Monday, 19 January 2009

VOR: Ericsson 4 and PUMA lead at start of Leg 4 to Qingdao

Ericsson 4 leads the way out of Singapore at the start of Leg 4. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.

by Volvo Ocean Race media

The Volvo Ocean Race returned to the race track on 18th January in Singapore when the gun fired signifying the start of the 2,500 nautical mile leg to Qingdao in China, the leg most crews consider will be one of the most difficult and brutal legs of the race. Never in this history of the race has there been a leg like this, where the fleet will be sailing upwind for such an extensive distance. The difference between racing and surviving is taken very seriously and all skippers are predicting the need to ease back when conditions worsen.

After the blessing of the fleet, the start got underway in ideal conditions of 10 – 15 knots. Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA) and PUMA (Kenny Read/USA) immediately commenced battle and both had their bows ahead of the rest, opting for the middle of the line, while Delta Lloyd, with new navigator Frits Koek/NED in the navigator’s chair, chose the pin end. Both Telefónica boats and Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR) were in the second row as the gun fired at 1300 local time (0500 GMT) and the fleet pounded up the first two-mile beat.

At windward mark, Ericsson 4 led, with some smart sail handling, with PUMA right on her heels. Ericsson 3 (Magnus Olsson/SWE) performed an outstanding spinnaker hoist and took third place, while Green Dragon struggled with their huge gennaker in fourth position.

The match racing continued between the two leaders, as they approached the next mark, Ericsson 4 proving to be the class of the fleet. PUMA was just a couple of boat lengths behind; Green Dragon rolled Ericsson 3 and was followed by the two Telefónica boats and Delta Lloyd.

The committee boat formed the last rounding mark before the fleet sheeted in and headed upwind to China. Ericsson 4 was the clear leader, followed by PUMA. A gap opened up to Green Dragon with Ericsson 3 right on her tail. Telefónica Blue was fifth, a disappointing position for Bouwe Bekking and his men, and Telefonica Black (Fernando Echávarri/ESP), taking a penalty of three points for swapping to new rudders, were sixth. Delta Lloyd brought up the rear.

It will be an interesting first 10 hours of this leg as the positions begin to establish.

Overall Leaderboard
1. Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA): 39 points
2. Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED): 33.5 points
3. PUMA (Ken Read/USA): 31 points
4. Ericsson 3 (Magnus Olsson/SWE): 24 points
5. Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR): 22.5 points
6. Telefónica Black (Fernando Echávarri/ESP): 19 points*
7. Team Russia (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT): 10.5 points
8. Delta Lloyd (Roberto Bermudez/ESP): 10 points
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*Penalty of three points applied for rudder change

Volvo Ocean Race

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