Saturday, 27 June 2009

VOR: Leg 10 - Day 2

by Volvo Ocean Race media

Friday, 26 June 2009


PUMA still holding off Telefonica Black, they are past the gybe mark, with the red and black mean machine still in the lead. Both boats sailed on downwind to the west, before gybing for the last mark of the triangle. It is so tight, it’s looking like Leg 9 all over again.

Behind them, Ericsson 3 look to have got back to Telefonica Blue, both boats very close to rounding the gybe mark, with Ericsson 4 on their heels. Ericsson 3’s media crew, Gustav Morin has been a bit quiet recently, since they took those losses and dropped back from the leading pair. But he’s back with more of that Ericsson 3 fighting spirit. And not just for the podium either, Gustav is in the frame in a very tight contest for the overall Inmarsat Media Crew award.

“Not over. For a while we felt a bit low here on Ericsson 3. It felt like we lost it when we got into a bad rhythm and got the [wind] shifts wrong. Now we are back in business. We have put a big gennaker up and while Telefonica Blue went close to the land we made a short gybe out to get more breeze. It seems like we can make big gains but the wind is very shifty and the race is still open.”

And with the boats about to turn the corner at this last mark of the triangle and start the final 20 miles to the finish, we will close the Day Two, PM blog, and start a nice new one for the finish – see you over there in a few minutes.


PUMA is holding off Telefonica Black down this first leg of the triangle. Nothing much in it though, Telefonica Blue, Ericsson 3 and Ericsson 4 all around the first mark, with everyone now gybing down this leg, they can’t sail it in one straight line.

And Rick Deppe has added his valedictory speech to the boat emails – clearly something he didn’t just dash off this evening. Those guys have all done an amazing job, they’ve helped to transform the way ocean racing is reported. A big hand for the media crews, please...


PUMA led around the first mark of the triangle, and are now headed down the first leg, chased by Telefonica Black, and then Blue. The wind has softened, and I don’t think that they can quite get to the gybe mark in one go.

Rick Deppe reports from PUMA, “We have a tight battle on our hands with Telefonica Black. Il Mostro rounded the top mark first but we were slowed down by a small mistake on the bow. Telefonica Black is right on our transom.”

Gabri Olivo reports from Telefonica Blue, “After three hours of upwind we finally reached the mark that we have to round to complete the loop. PUMA is just about to round it with the Blackies on their toes, we're just waiting for an opportunity, we're not far behind. Clock is ticking...”

And it’s all happening at the other end of the fleet as well, Sander Pluijm writes from Delta Lloyd, “We just overtook the Green Dragon, they are on our stern now while the sun sets fantastically over the Baltic sea , the air is pink and the sun is red - whauw!”

This White Night’s thing is really quite spectacular, it’s just gorgeous outside, quiet and still with the soft light and just the hum of the city in the background.


Rick Deppe reports, “It’s game on, we are in a tight tacking duel with Telefonica Black who are at the moment in on the shore and appear to be doing well. We have just tacked over to cover them, the mark is about seven miles away. The other boats seem to have fallen off.”

The breeze is holding up in strength, still in the mid-teens, and still blowing out of the east. The two downwind legs of this triangle are not going to take long, and may well be PUMA’s opportunity to gain some distance before the final upwind.

Right now, PUMA is leading Telefonica Black back out from the shore towards the first mark of the triangle. Ken Read and his team have about a 400 metre advantage. But Telefonica Blue is safely tucked away to leeward and behind, with Ericsson 3 even more safely put away – she’s sailing directly in the wake of the two leaders.

This is turning into a repeat of the Leg 9 finish, where PUMA fought two sisterships up to the home straight, and then battled one to the finish. Only this time it’s the Telefonica twins, not the Ericsson boats. And there’s further to go to the finish, so I wouldn’t count anyone out of the final analysis just yet.

