Sunday, 31 May 2009

VOR: In-Port Race on Galway Bay Promises to be Spectacular

Delta Lloyd during the In-Port Race Practice in Galway Bay, Ireland, during the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Sophie Luther

The sixth in-port race day of the Volvo Ocean Race is scheduled for Saturday afternoon on Galway Bay and it promises to be among the more memorable events of the 2008-09 race. If the welcome the fleet received last weekend at the conclusion of the leg from Boston is any indication, the local crowds will be large, loud, and very enthusiastic.

The weather forecast is for sunshine and light to moderate breezes, which should offer fair racing conditions and fantastic opportunities for race fans to watch the proceedings. The hometown favourites, Ireland's Green Dragon, will be among seven teams battling for supremacy on a short, inshore racecourse, located just outside the city on Galway Bay.

The local team received a hero's welcome last weekend, after securing a podium finish on the leg into Galway and their skipper, Ian Walker, knows the pressure is on for another strong performance during the in-port race.

"Within our team, we have made a really big effort this week," he said at the skippers' press conference today. "We’ve done twice as many training days here as we have before. We've bolstered the crew. We’re taking it very seriously, we know that all of these people are coming and they want to see Green Dragon do well, and we're going to do our best."

The action is sure to be closely contested. On the overall race leaderboard, Ericsson 4 has built a 14.5 point lead over its nearest rivals, Telefónica Blue. But the crew on the Blue boat has shown itself to be a force on the in-port races, having won the last two in-port days in Boston and Rio de Janeiro.

In addition, PUMA is just 1.5 points behind Telefónica Blue on the leaderboard, in the hard-fought battle for second place.

"The question of the week has been about the fight between Telefónica Blue and PUMA," said Telefónica Blue in-port helmsman Iker Martinez. "But I think the big fight is with ourselves; just to round these marks, get the spinnaker up and down with no problems, that's already pretty difficult. The goal for us is to have no problems and try to be in the top three."

"There's no doubt we'll know where they are on the race course," admitted PUMA skipper Ken Read, speaking about the rivalry with Telefónica Blue. "As the regatta gets further along, you start to pinpoint your closest competitors so that's really a normal thing. One problem is that Telefónica Blue has a really nice way of dialling in the weather because these light air days surely are very good for them. That makes it a little bit harder to really go after them if they potentially have speed on you. If it's light air tomorrow, they're certainly the boat to beat."

The teams are permitted to add two additional sailors to their crew lists for in-port racing and there was some light-hearted banter between Ken Read and Ericsson 3 skipper Magnus Olsson over who was adding the most muscle to their team. After hearing Read detail the two 'grinders' who would be added to PUMA for the race, Olsson joked: "We have a Danish guy on our boat, eight and a half feet tall and 250 kilos strong!"

Racing is due to start on Saturday at 1300 local time, 1200 GMT. Two races are scheduled over the course of the afternoon.

The race area is just outside Galway Docks, in the middle of Galway Bay. The racecourse will be visible along the coast from Salthill to Barna. Locally, there will be audio commentary on the water on VHF channel 15 as well as Galway Bay FM. TG4 will be broadcasting the racing live.

Overall Leaderboard
1. Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA): 92.0 points
2. Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED): 77.5 points
3. PUMA (Ken Read/USA): 76.0 points
4. Ericsson 3 (Magnus Olsson/SWE): 60.0 points
5. Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR): 52.0 points
6. Telefónica Black (Fernando Echávarri/ESP): 36.0
7. Delta Lloyd (Roberto Bermudez/ESP): 29.5 points
8. Team Russia (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT): 10.5 points

Volvo Ocean Race

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