doing. But if some make it to the east and we have to pass to the west of Fiji that will mean losing valuable miles quickly."

Fiji is an important turning point in this 5th Leg of the Volvo Ocean Race even though it doesn't directly add any points to the leader board. The first of the two scoring waypoints of Leg 5 is still 1,000 nautical miles south of Fiji, in 36ºS, close to New Zealand. "There is still a long way to the scoring waypoint but I expect that everybody will sail a southerly course and just pass east of New Zealand. From there on, the trick is to find the best way around the South Atlantic high pressure system into the southern ocean."

What is clear is that Bouwe Bekking and TELEFONICA BLUE made magic to achieve a fantastic recovery. What is next, God only knows.

Bouwe Bekking
Volvo Ocean Race

Volvo Ocean Race: There's an Island in the Way

Left, right or middle?

Arve Roaas trimming on board Ericsson 3. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Mark Chisnell

Just in case you haven’t noticed there’s an island in the way. It’s all about Fiji, and Fiji isn’t going anywhere - to the left, right or middle? Offside and legside looks hard enough, but the middle is about as easy as going through the gate.

The Green Dragon can lick its lips - they have the clearest road to the east. Telefonica Blue looks stuck with going west, or weaving through the islands. But the leading trio of Ericsson 4, PUMA and Ericsson 3 have just been barreling straight at the target, driven onwards by the easterly breeze. A shift in direction – any shift in direction - would have helped, as the mileage clicked down towards the point of no return.

At 04:25 ZULU on 27th February, with just over 100 miles to go, Ken Read and PUMA could wait no longer – they eased the sails and turned west. The 07:00 Position Report came and went, and no one aboard Ericsson 4 or 3 blinked. Then, a couple of hours later, just before the 10:00 Position Report, a little sniff of a wind shift arrived. It moved towards the north – and let the Ericsson boats turn east. And so, at 10:00 ZULU this morning, we are set for the mother of all splits. It’s not been easy to get the top three apart, but Fiji has done it.

It’s been 24 hours that started so calmly. After the torrid transition of the second Doldrums, everyone had settled into some fantastic sailing. Ericsson 4’s Phil Jameson reported that they were feeling a bit more comfortable on Ericsson 4, now that everyone had decided to head east of Fiji and the tactical options were constrained.

I’m not sure that Jameson will have the same sense of equanimity about life this morning. But at the time, those aboard Ericsson 4 were clearly relieved that everyone had decided to go for Fiji, rather than take the alternative route option due south, (towards the tip of New Zealand). Everyone now appears to have left the decision too late to get east of Fiji without an expensive tack.

Yesterday afternoon, Jameson reported that they were in a full upwind mode, sailing as close to the wind as they could in an effort to get round the east side of Fiji. Everyone else has been doing the same thing. Until PUMA headed west, the whole fleet was sailing at the same tight wind angles, and on virtually parallel tracks.

Telefonica Blue seem to have maintained a slightly higher boat speed average than anyone else – the slowest appearing to be Ericsson 4. The teams are responsible for calibrating their instruments, and there are no guarantees that they are absolutely accurate.

The Distance to Leader graph tells a similar story though. Ignoring the jumps yesterday morning, that’s just the change in the calculation to account for the more easterly route everyone has taken. From then until PUMA headed west, Telefonica Blue made steady gains on an otherwise even fleet. Nor do they appear to have had any advantage in wind speed. If anything, Telefonica Blue have had less breeze, while Green Dragon has been helped along by a little more – and the Dragon has kept pace pretty nicely this past 24 hours. As we’re suspected before, Telefonica Blue has a slight edge going upwind.

All this means that what I’ve been telling you about faster speeds at wider wind angles turned out to be a red herring. In the end, despite the fleet sailing as close to the wind as they could go for the last 24 hours, it looks like anyone who wants to go east of Vanua Levu will still have to tack to starboard, as Ian Walker mentioned. Any time spent on starboard will be painful, going miles in the wrong direction (long-term) to get around some coral and rock. But will it be more painful than going west of Fiji?

The answer depends a lot on where you are positioned. Clearly, for Green Dragon, it’s much easier to go east than for Telefonica Blue – which may yet have a crack at going through the islands. The toughest decision was for those in the middle, Ericsson 3 and 4 and PUMA, and if they are not already past the point of no return, they can see it from there. If you’re going to sail out of your way to go around Fiji, you’ve got to do it at the fastest possible wind angle.