Ken Read piles in after Rick Deppe’s comments in the previous update, “I now know that I have heard it all. This race has been extended! The race organizers didn't think the previous 37,000 miles were long enough so this leg has been extended. Oh my god.

“What makes it a bit of a bummer is the fact that we are leading and the wind is getting lighter and the two light air rocket ships (Telefonica Black and Telefonica Blue) are right behind us. Oh well. Never easy. We have sailed a solid leg to date. Need to keep it up. Will report after the finish. A 30 mile triangle to do now and it is full on.”

Talking of the Race Management, the team has headed out onto the water, so I snuck into the office and managed to blag some very fine meatballs from their fridge. So I think Cassie and I are good for a few more reports.


It probably goes without saying that having led for the larger part of the race, the PUMA boys are not happy about 30 extra miles in perfect conditions for the two boats chasing them. But Rick Deppe is going to say it anyway, “We are about to commence the last part of the race, a 30 mile triangle that we must complete before heading to the finish. For sure there are some grumpy sailors onboard this boat because of the triangle and I'm sure some of the other boats have their share of the same sentiment as well.”

Yes, but probably not Bouwe Bekking, Fernando Echavarri and their teams.

Rick goes on, “There are probably no two boats on earth that we would less want to go up against in under 15 knots of wind than the Telefonica boats, but unfortunately they are both snapping at our heels to leeward. Ericsson 3 seems to be fading a little, but as we've found over the last year of racing.... never, ever count them out.

“So for now we play a covering game with Telefonica Black. Ken Read told me that he spoke with Fernando, the skipper of Telefonica Black, before the start, and told him he thought this might be their leg. They are certainly sailing that way, we can clearly see the crew hiking and they are matching us tack for tack.”

It’s midnight local time here in the Media Centre, and we finally had to turn the lights on as it was starting to get a little gloomy. White Nights. And Spanish Castles. Sorry, these are the last opportunities for promotion. And since there’s no one around to stop me, as they are all resting (except Cassie) and gathering strength for the final arrival...


The dogfight continues, with PUMA struggling to hold back the Telefonica boats. These three are now all back on starboard tack, beating their way towards the first triangle mark, which is about nine miles to windward of them – to the east-northeast in an east-northeasterly!

PUMA has a tight cover on Telefonica Black, but Blue has escaped to the north, and created some separation. Ken Read can’t keep close tabs on both of them, and Bouwe Bekking and Fernando Echavarri would love that top spot on the podium. Meanwhile, Ericsson 3 is headed for the beach to the south. They are scattering like pheasants.


The top five boats are still all on port, heading south-east for the coast, while behind them, Green Dragon and Delta Lloyd are duking it out around the SPEZ.

Gustav Morin and the boys on Ericsson 3 are not happy about the way things are developing, “The last couple of hours have not been that much fun. We have been tacking up the coast and we have not been very lucky with the shifts. PUMA and both the Telefonica boats have slipped away a bit and Ericsson 4 has been catching up.

We are still fighting and there is a chance that the wind will drop in front of us and we can catch up again. We have been sailing faster than we thought we would and it seems that we will have to sail a triangle course for hours and hours just to keep the arriving schedule intact.”

The finish is some distance from St Petersburg. The boats have to motor to the city and clear Customs. Then the prime time event is when they raise the bridges at 17:00 local (13:00 GMT) to let the boats into the city. Judging by the traffic on the way into the media centre this afternoon at about that time, it should bring the place to a complete standstill...


A real battle is developing at the front of the fleet, with PUMA leading Telefonica Black by just half a mile. Telefonica Blue is only another mile behind, Bouwe Bekking and his squad on a real charge in the last few hours.

There’s been a reconfiguration of the waypoints in the race management system, so everything will jump at the next Position Report. One result is that we now have Ericsson 3 just three miles behind the leading trio, with Ericsson 4 stalking her from another three miles back.

