Saturday 7 March 2009

Audi Etchells Worlds 2009: Olympic Girls to Take on the Men

Tessa Parkinson shows the form that won her 470 Gold in Qingdao. Image copyright Andrea Francolini.

by Di Pearson

It is a class that has been dominated by the men in our sport, but now three Australian Olympian women, headed by Beijing gold medallist Tessa Parkinson, are going where most women have feared to tread; they are to take on some of the world’s most elite male sailors at the Audi Etchells Worlds in March.

Due to power and weight required to sail them, the Etchells keelboat has been a male bastion and normally sailed by three beefy sailors. Around 2004, lighter-weight crews opted to add a fourth person, giving not only the extra weight needed, but an extra pair of hands, eyes and ears.

Returning from China, members of the Australian Sailing Team, of which Audi is a sponsor, have investigated classes different to those they sail at Olympic level. The three women contesting the Audi Etchells Worlds have arguably chosen the toughest class they possibly could, or more correctly, it chose them.

Skip Lissiman, who was crew aboard Australia II which won the America’s Cup in 1983, asked Tessa Parkinson, Beijing Olympic gold medallist in the 470 Women’s, if she would sail with him and the answer was a resounding “yes!”

The bubbly 22 year-old, who was overjoyed to be awarded a brand new Audi A3 for winning her gold medal, says: “I used to work for Skip; he’s great and was a mentor to me when I was younger. I’m so excited to be able sail at such a high level and against different people to what I am used to.”

Angela Farrell (closest to camera) during her Olympic Yngling campaign. Image copyright Andrea Francolini.

Like Sarah Blanck and Angela Farrell, the other two Olympic women joining her at the Audi Etchells Worlds, Parkinson’s role is to help with tactics and strategy; key roles on any boat. She will also move to the bow downwind, using the same expertise that helped win her gold medal.

“It will be different. On the 470 dinghy you had to do a bit of everything, whereas with a team of four, I’ll be able to concentrate on just some of those jobs,” she says.

Parkinson, who is also a dab hand on the helm, describes their West Australian crew as: “super competitive – and the guys are all really talented.” Lissiman has opted for a young crew. He and Parkinson are joined by America’s Cup sailor Andy Fethers and Keith Swinton, who recently joined the pro match racing circuit.

Enjoying the opportunity of sailing a completely different style of boat, Parkinson explains: “The Etchells is a keelboat and the tacking angles and speed of the boat are quite different what I’m used to. It’s a completely different perspective.”

Sarah Blanck has the past two Olympic Games behind her. She sailed in the Europe and Laser Radial single-handed dinghy classes respectively, and won a Europe world title. The Victorian will sail on the lone Hong Kong entry skippered by Mark Thornburrow.

Offered the position when one of Thornburrow’s regular crew was unable to commit, Blanck says: I’m really loving it. We haven’t done as much training compared to the crews that have been together a long time, but we raced on Port Phillip last weekend and only a Black Flag (disqualification for starting early) stopped us from finishing fifth.”

The 32 year-old concedes she is nervous about sailing against so many elite sailors in a class she had not raced in before: “I’m learning so much from these guys, they have years of experience and talent. It helps that the Audi Etchells Worlds are being held on my local waters and that I know so many of the competitors.”

Blanck says too, it will feel strange to sail against her Beijing Olympic team mates. “In the Olympics we sail in separate classes, so we never race against each other. It will be very different. We trained with Nocka (Anthony Nossiter) last week and that was fun.

Nossiter retorts: “I’ve always wanted to have a duel against the Queens of the Australian Sailing Team, but those opportunities rarely present themselves. However, the Audi Etchells Worlds will make it possible.

“The girls are definitely skilled and tough enough to hose the blokes. While I found a good wind shift hard to pick, the girls seemed very comfortable finding the good side of our Port Phillip Bay courses.”

At the Beijing Games, Angela Farrell worked the bow on the Yngling Women’s three-person keelboat, so her experience will be handy when she gets to the start line.

The 27 year-old from Pittwater in Sydney is surrounded by champions on her boat; Julian Plante is the skipper and the other crew comprises Michael Coxon and Michael Dunstan, all from Sydney.