The fastest angle of sail in 12 knots will vary a little bit from one boat to another, depending on their sail inventory, but it looks to be somewhere around 100 degrees. And that’s pretty much the angle that PUMA’s skipper, Ken Read and navigator, Andrew Cape, chose when they turned west – as they sail towards the western corner of Fiji.

How is this going to play out? Slowly – when Green Dragon took the eastern route after Japan, it took more than a week for her to get back this close to the fleet. The separation that Fiji is going to open will be even greater, and it could easily take as long to play out. So, a high entertainment factor for the neutrals, but heart-in-the-mouth stuff for the die-hard supporters.

Unfortunately, until the fleet get out to one side or the other of Fiji, the Predicted Route is not much help to us. But the west of Fiji looks pretty dire in the short-term, forcing them to sail downwind in light air. And that is very slow. It should be quicker sailing the upwind and reaching angles to the east, but only if they don’t have to tack too much. And a lot will depend on what we can’t see from this distance, like the local land effects on the breeze.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Ericsson 3 Leg 5 Images

Ericsson 3 pass a couple of islands, north of Fiji, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

Down below on Ericsson 3. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

Ericsson 3 hit rough weather, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

Ericsson 3 hit rough weather, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

PUMA Ocean Racing on the horizon underneath huge rain clouds in the Doldrums, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

Skipper Magnus Olsson onboard Ericsson 3, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

Ericsson 3 hit high speeds, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

Sail changes onboard Ericsson 3, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

Martin Krite taking a shower in the Doldrums, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

Lunch onboard Ericsson 3. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

Anders Dahlsjo, Martin Krite and Aksel Magdahl taking down the masthead code zero, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

Ericsson 3 boat captain and pitman Jens Dolmer. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

Ericsson 3 talk tactics at the navigation station, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

Norwegian squad. Eivind Melleby helming, Aksel Magdahl holding on and Arve Roaas trimming. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

The scarred hands of Ericsson 3 boat captain and pitman Jens Dolmer. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

Asleep on Ericsson 3. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

Volvo Ocean Race

WMRT: World Class Sailing Heads to Aarhus, Denmark

The Danish Open will be in Aarhus in 2009. Image copyright Per Heegaard/World Match Racing Tour.

by Yvonne Reid

The Waters around Aarhus, Denmark's second largest City, continue to attract world class sailors. In the centennial year of the Denmark Exhibition in 1909, the area of Marselisborg will again host another great sailing event, the World Match Racing Tour will hold the Danish Open 2009 in Aarhus.

The city of Aarhus will host the event from September 9-13, 2009 and will be sailed in the DS37 Match Racer. The Danish Open is the 7th event of the 10 scheduled events on the World Match Racing Tour 2009. The overall winner of the Tour will be crowned as the official ISAF Match Racing World Champion.

”It´s a real pleasure to see that Aarhus has been chosen to host a significant international sailing event again. In 2008 we successfully hosted the ISAF Youth World Championship. Without doubt we are moving into the superliga of event-organizers within sailing, by hosting yet another spectacular event” said a smiling City Alderman of Sports and Culture Jacob Bundsgaard Johansen.

The Danish Open 2009 will be organized by Sailing Aarhus, Sport Aarhus Event and the Royal Danish Yacht Club.

”Royal Danish Yacht Club is impressed by the great enthusiasm the City of Aarhus, Sailing Aarhus and Sport Aarhus Event have shown in getting great events to their fine City. We are indeed proud to be able to present World Class Sailing with our partners in Aarhus to the sailing community in Denmark.” commented CEO of Royal Danish Yacht Club, Morten Lorenzen.

The Event will be held at Marselisborg Harbour, where spectator stands and facilities will be available for all to experience action packed sailing right in front of the Club House.

”To bring an event like the Danish Open to Aarhus, and to co-organize this event, are strengthening our strategy of attracting International Events to the Bay of Aarhus. We are bidding for the ISAF Worlds for the Olympic classes in 2015, and hosting a stage on the World Match Racing Tour will only make us even more attractive.” says Thomas Capitani Nielsen, director of Sailing Aarhus.

”Taking the Danish Open to Aarhus presents a fantastic opportunity to showcase the thrills and spills of the Tour in a new venue. The support of the City of Aarhus combined with the experience of the Royal Danish Yacht Club is sure to culminate in the delivery of a spectacular festival.” said Tour Director Craig Mitchell.

World Match Racing Tour

VOR: Moment of Truth as Fleet Splits at Fiji

Tony Mutter drives Ericsson 4 past rain clouds. Image copyright Guy Salter/Ericsson Racing Team.

by Victoria Low

The first two weeks of Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race have been both thrilling (the initial days out of China) and monotonous (blast reaching through the trade winds).