This leading pack is all on port tack in the easterly breeze – but it’s getting pretty shifty out there. I can see wind directions ranging from 45 (Delta Lloyd) to 85 (Ericsson 4) and wind speeds from 13 to 18 knots. I think these final miles are going to be a rollercoaster.


It’s all kicked off with the fleet tacking along and now clearing the northern edge of the SPEZ. The breeze has shifted round to the east, and dropped back to the low-teens – how low will it go? It’s anyone’s guess, there was still some breeze in St Petersburg last time I was outside, and there’s not going to be any real ‘night’, so it may hold up all right.

At the moment, PUMA leads the Telefonica twins to the south-east. But Ericsson 3 has got dropped and passed, she is down to fourth, ten miles behind Telefonica Blue and has her sistership closing fast. The next upcoming challenge is the triangle course.

Gabri Olivo reported earlier from Telefonica Blue, “Back into the race! We finally managed to climb back some miles and we just crossed ahead of Ericsson 3 and just behind Telefonica Black. We're about to go around the exclusion zone and after that the games begin!!”

Sander Pluijm has also reported that Delta Lloyd is right up beside Green Dragon in the battle for sixth and seventh. “We are bow to bow with the Green Dragon, it’s going to be a tacking game in the backfield of the fleet.” And the front, Sander.


It’s hotting up out there, the fleet have started a bit of a tacking frenzy along the northern boundary of the SPEZ. The gainers at the moment look to be Telefonica Blue, who may well have gone past Ericsson 3, but we’ll have to see how it plays out. What I can be sure of is that the wind is finally shifting to the east and dropping as predicted. So that will slow them up a lot, as they race east to the first corner of the extra triangle.

For those of you who thought the hazards were all over, here’s a note from Gustav Morin on Ericsson 3, “We are getting closer to the finish and it’s not the weather, winds, waves or speed that are extreme. The environment surrounding us isn’t even something that I would raise an eyebrow for, until a look at the chart...

“There are warning signs with ‘MINEFIELD!’ That’s probably some old info, the mines should be gone and cleared out by now, someone said – unfortunately it is not quite like that.

“Aksel Magdahl told us, ‘When I was sailing to St Petersburg in the Oops Cup 2006 we were very close to sailing straight into a big mine. We were gybing and saw the mine just when the manoeuvre was over and with very little distance we managed to not hit it.’ We are now in the same area and Aksel just went up on deck to tell the guys to keep an extra eye open for strange objects in the water.”

Elsewhere, there’s a valedictory email from Green Dragon skipper, Ian Walker email – and I should say that Ian’s been one of the best email writers in this race... and a birthday celebration on Green Dragon, with a long discourse on marriage that’s going to get someone into trouble...

Carolyn O'Donnell reported that PUMA’s marketing campaign is working, “What a great adventure. Today I bought a PUMA t-shirt that shows the exact replica of Il Mostro’s sail only because I am a fan... maybe that is why Puma is in the lead today - so far.”


It does look as though the wind is finally dropping, it’s under 15 knots for the whole fleet now, and we’re starting to see wind directions of east-northeast. Could the much heralded shift to the east finally be happening?

Perhaps as a result, Telefonica Black and Ericsson 3 have tacked to starboard and are headed north, but PUMA and Ericsson 4 are still going east along the northern edge of the SPEZ. The Dragon has snuck across in front of Delta Lloyd as they both approach the north-western corner of the SPEZ.


There’s a new Position Report, and for the top five, they are all in a line, sailing along the northern edge of the SPEZ.

PUMA hold a one mile lead from Telefonica Black, who hold a one mile lead from their sister-ship Telefonica Blue, who hold a one mile lead from Ericsson 3, who are a massive four miles in front of their sistership, Ericsson 4. Things are a little more complex for Green Dragon and Delta Lloyd, the Dragon still has to tack to get around the SPEZ, so this one could end up being closer than the leaderboard has it.