Plante is prize winning Etchells, big boat and One-Design sailor who works for North Sails in Sydney, of which Michael Coxon, one of Australia’s most capped sailors in a variety of classes, is Director. Dunstan is also a successful big boat sailor, but best known for his match racing expertise.

“I’ve known Julian for a while, but I’d never sailed with him. I ran into him at a friend’s wedding and he asked me to join them. I had my first training session with them a couple of months ago.

“I really like racing on the Etchells. There’s no room for mistakes and you have to make calculated and correct decisions fairly quickly; it sharpens your skills,” Farrell says.

“It’s good having four people crew in this overpowered class. We finished 11th last weekend in Melbourne, but expect to do better at the Worlds. The guys on my boat know the boat and the fleet, and they know what they’re doing.”

The Audi Etchells Worlds, to be held from 5-14 March, with Race 1 scheduled for Monday March 9, is organised by the Melbourne Etchells Fleet in conjunction with the Royal Brighton Yacht Club.

Audi Etchells Worlds 2009

VOR: What's Ahead for Green Dragon?

It's wet on the Dragon! Image copyright Guo Chan/Green Dragon Racing.

by Lucy Harwood

“It is almost three weeks since the start of leg 5 from Qingdao and Green Dragon and the fleet have just sailed past East Cape, New Zealand. Now a few years back during Whitbread times that would have been the starting point of what was then considered a long ocean leg, Auckland to Punta Del Este then came Wellington to Rio de Janeiro, that I guess puts into perspective how long this leg really is, Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro 12.500 nautical miles, wow!” said Green Dragon Shore Team Manager this morning.

Having already sailed half the distance of this leg the 'onshore' Green Dragon Navigator gives us an insight of what lies ahead.

From Green Dragon navigator Ian Moore who is sitting out this leg:

“So finally after 6,000 miles of generally tactical racing amongst the fleet we have a strategic split of over 400 nautical miles. Ericsson 3 in the north, Telefónica Blue in the south with the other 3 stuck a bit in no man’s land. The big question is who are going to be the winners and losers.

Ericsson 3 is likely to continue north east and try and reach up and over the approaching low pressure system. They are the only boat with this opportunity and it is hard to see how this will not net them a massive gain against the three middle boats. They will however, be risking putting themselves in some fairly unpleasant, if not mildly dangerous, weather. At about the time you are reading this they should be reaching in 30+ knots and if the low moves north they will have to follow it to avoid the strong headwinds on its south side. Once over they can dive south again, reaching and running in the strong NE winds.

The middle pack are not far enough north to go the whole way over the top of the low, which means they will sail a shorter course to the south of the low but be on the wind for most of those miles. This could easily see Puma emerging up to 4-5 hours behind Ericsson 3 on Saturday afternoon. Ericsson 4 and Green Dragon could be even further back.

So what of Telefónica Blue? They are committed to a more southerly route. At the moment they look to be sailing round the south side of a small high which is sitting over the ice waypoint gate. Their problem is how to get north again to sail through the ice gate. They have 2 options. Go on the wind early and try to reach the west end of the gate, or hope that the weather throws them a lifeline and gives them an opportunity to get back north and the east end of the gate.

I normally like a southerly route in this part of the world, but the position of the ice gates is far from normal and it has distorted the course in such a way that normal rules just don’t apply. Some of the routing has Telefónica doing alright and holding even with the boats in the north. My feeling is they will take a bit of a loss to get back to the first ice gate putting them back in 3rd or 4th place by the second ice gate.”

Green Dragon Racing
Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Latest Leg 5 Images

PUMA Ocean Racing at night, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

Telefonica Blue suffered a cruel blow when the Spanish boat broke its forestay while leading the fleet through the Southern Ocean on day 20 of leg 5
All images in this section copyright Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race.

Disappointment among the crew (l-r) Xabier Fernadez, Jordi Calafat and Jonathan Swain

Xabier Fernandez looking at the broken piece of forestay

Skipper Bouwe Bekking notified Volvo Ocean Race headquarters of their mishap at 17:40 GMT. The crew has put in place a jury rig and has decided to carry on under reduced sail.