Today, intrigue enters the lexicon because the fleet has split as it navigates past Fiji, the island nation archipelago that consists of about 322 islands.

Ericsson Racing Team's two yachts, which two days ago held first and second on the leaderboard, have relinquished the top spots due to their decision to sail east of the archipelago and, in particular, Vanua Levu, which lies to the north/northeast of Fiji.

Two other boats have chosen the western option and have assumed the top spots on the leaderboard. They're sailing freer and faster angles and have a shorter distance to the waypoint being used to calculate the distances between the boats. But that option could result in difficulties later on.

"The models do not favor the west at all, showing huge zones of no wind there over the next couple of days," said Ericsson 3 navigator Aksel Magdahl. "If we want to be east, we will have to beat upwind for many hours in light breeze, which will be very expensive.

"So take a probable big loss by going west, but with a chance to sneak through without too much pain? Or invest even more in the east and take a certain short term loss of maybe 12 hours to stay in an area where the probability for more consistent breeze is higher than in the west?" Magdahl said.

Team meteorologist Chris Bedford likened the current situation to the fleet running into a wall together, with no one wanting to split from the boat they were racing.

"It's quite predictable with the three-hour position reports. They end up sailing each other," said Bedford. "With 12-hour reports you wind up sailing the weather. They got to this position because of tactics, not strategy."

Aboard Ericsson 4 there was a bang loud enough to make the crew think they ran into a wall. Instead, it was the massive Code Zero genoa breaking free of the roller furling drum at the tack. The drum had failed and the sail was flapping behind the mainsail. The crew hoisted the genoa that had been lowered moments earlier, and then wrestled the other sail on deck.

"Then, as the sail was being packed on deck, the latest sched came through to reveal a slight split in the fleet around Fiji," said Ericsson 4 media crewman Guy Salter. "This has forced some tactical decisions and [a study of] routes and weather, but there seems no reason to change our game plan."

It will be a long weekend for fans of Ericsson Racing Team, as the three-hourly schedule reports will bring some nail-biting over the next 12 to 24 hours. The desired results of going east of Fiji likely won't be realized until Sunday or Monday.

(Feb. 27, 2009, 1303 GMT)
1. Puma, 8,364 nautical miles to finish
2. Telefónica Blue, +18 NM
3. Ericsson 4, +20 NM
4. Ericsson 3, +41 NM
5. Green Dragon, +78 NM

Ericsson Racing Team
Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: ERICSSON 4 LEG FIVE DAY 14 QFB: received 27.02.09 1203 GMT

Ericsson 4, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Guy Salter/Ericsson 4/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Guy Salter

Pretty uneventful day onboard Ericsson 4 - that is until earlier this evening, when in the space of one hour, we had our code zero downstairs getting repaired and a huge tactical dilemma on our hands.

We had just hoisted the code zero and were still in the pack up stages of the genoa we had dropped, when there was a loud bang. The tack of the code zero had come away from the boat and now this huge free flying, overlapped genoa was flapping behind the mainsail. We dropped it promptly and went straight into hoisting the sail we had only dropped moments before. Luckily the separation wasn’t a sail failure, but we did find a few small tears in the sail and rolled it up and posted it downstairs so that Ryan (Ryan Godfrey) could work his magic with the sewing machine. Before we knew it, the small tears had been repaired and the sail was being wooled on deck so that it’s ready to go once more - this sail is usually furled up to make it manageable to hoist and drop. The one major casualty luckily was the furling unit which is well beyond repair, luckily as it could have easily damaged one of the crew and, with a sail with that much load, it would have been very serious damage!

Then, as the sail was being packed on deck, the latest sched came through to reveal a slight split in the fleet around Fiji. This has forced some tactical decisions and looking at routes and weather but there seems no reason to change our game plan. This could quite easily see the leg decided for some boats here - hopefully in our favour - after all, Fiji has been visited by many of the crew and all have very positive memories - especially Brad (Brad Jackson) who got married in Fiji - so hopefully the islands will be nice to us.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: ERICSSON 3 LEG FIVE DAY 14 QFB: received 27.02.09 1143 GMT

by Aksel Magdahl (navigator)

There is an island in our way. Fiji has not suddenly popped up, but we have always liked the east because there is more breeze there, even though it has taken us on a course towards the middle of this 260 nautical mile wide obstacle.

Now we have to choose side, very late. The models do not favour the west at all, showing huge zones of no wind there over the next couple of days. However, we do not expect the models to be very accurate in this area. A cluster of clouds can quickly make a boat zero or hero.