Meanwhile, aboard Ericsson 4 they have been celebrating the birthday of their mighty steed and suffering from a bit of victory fatigue, according to Guy Salter, “It’s sunny, it’s calm, we’re going over 11 knots but still it isn’t really enough for the Ericsson 4 posse! We can see the first four boats ahead - but by a fair margin and we can just make out the boats chasing behind.

“It’s pretty dull onboard today - nothing really to fight for - I said we wouldn’t ever be able to cruise this boat - and we are not, but it does feel a lot like a delivery [MC: a cruise to get the boat from one place to another] at the moment. Sleeping is easy and aided by a bottle of port we have had with lunch to celebrate the first birthday of the thoroughbred - or best of breed in this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race.

“Yes, the mighty Ericsson 4 is one today and it transpires that we have almost (within a couple of hundred) achieved 50,000 nautical miles in the old girl! That would be an extreme total of miles for any salesman in a car! Ericsson 4 has served us very well and we hope we can finish off the last 100 miles in a respectful manner deserved of a true world class champion, which is what this yacht is - good job Ericsson 4. The pleasure has been all of ours - Happy Birthday”

Sorry about the slightly bigger gap between the updates, but we really had to solve the food problem. And I’m very happy to report that we have - blogging on into the night fuelled by Russian potato salad. No, not vodka - actual, genuine potato and salad. And coffee, admittedly.


The whole of the leeward group of PUMA, Telefonica Black and Ericsson 3 said north on starboard tack, and crossed in front of Telefonica Blue and Ericsson 4, who were coming in from the west on port. PUMA has subsequently tacked back to port, to sail along the northern edge of the SPEZ. I think everyone will follow her, no one wants to get too far to the north, in case the wind shift to the east does finally arrive.


The relative windward position of Telefonica Blue and Ericsson 4 has turned out to be important, as the lead trio of PUMA, Telefonica Black and Ericsson 3 have to tack to clear the St Petersburg Exclusion Zone (SPEZ), as marked on the Race Viewer.

PUMA were the first to go, as Rick Deppe reported in his latest email, “We will shortly be tacking onto port around the island of Moschnyy [MC: north-west corner of the SPEZ]. The expected right-hander never came through and Telefonica Blue is starting to look dangerous out to weather [MC: windward] of us.

“It will be interesting to see who comes out ahead. Right now it looks as though we will still be ahead but if the wind goes any further left [towards the north] things could change very quickly. Either way it’s looking as though we might have a fight to the finish on our hands.”

It’s after the SPEZ that the extra triangle that the Race Office has just announced (13:30 GMT Update) comes into play. It is just to the east of the exclusion zone, and you can see it on the Race Viewer if you zoom right in. It looks, at the moment, as though two of the three legs will be reaching/upwind, with the final one downwind.

Whether or not this is going to slow them up much remains to be seen. The weather forecast in the Race Viewer does show the breeze imminently dropping and going to the east – just as PUMA has been expecting. But then, the forecast was for it to do that 24 hours ago, and it’s still pumping out of the north-northeast at almost 20 knots.

The crew of PUMA will not be happy with the extra miles they now have to do, as Rick reported in another recent email (anticipating the decision), “As you can imagine, this is universally unpopular with the guys who just want to finish - everyone is feeling a little burned out. Casey Smith had a few words to say about the situation that I cannot write here!” Deppe was also getting very philosophical in that recent, missive, a sure sign that the race is coming to an end.

The skipper of Green Dragon was none too impressed with the decision either, despite perfect conditions. “We have good wind, flat water and the sun is shining. Believe it or not we have still not done a sail change all leg! We were hoping this could be a new Volvo Ocean Race record if we maintained it to St Petersburg, but unfortunately the organisers have added an extra 30 mile triangle to the course which
means we will need other sails.

“This is very unpopular with the crew as there is nothing worse than seeing the mileage to the finish increase - particularly on the last leg when all you want to do is finish. It is especially unpopular with Phil Harmer, who, believe it or not, is flying straight out at 19:00 to race in the 18ft skiff worlds in France on Sunday! Anyway I don't suppose another 30 miles will kill us after doing 37,000.”

