Tuesday, 19 May 2009

VOR: PUMA Leads Fleet to Transatlantic Scoring Gate

by Kate Fairclough

Two days into leg seven, a transatlantic dash from Boston, USA to Galway, Ireland, the PUMA Ocean Racing team lead the Volvo Ocean Race fleet. Sailing in freezing conditions and ‘pea soup fog’, PUMA are just hours away from the leg scoring gate just south of Newfoundland, at which they aim to score valuable points.

With just six miles separating the top five boats in the seven boat fleet, the PUMA Ocean Racing team is teasing every inch of speed out of 70 foot racing machine il mostro. Once the ten man crew onboard have successfully passed through the scoring gate, they will turn southwards to avoid an iceberg exclusion zone, an area full of icebergs which must be avoided en route across the Atlantic Ocean. The transatlantic leg is expected to take eight to ten days to complete, with varied conditions forecast in the mid-Atlantic.

Skipper Ken Read (USA) commented: “The competition out here is ridiculous. The speed differences are so close in certain conditions you would swear that this is actually one design racing. We just got a position report and when we calculate it to the corner where the ice gate meets the scoring gate it goes like this: First place il mostro, second place Ericsson 3, (a whopping three tenths of a mile back!!), third place Ericsson 4, (we are killing them as they are almost five tenths of a mile astern!!) fourth place Telefonica Blue, 1.2 miles back. (I mean, I don't know why they even continue they are so far off the pace!!! Unreal!!!), fifth place Telefonica Black is only 3.5 miles back as well. So, if you were aboard il mostro you would be saying all is good right? Not so fast....not only is the distance between the boats ridiculously close, it is impossible to cover anyone. The fog is so thick that you can barely see the bow of the boat, never mind the competition. The radar, which sits on the front of the mast doesn't see behind the boat, only forward, as there is a big carbon pole blocking the view to the rear. So, after each position report we have no idea where everyone is going for the next three hours.”

“It makes for a tough game when a lead is so precarious. On board the mood is anxious and optimistic. Last night was a very interesting night to sail, though a bit chilly. When I was driving it felt like we were in a video game. With 18 knots of wind at the top of the mast, the boat was heeled over 25 degrees, but there was literally no wind on the water, a perfectly smooth glassy ocean with not one bit of visibility. You had to concentrate on the instruments with a real intensity because if you started to wander there was nothing visually to help get back on track. It was very odd, but really cool night to sail, both literally and figuratively.”

Leg seven is the last open-ocean crossing the Volvo Ocean Race fleet will sail in the remaining four legs of the ten leg race, scheduled to finish on June 28th in St Petersburg, Russia.

PUMA Ocean Racing
Volvo Ocean Race

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