If we want to be east, we will have to beat upwind for many hours in light breeze, which will be very expensive. So take a probable big loss by going west, but with a chance to sneak through without too much pain? Or invest even more in the east and take a certain short term loss of maybe 12 hours to stay in an area where the probability for more consistent breeze is higher than in the west?

Or, go between the islands? It is a déjà-vu with the ‘Dangerous Ground’ from the last leg really, with a big unsurveyed area. There are still charts though, but we don't trust them so we will try to stay away from there.

There are good opportunities to look stupid over the next two days.

Until now everyone has been sailing quite high, staying as much to the east as they can, so who will be the first to peel off to the west? A bit more anxiety before each position report now.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: TELEFÓNICA BLUE LEG FIVE DAY 14 QFB: received 27.02.09 0629 GMT

Michael Pammenter updating his job list while Simon Fisher is checking the floating jammer, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Simon Fisher

Another 24 hours have passed and to be honest not too much has happened!! We have been sailing along very happily on our big Code Zero sail and eating up the miles as we head towards Fiji. We are all pretty happy as we have been posting some really good scheds, so obviously we are going well relative to our competitors and can be confident and happy with our speed right now. Everything on board is very relaxed indeed.

Things are set to get a bit more interesting for us tomorrow though, as sometime in the morning we will have to start working our way past Fiji. As sods law would always dictate - with the entire Pacific Ocean at our disposal, Fiji has ended up right in the way of where we want to go! However, everyone is currently in the same boat (not literally of course!) and will all have to make some decisions on how to tackle the islands. The good thing is this may well provide some opportunities to catch a bit more on the leaders provided we play our cards right...

Life on board is good right now too. It is nice and dry both downstairs and on deck and the easy conditions make for good sleeping, provided the temperature inside doesn't get too high as it is prone to doing in the afternoon. Everyone is very much settled into to the daily routine. All I'll say is that I plan to enjoy it while it lasts and on that note will head off to get some dinner, have a quick look at the weather and climb into bed for a few hours sleep!!

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: GREEN DRAGON LEG FIVE DAY 14 QFB: received 27.02.09 0803 GMT

Neal McDonald onboard Green Dragon, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Ian Walker (skipper)

Who would have thought Fiji would have such a big part to play in determining the strategy in leg five. I didn't even know exactly where Fiji was when we left China two weeks ago! Now I am cross examining every member of the crew who has ever been there on holiday trying to find out the nature of the island and the possible local effects on any wind.

Chris Main tells me his brother-in-law Brad Jackson, watch leader on Ericsson 4 got married there, so may be he has an advantage over the rest of us! Fiji represents a 200-mile wide obstacle, right in the line of where we all want to pass. On the last position report Puma and Telefónica Blue seemed to have made the decision to foot below Fiji to the west. One thing for certain is they will gain many miles over the next couple of days whilst anybody else fights and probably has to tack to pass to the east.

In theory we should pull all these miles back and more by sailing in more wind over the next week. Fortunately for us we are the furthest east, so if we have to tack to get round Fiji it will be for less time than any others who come this way. We are committed to the east which has paid us such huge dividends over the last week.
We have constantly had more wind than anybody west of us and we should be very close to Ericsson 4 and Ericsson 3 if they continue to try and get east of Fiji. They may now alter their strategy to stick with the others.

All of this is great news for the Dragon as long as we do not get too headed in the next 12 hours which would extend our starboard tack time. We have a good chance to get a lot of leverage over some of the fleet. It will look like we have fallen way behind, but this will take a week to 10 days to play out. Leg five has just got all the more interesting for all the armchair navigators back home.

Oh yes I forgot to say that Fiji marks the 1/3 point in terms of mileage for this leg. It has taken two weeks to sail the 4600 miles to Fiji, so, with a bit of luck we could be finished in a month!

Finally, I should wish my wife a Happy Birthday and apologise for yet again missing it - I know I said this last year but I promise I will make up for it next year Lisa!

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: PUMA LEG FIVE DAY 13 QFB: received 26.02.09 1729 GMT

PUMA crew crossing the equator. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Kenny Read (skipper)

The days are clearly starting to tick away, and I believe we have our friends on Ericsson 3 to thank for that.

Literally we are in a race with them which couldn't be closer. I have won or lost by larger margins on 12 mile windward leewards at Key West Race Week. They get us a bit, we get them a bit. Bottom line, we are glued to each other.