Ericsson 4 in the Southern Ocean
Both images in this section copyright Guy Salter/Ericsson 4/Volvo Ocean Race.

Telefonica Blue set about repairing their damaged mainsail
All images in this section copyright Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: TELEFONICA BLUE LEG FIVE DAY 21 QFB: received 06.03.09 16:10 GMT

by Bouwe Bekking (skipper)

A short update from Telefonica Blue. Beating upwind in 15 knots of breeze, progress is ok, but about 2-3 knots slower than normal, as we are sailing with our small J4.

It is good that this sail has a separate stay, independent from the forestay otherwise we would have been out. So we are all looking on the bright side, it could have been game over, but luckily not. The sea is confused, but there is nice light outside, at least that’s what I think. Patan [Pablo Arrarte] can’t care less, he is rolled up like a small ball, trying to stay warm. The northern people onboard are laughing, we still are without gloves and only have one thin base layer on. We are teasing Patan and telling him, wait until we are getting real south. I offered him already extra gear, just in case.

Tom [Addis] is making adjustments to our polars (theoretical boatspeed for each angle), as we are going slower having only the small sail, to see what kind of implications it has on our routing .

And last, which we haven’t forgotten: we all like to wish Pedro, our CEO, a happy birthday!

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: PUMA LEG FIVE DAY 21 QFB: received 06.03.09 15:46 GMT

by Kenny Read (skipper)

I think the crew is starting to believe that Capey [Andrew Cape] and I have put us in the middle of an easterly upwind breeze as part of some really cruel practical joke. We have to keep showing them, one by one, that the other boats are going upwind too. "Isn't anyone running around the bottom of this high, like a normal Southern Ocean leg?" is the common response. "No," we say. "This is the only way out of this mess!"

This common banter is typically followed by a long sigh by said crewmember as he walks away to get on foul weather gear and head back on deck to a chilly and wet and slow slog to the north, looking to find some northerly breeze and some reaching to put some miles under our belts toward the Horn.

On the deck speaker, which we hear below, said crewmember may be heard then saying something like, "they say only 10 more hours of this crap, but didn't they say that 10 hours ago?"


The entire fleet is in the same boat. E3 took the gamble and it looks like it may pay off. Personally I am pleased with our strategy so far, not as large a risk/reward as the E3 strategy but we should end up pretty well placed once the northerlies come into play. As for the rest of the fleet, the only contact we have had is with the Telefonica Blue guys who reported to us that they had broken their headstay but were pushing on. We feel really bad for those guys, and I am not envious of the decisions that have to be made on their boat with regard to continuing across this notorious body of water, or to head back to New Zealand and replace their broken headstay. We sincerely wish these guys all the best and a safe passage.

As for life on board, it is business as usual. Life happens in cycles of two hours. Every two hours a new group of two rolls out of their bunks and two come down soaked from on deck. Every six hours the weather comes through and we pour over every detail looking for an edge. It seems that nothing happens on board on an odd hour. Except for maybe a headsail change or a reef, throwing the schedule off for the guys trying to catch up on their sleep.

So we will continue the slog, waiting for our chance to tack and make headway toward the ice gates and Cape Horn. Everyone is anxious for that moment. "Only 10 more hours". Yea right!

Volvo Ocean Race

Neville Crichton Bids to Win Transpac 2009

Alfa Romeo II. Supplied image.

by Edward Rowe

It’s taken 30 years, but Neville Crichton, Australia and New Zealand’s leading maxi yacht skipper, is to return to the USA’s most important single yacht race and this time, at the helm of Alfa Romeo, he’s determined to win.

The Transpacific Yacht Race runs for 2,225-mile (4120 km) course from Los Angeles to Honolulu and is the USA’s answer to the Rolex Sydney to Hobart, but its nearly four times longer and heads out into the Pacific Ocean with nowhere to come ashore in case of problems, making it the USA most important single yacht race.

"It has taken me the best part of 30 years to get back to the Transpac Race, but I can't wait," says Neville Crichton, who, at the helm of two generations of Alfa Romeo super maxi yachts is one of the world’s most successful yachtsmen as well as 2003 Yachting New Zealand Sailor of the Year.

