Saturday, 18 April 2009

VOR: DELTA LLOYD LEG SIX DAY 7 QFB: received 17.04.09 0742 GMT

Pitman David Pella fixing a rope on the backstay, onboard Delta Lloyd, on leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Rio de Janeiro to Boston. Image copyright Sander Pluijm/Team Delta Lloyd/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Wouter Verbraak (navigator)

Nail biting third

"Puma is coming to us on starboard tack, standby tack, three more lengths."

1.3 nm from the scoring gate at Fernando de Noronha and our battle for third place reaches its climax. The whole day we have been fighting with both the clouds and the rest of the fleet.

Our main battle has been with Telefónica Black, but at the last moment PUMA has gone around the outside of a big light patch under a squall and has made huge gains. Now at the last moment the wind has gone left too much for us and PUMA is closing in fast. It is not sure whether we will cross her.

"Tacking! 0.2 nm to the scoring gate, this is the course. PUMA now five boat lengths behind us."

Every time we are close to another boat we are losing slowly but steadily on boat speed, which is incredibly strenuous on the nerves. Now, again, PUMA is closing in on us, but it is not far to go.

"Congratulations, we have just crossed the scoring gate in third."

The message is received on deck with loud cheers, people shaking hands and jumping up and down. An excellent result for all of us here on Team Delta Lloyd. Everybody has put in 110% the last days and worked their hardest as a team. The feeling is great, especially because the result again is due to good sailing, not luck.

The last 18 hours have been incredibly intense with both Ericsson 4 and Telefónica Black always within sight and big squalls coming in from the east.

Ericsson 4 passed us in the morning and has been steadily sailing away from us, and Telefónica Black and PUMA are relentlessly coming closer from behind. Today we are really seeing the difference in boat speed between our first generation boat and her younger sisters. No problem, it just means we will have to work harder and smarter.

Each squall has its own story. It is hard to tell how much wind we can expect from each cloud and the 25 knot gusts come almost unannounced. Everybody is soaking wet as we are grinding sails up, unfurling and furling sails, dropping jibs and hoisting them again 30 minutes later. It is complete madness really, but also some of the very best sailing you can do. Credit goes to our physical trainer George in Brazil, who has gotten all of us in great shape at the starting line. To keep going at it nonstop for 18 hours we have to be super fit and that is exactly how we feel right now. Thanks George!

The next 24 hours we can expect more cloud action as we are crossing the Doldrums to find our way to the NE trades in the northern hemisphere. We are trying to find a balance between going north and getting to the new wind first, and going lower more on course to the mark.

For now we are happy to mainly work on getting to the NE trades and getting through the light and squally messy area as quick as we can. After the last 24 hours we are fully done with clouds, but I am afraid I will have to tell the boys we are in for another 24 hours. How to tell them that? At least everybody has gotten some sleep again, and we are of course boosted by the good result. What a fantastic race this is.

Volvo Ocean Race

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