Monday, 15 December 2008

Volvo Ocean Race 2008-9 Leg 2: Telefonica Blue Takes 2nd Podium Position

by Volvo Ocean Race media

It was smiles all round 30th November when the Spanish Telefónica Blue team, led by Bouwe Bekking from the Netherlands, finished leg two of the Volvo Ocean Race in Cochin at 1237 GMT (1807 local time). The victory is all the more sweeter as the team had a tortuous 4450 nm leg from Cape Town, which took them 15 days, one hour, 17 minutes and 50 seconds (elapsed time 15:01:17:50), in which they were dogged by serious damage to their daggerboard.

For much of this leg it looked as if the best the team could hope for would be to limp into Cochin, and the seven points they collect for second place brings their total to 19 points.

“It was really fantastic to come second, but it was bloody hard,” said skipper Bouwe Bekking. “The ‘no wind’ was tricky, but I suppose the locals are used to it, but this afternoon was difficult. We were always hoping for a first, but second is still a good result. The last 18 hours as hugged the shore, so we have seen quite a bit of the Indian coastline, the lovely views and beautiful beaches.”

“It is a fantastic result. The decision to go west (through the Doldrums) looked like it wasn’t going to pay off; it was more luck than judgement,” admitted navigator Simon Fisher. “The decision was made for us because of the damage to the daggerboard and it looked quite dark for a while, but it worked out nicely in the end. I am looking forward to a beer and a curry.”

The opening leg of the Volvo Ocean Race from Alicante in Spain to Cape Town was a big disappointment for the team, who suffered damage early on in the leg and had to make a pit stop for repairs, a setback that saw them eventually finish in fifth place. Hopes were high for leg two, particularly as the team already had already won the Alicante in-port race, the first in a series of seven in-port races, and felt they still had much to prove.

Bekking kept his crew in the north after leaving Cape Town, which appeared on the leaderboard as a good position, but the leaderboard calculates on distance to finish, and the crew had to sail away from the finish to cross through the scoring gate, before heading north and realising a true position within the fleet.

On day four, the team blew out a spinnaker. Many boats in the fleet suffered the same fate, but, onboard the Spanish yacht, the crew were had fever and sickness, making repairing the spinnaker even more arduous. It was one hand for the spinnaker and another for a bucket to throw up in, while the boat lurched wildly in the confused seaway.

Laurent Pages, from France, was washed down the deck and injured his shoulder so badly that he was confined to his bunk for much of the trip and only able to steer once the boat reached the calm of the Doldrums.

The team crossed the scoring gate in fifth position, earning two points, and, once Bekking pointed the bows of Telefónica Blue north, the team found conditions that suited the boat. They steadily gained miles on the fleet, and, on day seven, 21 November, British navigator, Simon Fisher wrote, “Right now, it is our turn to shine.”

Telefónica Blue moved up to fourth place on day nine and the team was revelling in the conditions as well as taking the opportunity to dry out the boat and the gear.

Just as everything was going right, and the team had clawed their way up to third place, it all went terribly wrong.

On day nine, 23 November, the crew heard a big bang, and one of the daggerboards snapped. This important piece of equipment prevents the boat from slipping sideways, and it was un-repairable. Pepe Ribes from Spain was lowered over the side of the boat to try to cut the bits free, but the team had to stop the boat for 45 minutes and lost precious miles. Even worse, the little speed the team was able to do, was on the wrong tack and sailing away from the finish in India.

“We have had the rug pulled out from under us,” wrote Simon Fisher. “The reaching, that we were so looking forward to during the previous days, as we felt we would be in good shape to make gains, has now become an exercise in damage limitation,” he said. The boat was not easy to steer and the normally straight ‘rooster’ tail from the back of the boat was zigzagging wildly.

The team was forced to take the western route through the Doldrums. “To say the last 18 hours of my life have been stressful, would be a bit of an understatement,” wrote Fisher. “Sailing, or rather limping along with our busted wing, we found ourselves in all kinds of bother last night. There was a massive header, which we couldn’t escape by sailing high, which had me biting my nails, pulling out my hair and staring at the computer screen in disbelief as the guys around us wound out massive amounts of easting.”

But, the team was in touch, with PUMA and Ericsson 3 just ahead and to leeward. By day 13, 27 November, things were looking up. Fisher’s feeling of dread every three hours when the positions of the fleet are released, had been replaced with excitement and everyone onboard was keen to know if the boat had gained more miles.
It was on day 14, that the team finally moved into second place and had a buffer of 119 nm from Ericsson 3 in third place, but the team was still 111 nm behind Ericsson 4, who was long gone.

“All of a sudden, we are in second place,” exclaimed skipper Bouwe Bekking. “The guys in the east parked up badly and we take the glory for the time being, but I am holding my breath, especially, as during the last couple of hundred miles, anything can happen,” he said.

Bouwe and his crew kept the pressure on Ericsson 4 in the dying moments of the race, but they had a lot of ground to make up and finally ran out of runway to make the pass.

Ericsson 3 is expected to be the next boat to finish, later today.

Leg Two Finishing Order into Cochin, India
1. Ericsson 4/SWE (Torben Grael/BRA)
2. Telefónica Blue/ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED)

Overall Leaderboard (Provisional)
1. Ericsson 4: 26 points (FINISHED)
2. Telefónica Blue: 19 points (FINISHED)
3. PUMA: 14 points (RACING)
4. Green Dragon: 14 points (RACING)
5. Telefónica Black: 8.5 points (RACING)
6. Ericsson 3: 8.5 points (RACING)
7. Team Russia: 6.5 points (RACING)
8. Delta Lloyd: 4.5 points (RACING)

Volvo Ocean Race

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