Neville Crichton was the skipper of the 42-foot Uin-Na-Mara in Transpac 1979, finishing eighth in the 22-boat B Class. "We were up with the frontrunners until the middle of the race when the winds turned against us - something we will be lot better equipped to avoid this year!"

Neville Crichton. Supplied image.

This summer he returns to the Pacific in Alfa Romeo, the 100-foot Reichel Pugh design some call 'the fastest yacht in the world' ... certainly the fastest monohull ever to grace the Transpac race course. And after dominating the racing scene in Europe (having won line honors in 139 races to date in both Alfa Romeos) Crichton no doubt has his eye on Transpac line honors too, and hopes of upsetting the monohull record of 6 days 19 hours 4 minutes 11 seconds set in 2005 by Hasso Plattner's Morning Glory.

"Given the right winds, I firmly believe the race record is achievable, something we could only dream about back in 1979!" Crichton adds. "Alfa Romeo has clearly established itself as the yacht to beat in Europe and, after all our success in Europe, the Transpac will provide our team with a fresh challenge and a race that is unlike anything in which we have competed in Europe, in terms of both the event and our competitors."

Alfa Romeo will compete in the new "Unlimited" division of RSS 52 waiver yachts (exempt from the Racing Rules of Sailing limitations on stored power) up to 100 feet in length. This class does not qualify for the Transpacific Yacht Club Perpetual Trophy (AKA 'Barn Door') but instead a newly deeded trophy which will debut this summer.

It marks a momentous homecoming for the 63-year-old yachtsman and automobile importer, who purchased his first boat at age 11 from change collected gathering and selling empty beer bottles in his native New Zealand; and who later moved to Hawaii for several years.

Crichton's passion is typical of Transpac racers: once they've had a taste of the competition and downwind thrills, they come back again and again - and from all over the world. Other returning entrants include Ruahatu, from Mexico; Lawndart, Canada; Bengal 7, Japan; and Hawaii's Ragtime - competing in a record 14 Honolulu Races. Forty-seven yachts have already entered this 45th running of the Transpacific Yacht Race, with Close of Entries still two months off (May 27). Transpac 2009 starts begin Monday June 29 with subsequent starts for faster rated boats Thursday July 2 and Sunday July 5.

Skipper: Neville Crichton

Oct 2008 Barcolana Race Line Honours
Sept 2008 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 4 x Line Honours, 2 x Corrected time wins
June 2008 Boat International SuperYacht Regatta 3 x Line Honours, class & event wins
June 2008 Rolex Giraglia Race Line Honours, new race record
June 2008 Rolex Giraglia Cup 3 x Line Honours, 2 x Handicap win
May 2008 Rolex Capri Race Week Maxi Class Event Win, 2 x Line Honours
May 2008 Pirelli Cup Maxi Class Event Win, 4 x Line Honours

Oct 2007 Barcolana Line Honours, race record
Sept 2007 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 5 x Line Hons, 1 x Handicap
August 2007 Rolex Fastnet Retired
August 2007 RYS Trophy, Scandia Race Week Line Honours, Class win
June 2007 Superyacht Cup 1 Line Honours Win
June 2007 Rolex Giraglia Cup Offshore Race Line Honours
June 2007 Rolex Giraglia Cup Regatta 2 x Line Honours to take event
April 2007 Hublot Palmavela Regatta 5 x Line Honours to take event

October 2006 Rolex Middle Sea Race – offshore race Line Honours
October 2006 Barcolana Race Line Honours
Sept 2006 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup 4 Line Honours, event win
June 2006 Rolex Giraglia Cup Offshore Race Line Honours
June 2006 Rolex Giraglia Cup Regatta 2 Line Honours, 1 Handicap win
April 2006 Hublot Palmavela 4 x Line Honours wins

Dec 2005 Rolex Sydney to Hobart 2nd Overall
Dec 2005 Rolex Trophy Regatta Win
Dec 2005 CYCA Big Boat Trophy Line Honours
Dec 2005 Savills Short Ocean Championship Line Honours/Handicap win
Nov 2005 Cabbage Tree Island Race Line Honours
August 2005 South Molle/Daydream Islands Race Line Honours/Handicap win
August 2005 Edward Island Race Line Honours
August 2005 Lindeman Island Race Line Honours/Handicap win

Alfa Romeo

VOR: GREEN DRAGON LEG FIVE DAY 21 QFB: received 06.03.09 09:42 GMT

by Wouter Verbraak (navigator)

"You have to go through the centre."

St. Malo, November 2002 and I am onboard Francis Joyon`s trimaran. Together with French navigator Jean Yves Bernot, I am visiting the boats we will provide with weather routing for in a French solo race across the Atlantic.
The weather outlook is terrible and we are discussing storm strategies to get his trimaran safely across.

On a used bit of paper Joyon draws a circle, puts a big "L" on it and draws his proposed route to deal with the low pressure, "Straight through the middle. It is the fastest and safest way."

Now seven years later I am thinking back to this moment as we have to deal with the monster that is approaching us. Head seas and storm force winds. How are we going to keep the boat together and at the same time beat the other guys?

Francis is an amazing yachtsman, so when I was sailing with the American 90 foot maxi yacht Rambler two years ago, we tried this strategy on a monster low in the Atlantic. We avoided the strongest headwinds and found shelter in the centre.

This should work in the South Pacific as well, right?

So if you are following our track, it is no madness, on the contrary we are aiming for the very eye of it, on purpose!

Sounds simple maybe, but let me tell you, we are preparing the boat and ourselves for war in the next 24 hours. Everybody is checking his personal gear, the stack is secured extra well, the generator is being tested, we have made plenty of water and have lots of snacks at hand. This is not going to be a lot of fun.

Down in the nav station Ian and myself are monitoring the development of the low. The strategy will only work if we hit the centre perfectly, so we are tracking its progress with satellite pictures and grib files. Of course the bloody thing keeps changing its mind all the time, but we have him locked in our sight.

The guys on deck are anxious to know the timing of events, so we are constantly updating them with expected max winds and what time we will hit the first front.

So cross your fingers, and we are going to have a good wind angle in and out, and can start making quick miles towards Cape Horn. About time!

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: TELEFONICA BLUE LEG FIVE DAY 21 QFB: received 06.03.09 08:45 GMT

by Simon Fisher (strategist/helmsman)

If the cloud from the other night was like a giant foot descending from the heavens and stamping on us, the events of this morning were like that massive foot had come back and kicked us square in the *!?*

I was awoken this morning by the sound of a massive bang and cries of 'everyone up!' coming from on deck. As the boat rolled over to windward on us, I hurried to pull my boots on and rushed upstairs in my thermals only to find the jib dragging in the water down the side of the boat, forestay and all. Luckily, due to some quick thinking by the guys who were on watch at the time, they were able to keep the rig upright and quickly secured it with spare halyards to prevent our situation becoming even worse.

After much scrambling around, the jib was hauled back on board and pulled from the now broken tough luff and after some work the forestay has been jury rigged back up in place to provide some extra support for the mast. Not an ideal situation at all, especially with so many miles to Rio to go. However, for now we have vowed to battle on albeit a bit worse for wear.

To add insult to injury we have wandered too close to the high pressure system and have spent much of the morning with very little breeze. Turning downwind to make repairs has only made the situation worse. We are back upwind again now though and battling to get back to the pressure. This luckily is slowly coming back to us but has taken most of the morning. Quite frankly it hasn't been our day.

Despite all the adversity thrown into our path, everyone onboard has remained upbeat and optimistic. I think we are all feeling that we have been quite lucky to escape with the mast intact and with the goal of getting to Rio still well within our grasp, even if now it might take a little longer... For sure it has been a bad day but if we are honest it could have been a whole lot worse too.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: TELEFONICA BLUE LEG FIVE DAY 20 QFB: received 05.03.09 22:48 GMT

by Bouwe Bekking (skipper)

We were ripping along, making great speeds in 15 knots of breeze, when all of sudden a loud bang was heard from the rig. My first instinct was to look up, and saw immediately that the mast was still in one piece, and a fraction late, the headsail dropped in the water.

Forestay broken. It was around 06:30 in the morning, Jono [Swain] was driving, and his quick reaction to bear away saved the rig. Immediately we put some halyards on the bow, to stabilize the rig, as it was sweeping like a spaghetti pole.

We didn’t have to wake up the other guys, as they all had run up. First thing was to get the big jib out of the water, which was huge effort as it was filled with thousands of litres of water, but luckily we got it back in one piece. Then we had to get the sail out of the headfoil, which is a carbon fibre piece which slots over the actual forestay. That was easier said than done, but with some brute force that job was finished as well.

In the mean time we were running dead downwind, and working on a system to use the stay again, so at least we had something to jury rig the mast with. We did a rig check and all seems to be all right. In the mean time I had been on the phone with our shore manager, to go over eventual scenario’s, regarding spare pieces. By then I knew that the actual forestay hanger was broken, this is a 30 mm stainless steel piece, and it had snapped right through the middle.

One option was returning to NZL, but with Tom’s [Addis] feedback, the weather slot would have been a bad option time wise, so we decided to carry on. Let’s hope we get some downwind sailing, as there shouldn’t be any problems with that. But tight reaching and upwind will be slow, as we only can hoist a very little jib on separate stay and of course we don’t want to sacrifice the mast in any way.

Everybody is extremely disappointed, but we all having the same fighting spirit. We started well behind, and actually became first on the leader board yesterday, a huge reward for 21 days of working extremely hard. Of course this is a setback, but there is still a long way to go, WE WILL NOT GIVE UP!!!

Volvo Ocean Race

Friday 6 March 2009

VOR: Green Dragon - From South to North, Leg 5 Day 20

Wet 'n wild on the Dragon. Image copyright Guo Chan/Green Dragon Racing.

by Lucy Harwood

If yesterday Ericsson 3 made the brave move to point their bow north, today the whole fleet, except Telefónica Blue, has made the same move in order to avoid the ridge of high pressure, which is blocking the way to the strong westerly winds in the south.

Andy McLean, originally from Wellington, thinks wistfully of New Zealand as Green Dragon passes Fiji. Image copyright Guo Chan/Green Dragon Racing.

Looking ahead, the next mark of the course are the two ice gates located southeast of New Zealand at 47 degrees south between the longitudes of 155 west and 140 west. The second gate is set approximately 1,500 nm west of Chile at 45 degrees south between 120 west and 105 west. With 6,600 miles still to go to Rio the Dragon are hoping the second half of this leg is going to be faster than the first. They only have food provisions for 40 day and 20 have already gone and they are not quite half way as yet.

Phil Harmer speaking today from the boat told how shorts have given way to full wet weather gear in the last 24hrs. “The temperature dramatically dropped yesterday just as we were getting used to the warm conditions around Fiji. As we headed further south, temperatures dropped in a matter of hours and we quickly went from tee-shirts and shorts to full wet weather gear. The more you think about it, the more you realise that we’re half way there. First was the Fiji, second the scoring gate. Now we have the first ice gate to look forward to, then another one, then we are into the Horn and finally in Rio. Breaking it up keeps you motivated to keep pushing forward. Everybody is looking forward to the next 3,000 nm”.

Grinding is one way to stay warm when it gets wet and cold on deck! Image copyright Guo Chan/Green Dragon Racing.

Green Dragon’s navigator, Ian Moore, who is currently in the UK, has been monitoring progress. “There are going to be less options for the boats that take a southerly route to get back to the ice gate, so I am pleased to see Green Dragon heading to pack to the north”.

Green Dragon Racing
Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: ERICSSON 4 LEG FIVE DAY 20 QFB: received 05.03.09 1305 GMT

by Ryan Godfrey (bowman)

What is up with this leg? I had envisioned us screaming along in the roaring forties and pushing hard to break our 24hr record soon after passing the first scoring gate. Instead, here we find ourselves sailing upwind in an easterly breeze and contemplating how to negotiate a tropical cyclone that lay ahead. For God’s sake, we are below 40 degrees south latitude! Give us some downwind sailing and let these Volvo 70s do what they do best.

