Thursday, 29 January 2009

VOR: Sprint to the Finish

Ericsson 4, on leg 4 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Singapore to Qingdao, China. Image copyright Guy Salter/Ericsson 4/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Cameron Kelleher

And now – the end is near – save for a shift to downwind mode for the sailing equivalent of a 100-metre dash to the finishing tape in Qingdao. Where’s Usain Bolt when you most need him?

By the 16:00 GMT Position Report, Telefonica Blue, the perennial leader, had 157 miles remaining and the spectre of PUMA and Ericsson 4 in the wing mirrors.

Bouwe Bekking’s men held a 29-mile advantage over PUMA while the daylight between Ken Read’s black cat and E4 was three miles.

Over the past six hours the gaps had stabilised somewhat as they find themselves on a level playing field in terms of wind conditions. For now.

Completing the fleet on the water, in fourth place and in racing mode for the first time since leaving the Luzon Strait is the ailing Green Dragon. After three days of hellish conditions, the team has been cut some slack. According to skipper Ian Walker, the wind is down to below 20 knots and the waves kind enough for them to sail at close to their optimum. The 300-mile deficit to the leading pack has long since been academic.

Meanwhile, the latest leg four casualty, Delta Lloyd has suspended racing and joined Ericsson 3 in the repair shop at the Taiwanese port of Keelung City. The extent of the damage to both yachts is under investigation.

In the words of Paul Simon (Graceland), this 2,500-mile fourth-leg passage from Singapore to Qingdao has been filled with “incidents and accidents”.

And for those on the race track, the finish can’t come soon enough. The race Data Centre has Telefonica Blue reaching Qingdao at approximately 1100 GMT on 29th January. For the battle-scarred Green Dragon, just getting there is reward enough.

Volvo Ocean Race

No comments: