Sunday, 31 May 2009

VOR: In-Port Races on Galway Bay

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

by Volvo Ocean Race media and SailRaceWin

In-Port Race Preview

It looks like it is going to be a very tricky day to be a Volvo Ocean Race sailor on Galway Bay today as conditions for the in-port race are forecast to be 'changeable' to say the least. With a big varience expected in both speed and direction, the wind is going to be a huge factor in today's racing.

On shore, preparations are underway dockside and in the race village. It's a bank holiday weekend, and Galway is bursting at the seams with holiday-makers. One of the local organisers has described the weekend by saying, 'It's going to be massive.'

Report from Mark Chisnell:

Galway is the sixth of seven in-port races in the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race, and so far five of them have been in light winds - Singapore is the sole exception, and it looks likely to remain that way this morning.

Just like the weather, the format hasn't changed either: two races per day, conditions permitting, with two laps and a target time of 50 minutes per race. The course is a windward-leeward ‘sausage' with a mid-leg gate and it's provided some great racing all the way round the world. There's no reason why today should be any different.

One other thing that's worth pointing out is that the fleet will use what's called Addendum Q, which allows on-the-water umpires to call penalty turns for the boats if there are rule infringements. So if you see anyone sailing around in a circle, that's probably the reason.


Race Forecaster, Jennifer Lilly has filed her latest analysis of the weather forecast. A high pressure centred over southern Sweden is in charge of the breeze over the west coast of Ireland. But the high is drifting away from us, and the strong south-easterly wind that has been blowing dogs off chains all week has been easing quickly - flags are still flapping this morning, but flag poles were flapping a couple of days ago.

Jennifer's forecast was for it to continue to ease, and to become more variable in direction. In fact, her exact words were, "likely oscillating between easterly and southerly". And when weather forecasters start giving you a 90 degree window for the wind direction it doesn't bode particularly well.

So it may well be up to the sea breeze to rescue us once again. Jennifer reckoned that the more the gradient south-easterly dropped through the morning, the better the chance of a sea breeze filling in for the afternoon.

A south-easterly gradient wind blows offshore on the west coast of Ireland, and that would normally help the generation of a sea breeze. Unfortunately, we're inside Galway Bay, which runs from the west coast inland towards the east. And in areas of complex geography, sea breezes may well try to generate individually on the different-facing coastlines.

The race course will be situated close to the northern shore of the bay, for which a south-easterly is onshore - about the worse possible direction for the generation of a sea breeze. But if there's enough sun, and enough heating, it may well be that a sea breeze will generate for the west coast as a whole, and swamp the more local breezes inside the Bay.

It's a complex situation, and there may well be some local sailboat racers or fishermen who know how this scenario usually plays out. But I suspect they've all been sworn to omerta-style secrecy by the Green Dragon team. For everyone not inside the circle, it's going to be an eyes-out-of-the-boat kind of day if the gradient continues to ease and get flaky on us, as forecast.

So (and I just cut and paste this bit from every in-port race preview) it's going to be light, it's going to be tricky - a normal in-port race day, then.


The tide tables say that high water is about 09.30 (local time) this morning in Galway Bay, so it should be ebbing out for most of the racing. The word on the street is that it flows in and out of the bay pretty evenly, so we can expect a slight east-to-west current across the race course, getting pretty slack and perhaps turning for the end of the second race.

If the wind is generally south-easterly, then the tide will be flowing across the race course from left-to-right (looking upwind) and will not have much impact on the tactics.


Once again, it isn't going to be what you'd call windy. So tacking and gybing will still cost a lot of distance in these boats. In the absence of big wind shifts and puffs, the fastest way round the course will be the one that requires the least number of manoeuvres.

So, if conditions are relatively stable, then there will be a big premium on the start - getting away fast, with clear wind and the ability to be able to continue all the way to the layline for the gate being vital. Port tack starts worked in both Rio and Qingdao, and even when the port tacker has gone behind the rest of the fleet off the line, they've been in great shape at the end of the first leg.

The other thing we've learned is how quickly the picture can change on these boats, with their ability to accelerate in the puffs, and the fast changing sailing angles when they do - so a great start doesn't guarantee a win.

We're also getting into the endgame now, and there's one particularly tight race on the overall leaderboard - Telefonica Blue and PUMA. So there has been the inevitable talk going around the docks about a boat-on-boat match race developing between these two.

It has to be said that this race course does not lend itself to picking out a particular boat and trying to beat them. It's too short and tight, and that makes the racing quite unpredictable, as the gates and marks come up in short order. Equally, that very unpredictability may present one or other of the skippers of those two boats with an opportunity to stick one on their opponent.

So, while I don't see them letting that opportunity go by, I think it's unlikely that they'll end up pairing off and sailing each other to the back of the fleet. As PUMA's skipper, Ken Read said yesterday, "If you are match racing against someone you'd better at least be equal speed or you are getting yourself into a fight which you are probably going to lose." And in light winds, there's a big question mark over PUMA's ability to compete against Telefonica Blue in the lighter air.

Meanwhile, I doubt that Telefonica Blue's inshore skipper, Iker Martinez will want to get involved in a dog fight, as their best day is likely to come by repeating the Boston results. They beat everyone, and got a few boats between them and PUMA, building a nice point's cushion ahead of the next leg.

Riath Al-Samarrai reports from the Docks:

It's amazing how quickly matters can switch from tranquil to frenzied in this race. Right now, as the sailors slowly filter down on to the dock, it is a picture of relaxation. Rival crews are mingling: Jono Swain from Telefonica Blue is making small talk with Ericsson 4's Stu Bannatyne; Phil Harmer of Green Dragon is exchanging pleasantries with guys from PUMA.

In a few hours it will be replaced by screaming, shouting and fierce competition. But now it is calm.

"Feeling quite relaxed," says Blue's Simon Fisher. He was given a recovery break from leg seven and now he is itching to get back onboard. "Pretty excited really," he adds. "I didn't do a lot, just spent a few days in Boston and came straight here. It does a lot for your motivation."

He has something of a grin on his face. All the teams have had their weather briefing and while the wind is currently a healthy 11 knots from the south east, that is expected to veer to the south and decrease to about seven knots at the start gun. "Telefonica conditions," he says. Their record of three wins from five in-port races means they are confident, especially as those three wins were in light air. "We like these small races," he says.

Elsewhere, there have been some late changes. PUMA media crewmember Rick Deppe has picked up a cold and has been replaced onboard by Neil Cox, a shore manager allowed out of the containers to see the light of day. But, alas, he will be holding a camera and not the wheel. Similarly, on Telefonica Black, media man Anton Paz has been replaced by Roger Nilson.

Further down the dock are the Green Dragon guys, looking calm and collected in the warm sunshine. They have just about come down after the high of their third-placed arrival and the huge crowds that greeted it. But now they feel a bit of pressure. The in-port races have not been kind to them, their scorecard reading 5-5-4-6-7 for the five events so far. "We are keen to improve," says Anthony Merrington. "We hope we can do a bit better than that. There's a little more pressure because we're in our home port, but we're all quite excited."

So are the crowds. Several hundred people are already in the race village and thousands have positioned themselves around the coast. It's all very sedate at this point, but it's fair to assume that will radically change before long.

"I think Blue will win," says one passer by.

"PUMA has to win something eventually," his mate chirps in. "But my money is on Ericsson 4."

Those were two locals in the street, giving yet more evidence of how this event has been absorbed by this small city on Ireland's west coast.

The interest in the race here has been amazing, not least because of Green Dragon's leg seven heroics. "Let's hope the Dragon stuffs them all," concludes man number one. He wouldn't give his name because his girlfriend thinks he has gone to the shops.

The crowds here have built rapidly. What was initially countable in the hundreds, is now easily into the thousands. And that's just in the race village. There are many more around the coast and in balconies for streets on end. Roads have been gridlocked, and campervans line the pavements, hundreds of people with binoculars jostling for good positions.

The sailors have also sprung to attention. The small talk had all but disappeared by the time they got on their boats for the dock-out ceremony. Torben Grael, the Ericsson 4 skipper, buried under a generous layer of sun screen, is lost in his thoughts as he leans against the port wheel. On his bow, Ryan Godfrey is chatting. He has mixed thoughts. "We normally do well in these races, but the breeze is getting lighter and that's not going to help us too much. I reckon it'll be about seven knots at the start."

Elsewhere, Telefonica Black pulls off and Anton Paz, the media crewmember, stays on the dock. Roger Nilson is manning the cameras today.

Green Dragon's guys are soaking up the crowd's cheering. Damian Foxall, pressed for a quote, can only say: "Go Green Dragon." He's not the only one saying that.

A local is keen to know whether Blue and PUMA are going to match race. It's been a topic of debate this week, just one sub-plot among many. Will Ericsson 3's inshore form continue to improve after a fourth in Boston? Or will they struggle after spending much of the week undergoing repairs? Will Green Dragon perform at home after what Ian Walker described as their most extensive training yet? Another podium for Delta Lloyd? Are Blue going to walk all over the fleet in the light again?

The action, just like the Red Arrows air squadron, is just around the corner.

Start of the first of the Galway Bay inport races. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.


They're off. Telefonica Blue, to leeward, makes the best start. Hot on her heels is PUMA and the sistership Telefonica Black. The Ericsson twins occupy the middle ground.

Green Dragon early in race one on leg one. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

The home-town heroes, Green Dragon, heading out to the right of the course on their own.

Boat tracks after the start of race one. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

Race one, gate on the first leg. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

Race one, tracks through the gate on leg 1. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

Race one tracks, leg one - second half. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

Boat tracks, race one, end of leg one. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.


At the windward mark for the first time, there is only a slice of Parma ham between the Telefonicas. Black leads Blue. An equally tight tussle between the Ericssons. Torben Grael's Ericsson 4 gets round ahead of Ericsson 3.

In fact, the Nordics made a hash of the rounding and allowed PUMA to gain ground. Green Dragon and Delta Lloyd bring up the rear.

Race one leaders at mark one. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

Race one - boat tracks at the start of leg 2. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

Race one start of leg 2. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

Green Dragon in race one at the top of leg 2. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.


Winds have eased to about 8 knots - Telefonica territory - though the first whiff of a sea breeze is in the air. Telefonica Blue has made the pass on the sistership and now leads at the bottom mark. Bouwe Bekking and his men have a healthy lead.

Behind them Telefonica Black has been dragged into the scrap among the chasing pack but gets round in front of Ericsson 3. PUMA is sandwiched between them and Ericsson 4. Green Dragon has gained as the middle pack suffered in the dirty air. Delta Lloyd, not relishing the conditions, still brings up the rear.

Race one, boat tracks on the second half of leg 2. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

Race one, middle of the fleet at the end of leg 2. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

In clear air, Telefonica Blue has made the break. It looks game over at the halfway stage.

Race one - the middle part of the fleet rounding the bottom mark. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.


The wind has shifted to the right, 140 to 150, and dropped to around 6-8 knots. This will only help Telefonica Blue's cause.

PUMA, their nearest rivals on the overall race standings, is hounding Ericsson 4 in an effort to limit the damage likely to be done by Telefonica Blue on the scoreboard if this first in-port race adheres to the light-air script.

Race one, just after mark 2. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.


Telefonica Blue, benefitting from more favourable, clear breeze to the right, really has the hammer down in the approach to the windward mark. The lead has grown considerably as they round and hoist the kite for the home straight. They lead Telefonica Black by over a 100 metres. The order thereafter is PUMA, Ericsson 4. Ericsson 3.

Green Dragon has been jumped by Delta Lloyd. No luck for the Chino-Irish so far.

Race one, boat tracks on the first part of the final leg. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.


Telefonica Blue crosses the mid-course gate and heads for the line - points in the bag in race one. The battle for the remaining places is not as clear cut with Telefonica Black, PUMA and Ericsson 4 in the mix.

Heading towards the finish, boat tracks and image. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

Race one, boat tracks through the gate on the final leg, showing the change of the finishing line position. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.


Telefonica Blue, led by the brain's trust of Bouwe Bekking and Iker Martinez, and backed by a well-drilled in-port crew, capture the first race victory in Galway. Sistership Telefonica Black is second with PUMA filling the final podium position.

Telefonica Blue winning the first of the Galway in-port races. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

1 Telefonica Blue
2 Telefonica Black
4 Ericsson 4
5 Ericsson 3
6 Delta Lloyd
7 Green Dragon

Race one scores. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

SailRaceWin: Dark cloud rolled in over the course during the race, killing the wind and introducing very considerable wind shifts. The most significant shift being after the race committee had shifted the finishing line, when another big shift occurred such that the fleet had to take their kites down and beat to the finishing line after the mid-leg gate on the final 'run' in Race One.

Race TWO


Someone has wiped the smile off the face of Galway Bay. She has turned moody as a big front rolls in.

What began as a bright day and 10-12 knots prior to the start of the first race, is now doom and gloom, overcast, slate grey skies and 4-6 knots of flakey breeze. Much for the Race Committee to chew over in setting up a new course for race two.


Racing is postponed while the Race Committee waits for what breeze to decide which way it swings.


Still dark and gloomy out on the Bay. The wind has shifted and is now from the west - at 270 - but very unstable.


News from the race track is better. The breeze has filled in - around 12-14 knots now. Pressure is up, headsails are up and the chances of a start just after 14:00 GMT seems likely.


10 minute gun has fired. We are into the start sequence for race two.


Five minutes from the off. The fleet of seven Volvo Open 70s is into jousting mode at the pre-start. Breeze still in the 11-13 range and stable. Sea state is moderate.


Telefonica Blue, to leeward again, has the power down. This time the Spanish boat has Delta Lloyd for company. The Dutch entrant cut it fine at the start. Not as tight as Telefonica Black, who were over and have been recalled.

Start of race two. Telefonica Black is over the line. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

Boat tracks at the start of race two. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

The front row is Delta Lloyd, Telefonica Blue, on the left hand side, with the two Ericsson boats and PUMA. Green Dragon and Tele Black, on the right, are hurting in lighter, flukey air.

Race two, second lot of boat tracks after the start. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.


Race two, approaching the gate on leg 1. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

Race two, boat tracks through the gate on leg 1. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

At the mid-course gate, PUMA heads Ericsson 4 and Telefonica Blue, Delta Lloyd and Ericsson 3. On the right, Telefonica Black and Green Dragon, in lighter, shify breeze are hurting.


At the top mark for the first time, it's oh so close. PUMA rolls into a tack and leads the pack, Telefonica Blue follows four boat-lengths behind with Ericsson 4 on their transom. Slow hoist for the Blue boat mindful of the presence of E4.

Race two, mark one, second and third placed boats rounding. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

Ericsson 3 is next, ahead of Delta Lloyd and Telefonica Black, who has made up considerable ground after being premature at the start line. Green Dragon is in seventh, but definitely not in seventh heaven.

Race two leaders at the top of leg 2. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.


Race two, boat tracks at the start of leg 2. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

At the halfway gate, those long-time adversaries PUMA and Telefonica Blue are hugging the right-hand side of the race track with the shoe boat holding the edge.

Ericsson 4, in the middle lane, is threatening. Will Ken Read's men spoil Blue quest for a third win-win situation in the 2008-09 in-port series? At this stage it's a maybe as the wind shifts to the right.


PUMA stretches the advantage at the bottom mark. Telefonica Blue is second but under increasing threat from Ericsson 4, who had a good downwind leg, in third. Looking good for Ken Read and Co to break their duck.

Ericsson 3 holds fourth, Telefonica Black has made a pass on Delta Lloyd and Green Dragon is out of sight, albeit at the wrong end of the leaderbaord.

Race two, boat tracks at the gate on leg 2. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.


With the big cat making hay at the front, we have a real dog fight developing between Telefonica Blue and Ericsson 4 as Bouwe Bekking forces Torben Grael into an extra tack mid-course. Their pre-occupation with match racing is allowing the chasing pack to make gains.

Race two leaders on leg 3. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

Race two, boat tracks on leg 3. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

Race two, boat tracks at the end of leg 3. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.


At the windward mark for the second time, PUMA is on easy street. Meanwhile, Black is back and mixing it with her sistership and Ericsson 4. A great recovery by Fernando Echavarri's men. With the syndicate boss, Pedro Campos, at the controls, the Black boat now has designs on third place.

Ericsson 3, coming in from the opposite side of the course, has thrown a spanner in the works and gets ahead of Telefonica Blue. The Nordics have gone from fourth to second. More importantly, for the overall standings, they have wedged themselves between PUMA and the Blue boat.

At the mark the order is PUMA, Ericsson 3, Blue, Black, Ericsson 4, Delta Lloyd and Green Dragon.


Race two, top of final leg. View from PUMA (leader), with Ericsson 3 and Telefonica Blue behind. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

One last throw of the dice for Telefonica Blue as she gybes early to starboard for the layline to the midway gate and takes Ericsson 3 with her. PUMA, on port, looks untouchable in the lead so the battle for second in race two is where it's at.

Race two, second and third placed boats, Ericsson 3 and Telefonica Blue, near the end of the race. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

Race two, boat tracks on the final leg before the gate. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

Race two, leaders on the final leg. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

Race two, boat tracks on the final leg just before the gate. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.


PUMA breaks her duck. The nearly-men on PUMA finally climb the top step of the podium with victory in the second in-port race on Galway Bay.

Race two, final set of boat tracks. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

Ericsson 3 is second and Telefonica Blue third and Telefonica Black fourth.
So, the win puts PUMA level on points with Telefonica Blue. Once the number crunchers have done their thing and factored in the tie-break, PUMA will win the day.

Race two, boat tracks at the end of the race. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

Race two, Green Dragon finishing. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

Race two results. Image copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

2 Ericsson 3
3 Telefonica Blue
4 Telefonica Black
5 Ericsson 4
6 Delta Lloyd
7 Green Dragon

Volvo Ocean Race

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