The mood onboard of late has been a little mixed. We are all disappointed to have lost our hard earned lead and are now curiously waiting to see how the positions will settle down after the split fleet start to come together again. Sailing conditions were quite mild today with relatively flat seas, although the temperature, both water and air is rapidly dropping. The evening sky tonight was particularly attractive with no clouds, thousands of stars, and a constant loom of light to the south reminding us of our summertime, southern location.

There have been some chocolate crimes today as our daily allowance of one bar per person pulled up short. No great dramas as we could just pull out the new day bag, but for how much longer is that an option? With all this upwind sailing it feels like our ETA will just continue to get delayed and food stocks rationed. Here’s hoping for a change to come.

Was also Nipper’s [ed: Guy Salter - Media Crew Member] birthday today - nothing special happened - but we all shook his hand.

Other than that all good on Ericsson 4.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Telefonica Black Arrives in Rio

Telefonica Black arrives at Marina da Gloria in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 22 days after they left Singapore onboard the cargo ship 'Cap Palma'.

Telefonica Black arrives in Rio to begin preparations for the Rio de Janeiro In-port race Volvo Ocean Race, and leg 6 start. Image copyright Jose Olimpio/Equipo Telefonica.

Skipper Fernando Echavarri (ESP) said:

"We are working on the sails and I can say we are going to receive some new sails in Rio. We have used the data taken from the two boats of the team and we have made some developments regarding the sails.

"We are going to spend 2 weeks to repair the boat and I think we will have several days to train and check before the in port racing on the 4th of April."

More images of Telefonica Black arriving in Rio de Janeiro. All images copyright Jose Olimpio/Equipo Telefonica.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: PUMA Leg Five Day 20 QFB: received 05.03.09 0353 GMT (2)

PUMA Ocean Racing approaching the scoring gate, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Kenny Read (skipper)

Close but no cigar! Not literally, because we still have a few left over from Micky's (Michael Mueller/GER) baby shower...but figuratively.

After nearly 6000 miles of sailing the scoring gate was decided while going through a weather ridge about 500 miles from the scoring gate. Essentially Ericsson 4, Ericsson 3 and ourselves were lined up about one mile from each other ready for action. We took the leeward side expecting a large header. The breeze did head, but after a cloud literally came in and took Ericsson 4 away over the horizon in front of us. Ericsson 3 was next, off to about a 2 mile lead. Then il Mostro.

What ensued was a high speed port tack very wet reach, which had pretty much nothing in it. When we finally bailed out and started for the ice gate still 10 miles or so away from the scoring gate it was Ericsson 4 and Ericsson 3 who held on to nip us by almost exactly the amount they nudged us by at the ridge. A frustrating third, but I have said before and will say again - not for lack of trying. The boys aboard are in great spirits and we have preached a short memory. Time to concentrate on winning the gate at Cape Horn.

One thing that ceases to amaze me out here is the quickness of climate change. It seems like it went from sweating hot to four layer cold in about a day. Literally a day. We have a bit of a reprieve now, but we are in for an upwind slog for a couple days before we can get to some quick reaching to take us to the first ice gate. From there on it is anyone's guess.

Except for a few new cases of the ‘throw up and pooping flu’, all is well aboard. The bug has almost knocked off all of us by now. Slowly and painfully. Capey (Andrew Cape) and Justin (Justin Ferris) have been the latest victims. But studs that they are, they have not missed a watch or a weather download analysed. Very impressive because, to be honest, they both looked like crap. Both have turned the corner though. And since I share a bunk with Capey I can say that my time is probably right around the corner. I am hoovering vitamins and water to try and ward it off, as well as sleeping with my jacket as a pillow and not our regular camping pillow - one of life's little luxuries aboard the yacht. Really hope I can keep this illness at bay.

One funny thing...Jerry Kirby and I live in the northeast US in Newport, RI. Our friends and family emails to the boat routinely are full of phrases like ‘it is so miserable here because we have a foot of snow’ and, ‘you aren't missing out on anything by not being here because the weather sucks...’ You get the drift. He and I always get a chuckle when we get these notes. And we are sure that everyone has the best intentions, kind of like trying to share in weather misery with us. But to her credit my wife Kathy finally caught herself today and said something like... 'would like to complain about the weather etc but I realise you have been on a gutted out race boat with 11 guys for 20 days now and I don't think I have a leg to stand on’...

