Wednesday, 11 March 2009

VOR: GREEN DRAGON LEG FIVE DAY 25 QFB: received 10.03.09 0934 GMT

Freddie Shanks onboard Green Dragon, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Guo Chan/Green Dragon/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Ian Walker (skipper)

Yesterday we were power reaching in 25 knots of wind and for the first three hours of my watch I never saw the speedo drop below 20 knots.

It became a bit of a game to see who would finally break the sequence, with helm changeovers being critical times. First Tom, then Maniac (Chris Main/NZL) and then I all steered in turn successfully, but I am ashamed to say it was me steering as boatspeed momentarily dipped to 19.6 knots - although I point to a drop in wind speed as my excuse.

After 26 days at sea, any game is enough to keep us amused for hours. One thing that never ceases to amaze me however is how the same guys can go on deck for four hours on four hours off, day in, day out for 26 days so far on what is now the fifth leg of the race, and still have something to talk about. Emails help to raise topics for discussion and we've tried politics, but I don't think as a crew we are going to win any debating awards. The future of the race, Phil's (Phil Harmer/AUS) wedding plans, sport, women and children are favourite topics of discussion and there are always plenty of war stories from years gone by. Throughout all of this Neal (Neal McDonald/GBR) is always on hand to correct the Aussies’ and Kiwis’ English grammar - you can tell his father was a school master.

Back to the race and we have been making excellent progress for a few days now since we finally got the spinnaker up. Unfortunately, we have had to sail a lot of extra distance to keep in the stronger wind and it has been a period where the 'rich have got richer'. Those ahead have carried more favourable breeze and a more direct route, but over the next few days that should be reversed - or so we hope. What look like big leads right now should be dramatically reduced by Cape Horn.

Cape Horn is already very much on our radar and every weather forecast we get I can't help but look seven days ahead to see what is in store for us. One thing seems certain - it is going to be a very windy, fast, cold blast reach to the Horn in a few days time.

The water temperature is already dropping fast as we approach 50 degrees south and it is starting to get uncomfortable on deck. Down below is better but the carbon hull is freezing cold leading to lots of condensation. Wouter (Wouter Verbraak/NED) and my bunk is right under the runner winch, which seems to be a focus for drips.

It’s not so bad if the boat is heeled over, but when the boat comes upright the drip is directly above our heads. This is becoming more than a mild annoyance and it might be time to deal with it the old fashioned way - by hanging a bucket from the roof.

Volvo Ocean Race

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