Walker also reported a close call, “We have just passed over a rocky ledge between two islands and I had my heart in my mouth as the depth dropped to 1.9 metres below the keel - I prayed the chart was accurate and breathed a sigh of relief as the depth shot back up. That's enough of those scares for one day. Other than that no real change out here in the Gulf of Finland.”

Now all I have to do is find something to eat, other than crisps and chocolate. It’s just like being on a Volvo Open 70 here at the moment, except there’s no freeze dried food.


So, after a slight variation on Pete’s trip via Helsinki, this is Mark Chisnell returning to the blog. Cassie and I detoured to Copenhagen, and as we flew over Sandhamn at about 10:00 am local time this morning, it had taken us a mere 18 hours to get back to where I started yesterday afternoon. But we’re here now, after some impressive attack driving from the taxi pilot (driver is too humble a word), including one move to plonk us at the head of a queue for a red light that really had to be seen to be believed.

It’s taking me a while to get up to speed with what’s been going on, and most of you probably know more than I do after 12 hours on the road. But I can tell you that PUMA still leads a tight group of Telefonica Black and Ericsson 3, with an advantage of less than a couple of miles on either boat.

The breeze is still in the high teens and blowing out of the north-northeast. To the north-west of the leading trio (so, to windward and behind), and in fourth place by another couple of miles, is Telefonica Blue. Ericsson 4 is five miles behind Blue, with Green Dragon and Delta Lloyd another ten miles back. And we know that Team Russia is a further ten miles behind them.


Those of you following religously - and I know there are plenty of you! - will have noticed a slight delay in updating the last positions to the 2D tracker. Well don't fret too much, it's up to date now. And there was a good reason.

A couple of hours ago, the Race Committee elected to lengthen the course by 30 miles, by adding a triangle for the fleet to sail around before the finish line. That has now been added to the tracker.

The reason for adding miles, is to try and get a daylight finish. There are plenty of spectator boats booked to see the end of this 37,000 mile journey. It would be good if it happened in daylight!


The 13:00 GMT position report is in and shows PUMA still at the head of the fleet, with Telefonica Black and Ericsson 3 in hot pursuit.

We've had plenty of questions about Team Russia. They've emailed their position in to Race HQ and our Duty Officer there tells us Kosatka is about 30 miles behind the leader.

Mark Chisnell and Cassie Chapman have turned up at the Media Centre in St. Petersburg now too. It seems with every hour, our team gets stronger...


Our all-star media crew members continue to feed us information from the race course. Nice job guys! This, from Gabri on Telefonica Blue:

"Not much is been happening on the last few hours, we're still on port after we had to tack few hours ago because of a sand bank. Since then we positioned our self on the left of E3 and TBlack, with a bit of gauge on them and the wind clocked slowly to the left, so we gained quite a bit with the duo, while PUMA is clearly ahead.

"The point where it seems things will be decided it's the exclusion zone, we're now 30 miles away and it will be interesting to see how we will end up.

"Quite surprisly, there are few boats that came to see us, from both Finland Lettonia and, which shows how popular this race is. It's a bit chilly, but it's nice and flat, so not too much to complain..."


On Telefonica Blue the three pedestals in the middle the primary winches are mounted on separate islands and the arrangement allows the headsail trimmer to sit down to leeward with half a metre of hull and then the guard rails above as security, without the feeling that they are about to get washed overboard with every wave. While it won’t be suitable offshore, racing inshore the crew, including the grinders, sit on the cockpit sole as they do on Cup boats - all good for reducing windage.