So what does that do? Sure does heighten the concentration and awareness. We probably do more sail changes than we would if we were on our own (maybe). Constant watching the radar to see our progress and check modes, and much more chatter and trim about the job at hand. Even Jerry (Jerry Kirby) has cut down a bit on the stories in order to be vigilant. Sure, I wish they were about 300 miles astern, but at the same time we are probably helping each other sail more efficiently and aggressively - and certainly passing the time quicker than we would be on our own.

As for general strategy, we have a pretty large island called Fiji smack in the way. A bit of precarious weather around the island will make for a huge gain or loss depending if you guess right for the short or long term. Capey (Andrew Cape – navigator) has been wracking his brain overtime trying to figure this one out. As always, I sit there and throw as many questions at him possible to try and get all options on the table. We shall see how this one settles out.

Besides that, life is pretty calm on the yacht. Twelve knot winds, hard on the wind on port tack makes for painfully slow mileage but that is what we have in the ‘upwind around the world race’. Hopefully the wind gods smile on us soon and free us up, but it doesn't look like that will happen for a while. Until then, it is back to hand to hand battle with Ericsson 3.

Volvo Ocean Race

Friday, 27 February 2009

RC44: Team Ceeref, with Sébastien Col, Remains Best RC 44 Match Race Team

Winner of the match race event, Ceeref leads the local team Puerto Calero Islas Canarias 1. Image copyright Nico Martinez/RC44.

Replacing James Spithill for this event, Sébastien Col and the Slovenian team Ceeref have dominated the match race event of the Puerto Calero RC 44 Cup, winning all their matches. Cameron Appleton and Team Aqua finish second, and Russell Coutts’ BMW ORACLE Racing third.

by Bernard Schopfer

Winner of last years’ match race championship, the Slovenian team Ceeref started the 2009 championship in unknown – yet very reliable – hands with substitute driver Sébastien Col. The French match race champion proved to be the right person, leading his new team to victory and dominating the tournament by winning all of his matches.

The conditions were once again light and irregular today in Puerto Calero, and Race Officer Peter “Luigi” Reggio did his very best to conclude the round robin before the night, changing the course constantly to match the wind direction changes.

The first flight of the day – the fourth altogether – finally started at 1:30 PM after numerous postponements. Both Team Aqua and No Way Back had fairly easy rides against BMW ORACLE Racing (penalised by a premature start) and Organika. As for Artemis and Ceeref, they had to contain the attacks of the two Spanish entries, Puerto Calero Islas Canarias 1 and 2, sailing aggressively and keeping in touch with the best. Led by Philippe Presti, team No Way Back was still unbeaten at this stage, which is a great achievement considering the fact that it is their first RC 44 regatta. The rest of the day proved however to be harder for them.

Ceeref made the break in the fifth flight after beating BMW ORACLE Racing with a very comfortable margin and taking a two points lead over their closest opponents.

The sky started to turn grey, looking as threatening as some of the manoeuvres attempted by the two Spanish teams – directly opposed to each other during the sixth flight. The outcome of this friendly – or was it? – dual was a victory by the Spanish match race champion José Maria Ponce on Olympic champion Luis Doreste, ESP 1 beating ESP 2.

At this stage, Ceeref could not be reached anymore and a fierce battle for the second and third podium positions started between Team Aqua, Artemis, No Way Back and BMW ORACLE Racing. Very solid till then, Artemis – helmed by owner Torbjorn Tornqvist with Dean Barker’s advice – suffered in the end of the day, loosing to Ceeref and BMW ORACLE Racing. Unlucky earlier in the day, Russell Coutts and his team got it right against Philippe Presti, Torben Tornqvist and Karol Jablonski, climbing back to third overall. As for Team Aqua, brilliant throughout the tournament, it finishes the event in the second spot, having only lost to Seb Col and Philippe Presti. A good start to the season!

Sébastien Col at the helm of team Ceeref. Image copyright Nico Martinez/RC44.

They said:

Sébastien Col, helmsman, Ceeref: “I am very happy with the way we sailed this tournament. The team is great, and we were all very calm and concentrated throughout the event, even when we were making mistakes. Michele Ivaldi did a great job at the tactics, he has been great and I have learned a lot of things by sailing with him.”

Dean Barker, coach, Artemis: “It was very interesting to coach Torbjorn because it was his first match race event and it kind of forced me to think back about the essentials. It’s difficult, because there is always a little gap between what you would do and when it happens, because you have to say it first and it’s not easy to put your thoughts into words. You really need to anticipate a lot.”

Cameron Appleton, helmsman, Team Aqua: “We have new guys on board, and Chris arrived throughout the event so we have grown as a team throughout the event. I think we sailed very well. Sometimes last year we were in a position to win but we just lacked that little winning spirit. We are now back up one step, and I am grateful to Chris for letting us put in place a great team & program.”

José Maria Ponce, helmsman, Team Islas Canarias Puerto Calero 1: “I am not very satisfied with the way we sailed; there are a few races we could have won. Obviously, we need more time to get the feel and reach the right level. But our team is great and very compact and I already look forward to Cagliari.”

Russell Coutts, helmsman, BMW ORACLE Racing: “This was really a tough day wind wise. There wasn’t a clear favoured side, and we struggled to find the right strategy. Ceeref and Seb Col obviously sailed very well today.”

Match-race, final results:
(Name of team, helmsman, No. of victories / defeats, points)

1) Ceeref, Sébastien Col, 7/0 - 7 points
2) Team Aqua, Cameron Appleton, 5/2 - 5 points
3) BMW ORACLE Racing, Russell Coutts, 5/2 – 5 points
4) Artemis, Torbjorn Tornqvist, 4/3 – 4 points
5) No Way Back, Philippe Presti, 4/3 – 4 points
6) Puerto Calero Islas Canarias 2, Carlos Morales, 1/6 – 1 point
7) Team Organika, Karol Jablonski 1/6 – 1 point
8) Puerto Calero Islas Canarias 1, José Maria Ponce, 1/6 -0 point (incl. one penalty)


Vendée Globe: Toe in the Water Reaches Dry Land in Eighth Place

Toe in the Water (Steve White) arrives at the finish off Les Sables d'Olonne. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

by Vendée Globe media

Steve White seemed almost taken aback by his reception today. "I thought I would just be able to sneak in and go to the pub!" was the first thing he said when he reached the dock in Port Olona. But he thanked everyone for turning out to to see him in. Here are the highlights of his press conference:

What did he think of his race?

“Fantastic..........all of it that I can remember.”

“ I think the crucial thing that we all agree on in this race is that the mast stays up. We’d actually managed to re-rig the boat for this race, every time we used the boat before, and a lot of the times I was waiting for the mast to come down for previous races, the rigging was old and dangerous, it was a big weight off my mind to know that it shouldn’t fall down, theoretically After that really, you can have a rough guess at what the weather’s going to be, you have sails, everything you need, so how much more can you really need?”

“ I’d never been to the Southern Ocean or across the Equator, but I’d done a lot of miles and they’ve all been hard miles, through the Channel or North Atlantic, in the Western Approaches day in day out with big boats and novice sailors, so the reputation of the Southern Ocean. I didn’t think it was a problem in that respect.”

“ The start was really unpleasant, I had incidents with fire, and lots of loose gear, and the generator, and filling the boat with smoke and things like that, so it was not an easy start, I was pretty miserable for the first 48 hours or however long it was, but things change quickly so nothing lasts forever.”

About being competitive on the way down the Atlantic and in the Southern Ocean:

“ That’s all credit to the boat really, it’s still a light boat by modern standards, and it’s got a short rig so you can put a kite and leave it up. It’s still a good boat... Just don’t mention going upwind.”

On his first venture into the Big South:

“ I was fairly nervous when the barometer started dropping and had some serious forecasts from Meteo France, it’s such strange place, you are isolated, but you feel isolated, you are very alone, a long way from any help. But once I’d been through the first one it was ok, but the sense of isolation is not something I actively seeked, but it’s so desolate, wild and very beautiful, it’s beyond me to describe it, it needs to be experienced.”

Steve White waves the Toe in the Water charity symbols from his boat. Image copyright Mark Lloyd/DPPI/Vendée Globe.

On being in touch with family:

“ I phoned Kim at least once, usually twice a day, and if I was getting really excited three times a day. We’re still running a business, and I played a small part in that while I was away, but otherwise mainly it’s family oriented, how are the kids, what’s going on, how’s school, how are the animals, all the things that happen at home, you need to hear about it, talk about it.”

On if he thinks he might have inspired anyone else to do the Vendee Globe:

“ I think it would be extremely immodest to think that I inspired anyone at all to do anything really, but if anybody has anything they want to do, whether it’s the Vendee Globe or anything at all, if you want it badly enough, you can make it happen, you just need to want it bad enough.”

On Chay Blyth’s encouragement to take every opportunity that life brings along:

“ And we have an English expression to turn up your toes, which means to die, so basically Chay stands on stage, and he has a conversation with his toes, an he says to each of them “Have you made the most of every opportunity that life has given you?”

And if I ever arrive in that position, I want the answer to be yes I have done the best I can at every chance I’ve been given.”