But the main advantage ofthe cockpit arrangement is what this means for the laborious stacking of sails. While the stack on the other boats is precariously perched on the side decks, the arrangement on the Telefonica boats allows the stack to be lower and when the boat is heeled this means it is further outboard and contributing more to the righting moment. “And it keeps the windage down,” says Bouwe Bekking. “Normally the stack goes all the way up to the lifelines and with this
you can stack it nice and low and you can sit on the top of the stack as well and you are still safe. The other thing is it is easy to get the stack from one side to the other side and you can even gybe and can basically leave the stack partly on one side and you can only have to move two or three sails over, because the sheets can go over the top of it, so it is very easy to manoeuvre. Plus it is so easy to trim
the headsail - you can sit to leeward of the winch and if you have to do any work to leeward you can just walk up the leeward side, because you are always safe. Whereas if you are heeling a lot and you have a normal side deck you would think nine out of ten times you wouldn’t walk up the leeward side. With this it feels really safe.”

And as regards the masts:

Another Cup-style development can be seen aloft on the Telefonica boat, where their masts are jumper-less. The rig program was led by Cup designer Scott Ferguson who examined all the solutions before the team opted for the jumper-less arrangement. “He did the numbers and it become more and more promising and we built one and put it on Brasil One and we were really happy with it and we made a big improvement with these ones,” recounts Bouwe Bekking. There is more structure in
the top of the mast but you save the weight of the jumpers but the benefit is a massive reduction in windage. “And you don’t get the sails caught up and the jibs go round the rig nicer and light air gybing you don’t have to worry about hooking your spinnaker behind the top spreader. Of course it is a bit harder if someone has to go to the top of the rig because there aren’t a lot of places to hang on.”

Obviously the main issue is managing this while maintaining adequate stability in the top of the mast. This could mean that the boats with jumpers may be able to keep their big gear up for longer than the Telefonica boats.

While the boats feature C6 carbon rigging, the top mast backstay/runner/checks arrangement is also novel with the top mast and running backstays combined and an adjuster at the hounds so that the top mast backstay can become a runner and vica versa.


It's not just us pampered writer-types who are complaining about a lack of sleep. I know for myself, I usually find it helpful when I'm getting run down to think of what's happening out on the boats. Gustav Morin has checked in again from Ericsson 3 and gives us an update on the sleep - or lack thereof - situation on board:

"It is not only Magnus Olsson who is tired on Ericsson 3. It feels like everyone is taking every opportunity they can to get some sleep. We are running a standby watchsystem with 3 hours of and 6 hours on, but if there is not much happening some of the guys can go to sleep during the watch.

"We have learned from the leg to Marstrand where everyone got extremely tired at the same time. But it feels a bit strange to come on deck when three guys are lying around sleeping.

"I am also tired, have slept two hours in my bunk since we left Stockholm and a couple of minutes on and of when I, like always, crash with the computer in my lap. I start to think about something to write and suddenly my thoughts just get more more crazy and soon I'm off to never never land. If I close my eyes and relaxes it takes about 15 seconds to fall asleep.

"The positions has not changed much the last couple of hours. Telefonica Black and Puma is still a couple of miles in front. Blue and Ericsson 4 around five miles up to windward."


We've had a short email in from Ian Walker on Green Dragon, here's what he had to say:

"We are still yet to crack sheets or change a sail on this leg as we sail hard on the wind to St Petersburg. It doesn't look like that will change in the next day either. The only activity for the crew outside trimming and steering is of course stacking. Sailing in a piece of water only 35 miles across and with many windshifts has lead to an abundance of tacks and the bad backs are reappearing as we have to
repeatedly carry all the sails and gear from one side to the other.

"It has been a good night for us though as the North side of the course has paid hugely. We were North on the Finnish coast and put many miles on the Russians whilst also passing Delta lloyd.

"Other than that it is a pure drag race and we sit and watch as the leaders draw away and Delta Lloyd now slowly pull back closer to us. They are currently just under 2 miles dead astern. It is a beautiful day with good wind and flat water and as I write this we have a little over 100 miles ofthe Volvo Ocean Race 08/09 to go."

Volvo Ocean Race

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