On loving France and Les Sables d’Olonne:

“ Sailing is a way of life here, and it doesn’t seem to be like that in England and that’s a shame, and it has been overlooked in the media which is a shame, it’s not like that over here, I’m not seeking to be famous or anything like that, but to have support like this, and support with the boat, it’s something we don’t get in England, which is a shame.”

On the camaraderie and mutual support among the Brit-Pack (of British skippers on the course:

“ We’ve had jokes from Dee, we’ve had a bit of technical support and commiseration over mechanics with Brian, Sam’s just full of joy during the race, she makes it very enjoyable.”

And about Albatross:

“ Yes, there’ something very special about albatrosses, I know I wrote about them a lot, it epitomizes the south. You are there in three layers of clothing, clinging on to your boat and they are just soaring along gracefully.”

Ready for a haircut?

“ I’ve done it already, but I messed it up, I had one go but it didn’t work (haircut).

And what had he been shaving with since the Ecover hand soap ran out and Kim forbid him to use cooking oil?

“ I stoppod using the cooking oil because I got too much stick from Kim and I used some disgusting hand soap which has been bad for my skin.”

And what is he looking forward to now?

“ I think just a bit of time to catch up with people who’ve come to see me, a lot of people here, people I need to talk to, I want to eat something and not have to wash up after it

I washed my porridge plate for over one hundred days and I’m sick of doing it.”

“ If we can get it to go in time we’ll do the Calais Round Britain, and all the classic French races like Transat Jacques Vabre, the Route du Rhum, I’d like to participate in the races I’ve watched from home like a lemon for years. I’d like to do the Velux 5 Oceans.”

On the name of the boat:

“ Toe in the water is a charity that’s set up to re-inspire injured servicemen through sailing We’ve got some people here who are behind the charity and two of the guys who have benefited from it are here with it, but sailing is a really good way of getting people back into the swing of it. It has been a great honour for me to go out and represent the charity in a very small way, if you want to see really brave people, then you need to go and meet some of these guys, and hear their stories.”

On being ready for 2012, fluent in French:

“ I’ve come a long way, I’ve been listening to my Michel Thomas religiously although not in the last few days.”

Vendée Globe

VOR: Green Dragon Leg 5 Images

It's been rough at times for the Dragon on Leg 5.

All images below are copyright Guo Chan/Green Dragon Racing. All rights reserved.

Green Dragon Racing
Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: The Reshuffle Continues

by Lucy Harwood

The fleet have been playing snakes and ladders today as they continue to re-shuffle in the current conditions. Telefonica Blue made the biggest gains of the day as they found themselves within 23 miles of Ericsson 4 this morning and sitting in second place. They have continued to switch places with PUMA throughout the day, but by 1300 GMT PUMA were second once again and Telefonica Blue were forced to hold onto fourth. Elsewhere Green Dragon continues to close the gap and they are now just 65 miles from the leaders.

Life onboard Green Dragon has changed dramatically in the last week, conditions have shifted from the intense cold and wet as they raced on port tack out of China and past Japan, to living in the hot, sticky and uncomfortable conditions as they continue to race south of the equator. The focus ahead is Fiji (approximately 500 miles to the south east), and the question of which way to go remains, east or west? Green Dragon continues to hold an easterly track as they charge south with the rest of the fleet. The biggest questions for the Dragon will be if they have enough leverage to make their easterly course pay dividends.

As Green Dragon’s navigator Wouter pointed out this week, ”We have so far chosen the more conservative easterly route. It already gave us stronger winds and a better wind angle in the NE trades, and a swift doldrums crossing. Now with the southerly route blocked we have a great chance to cut the corner and get back in touch with the fleet too! The reverse isochrones (lines of equal time to the mark) to Fiji are actually showing us ahead of the fleet. We will be modest and happy with being in touch with the fleet near Fiji”.

Volvo Race expert Mark Chisnell believes the Dragon’s easterly position will pay off, “Aboard Ericsson 4, Torben Grael and his team were keeping it characteristically tight, they were once again solidly positioned about 20 miles due south of the chasing pair of Ericsson 3 and PUMA, whose own see-saw battle is rapidly acquiring classic status. And all the time the Dragon hovered in the wings, stage right, ready to swoop down for the kill – there will be blood on the beaches of Fiji!”


Officially the Republic of the Fiji Islandsis an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean east of Vanuatu, west of Tonga and south of Tuvalu. The country occupies an archipelago of about 322 islands, of which 106 are permanently inhabited, and 522 islets. The islands are mountainous, with peaks up to 1,300 metres (4,250 ft), and covered with tropical forests. Viti Levu hosts the capital city of Suva, and is home to nearly three quarters of the population.

Leg Five Day 12: 1600 GMT Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)
Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) DTF 8, 376 nm
PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) +20
Ericsson 3 SWE (Magnus Olsson/SWE) +23
Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) +33
Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian Walker/GBR) +65

Delta Lloyd IRL (Roberto Bermudez/ESP) DNS
Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) DNS
Team Russia RUS (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) DNS

Green Dragon Racing
Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: ERICSSON 3 LEG FIVE DAY 13 QFB: received 26.02.09 0915 GMT

by Martin Strömberg (trimmer and sailmaker)

The Squall-fighters

During the last couple of days I have learnt a lot about how we should deal most efficiently with these extremely shifty Doldrum conditions. Most of our sails have really narrow slots, but I have now found a setup that works all the spectra from 10 to 30 knots, even though the headsail will need to be slightly repaired every now and then...

We have been in a close fight with Puma the last couple of days, not really sure for how many days exactly how many since I completely lose track of time out here. But what I do know is that we were chasing them yesterday evening, and now they are chasing us.

It felt like they were a bit quicker than us in general. But it seems we handled the squalls better than them. When we prepared well and got the sails down and up in time before the big winds hit, Puma had to bear away to change and by that we managed to get in front.

It is tricky during the day to judge how long you should stay with a big sail when you see a big squall coming in. If you’re too late it is a big struggle and you lose a lot of height and there is a big risk of breaking the sail. During the night you can’t visualise and judge how bad the clouds will be. You only have the radar to make your bet.

Because of that we held back a bit during last night and kept our G1 up instead of hoisting the big masthead zero. All because we did not want to risk getting hit by a heavy gust and not being able to change sail in time. I think Puma pushed a bit harder as they managed to gain back and show up down to leeward of us at the crack of dawn.

During the morning we lost some height against the cat and they are now right behind us.

Today we have been laughing at Martin Krite. When he came up on deck this morning he was a bit worried about his laundry that he had put on the aft guard wires. It had been there for three days and it was only now he realised that where he put them actually is where everyone takes a leak. The clothes then disappeared pretty quickly. Wonder if he will wash them again before use.

It is really nice to still have mostly sun and calm winds. We have never stopped like in the Doldrums we passed on leg one and two and it feels really good. I just hope that my fan will stand a few days more. A few have broken down onboard and it is really hard to get any sleep without one. We want to be rested before we come far down south.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: ERICSSON 4 LEG FIVE DAY 13 QFB: received 26.02.09 1133 GMT

Rain clouds approaching Ericsson 4, in the Doldrums, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Image copyright Guy Salter/Ericsson 4/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Joca Signorini (trimmer)

Hello from Ericsson 4.

At the moment we are sailing up-wind with 12 knots and flat seas. Shorts and t-shirt conditions. We are heading towards Fiji that is aprox. 400 miles. I've just finished my watch and the night was beautiful with lot of stars.

Today we also saw some whales, one of them, less than a boat length from us. They are beautiful animals and their size is impressive, but my memories are not all nice. During the last Volvo race, when we were doing the qualification with Brasil 1 sailing from Rio to Portugal, we hit one. The boat speed went from 12 knots to zero and I crashed against the main bulkhead inside the boat cracking three ribs. After that we still sailed for 10 days...Lets hope we don’t get any closer - although beautiful, they are a danger to us as we are to them.

Some clouds are still in our way, but nothing compared with yesterday. Another hard day on Ericsson 4. Again we saw a good lead evaporate in just few hours...

Competition is very close. Puma and Ericsson 3 are now just 20 miles from us and Telefónica Blue has made some good gains today. Green Dragon is also making fast runs more to the east of the fleet. Everything is still open for the first scoring gate at latitude 36 south.

Joao Sgnorini onboard Ericsson 4, in the Doldrums, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Image copyright Guy Salter/Ericsson 4/Volvo Ocean Race.

We've been sailing for 12 days and we still have 8,900 miles to the finish, but the rhythm on board is like we are doing a daily race.

Also today saw us sail over a seamount - so the depth went from unregistered on our equipment (well over several hundred metres) to just 28m of water! Who would have thought it in the middle of the pacific - especially as there is nothing else around - no atolls or reefs? It was ok; we did know it was there!

Today we finished with our Cape Horn bet. My guess was that we will be crossing on March 16th, but I hope I'm wrong and some good winds make us get there earlier...

Volvo Ocean Race