How true. So to all back home - for us - cosy up in front of the fire after taking a hot shower and have a glass of Shiraz - with a nice thick steak. I am pretty sure that was the dream I had last off watch anyway. All is well on il Mostro and the more miserable it is, will only make the wine and steak taste all the better in Rio.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: PUMA LEG FIVE DAY 20 QFB: received 05.03.09 0903 GMT

by Rick Deppe

We're getting a bit of a reprieve today. This race seems to be a constant cycle of getting the snot beaten out of you for an unspecified number of days followed by a couple of days to clean yourself up, lick your wounds and prepare as best you can for the next ass- wuppin: because it's coming.

When it’s game on, things start to fall apart pretty quickly and it’s the galley that seems to get it the worst. It’s up forward on our boat, so when the boat jumps off a wave there is a multiplying factor to the amount of movement up there ... think of a see-saw and the amount of movement between the seat at the end and the seat nearest the pivot point..... Add to this the fact that you don't see the waves coming and therefore have no chance to brace for the impact. As well as the potential for a huge mess, it’s also quite dangerous. Add the final ingredient - food - and bingo; you now have a recipe for disaster... no pun intended.

It starts slowly with the odd little spill here and there - it’s impossible not to. Usually the guys are pretty conscientious about clean up, but its dark and you’re bouncing around so maybe a 90% job, and the grime slowly starts to build. Then it happens ... a big spill, let’s say a half bowl of greasy beef and noodles straight in the bilge..... You're on hands and knees doing the best you can to collect everything up, but the grease is starting to spread, a call for some help up on deck. While you’re away, someone unknowingly steps in the area of the spill..... And then before you know it, the galley has reached a tipping point beyond which there is no coming back until the weather eases up. Imagine little incidents like this happening over and over and you start to get the idea. After two or three days of tough weather the galley can start to look like a major environmental disaster area. Noodles stuck in every corner of the bilge, a thin layer of grease on every hand hold, the trash bag overflowing. There's no paper towel until tomorrow and you still can’t find the spray-n-wipe.

But not today! The whole galley area has had a major going over and is positively sparkling; everything is squeaky clean as they say. The ever-vigilant Rob Salthouse gave it the whole soap-down this morning and I came in this afternoon and did the disinfectant treatment. Rob also gave our failing stove a full service. We haven't had any problems with it yet, but a little preventative maintenance never hurts. Imagine a stove failure during our next heavy air upwind session ...... coming soon. The whole thing is now held together securely with steel wire and should see us to Rio.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: TELEFÓNICA BLUE LEG FIVE DAY 20 QFB: received 05.03.09 0825 GMT

Average Wind Speed over 40Kn, gusts of up to 50Kn apparent, True Wind Speed 30-32Kn. The only protection is the helmet. Image copyright Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Simon Fisher (helmsman)

It seems to have been a busy couple of days for us out here in the Pacific. In the course of 48 hours we have been from warm weather and calms to massive breeze and the wettest reaching conditions imaginable to the point that you could barely even look to see where you where steering and back once again to benign conditions. |t is much colder however, now we have entered the southern ocean and everyone is once again digging out the warm clothing. There was something of a scramble yesterday to dig out all the boots as the temperature plummeted watch by watch...

On top of the ever changing conditions we have finally made it to the first of the scoring waypoint and after our shocker of a cloud the other night which allowed the Dragons to slide past us. We have since reeled them in and passed them to snatch fourth at the gate. Not our best score ever, but a small step into getting back into a leg where we started late and have been playing catch up the whole time. But wait, the plot thickens...

Initially we were all set to go around the high pressure sitting off NZ but suddenly the plan changed – we, along with the rest of the fleet have now decided to go over the top, which may well shuffle the deck somewhat! Puma who took the initiative to go around the top a little earlier than us is looking good right now and Ericsson 3, who bravely tacked away as soon as she picked up her points at the scoring gate, is way off to the north and we now have to wait and see if their plan was genius or madness. All interesting stuff from a tactical perspective.

As for us, we were the latest to make the decision to turn, which has its pros and cons. We are probably risking lighter winds than the others, but may get a better shift... We all wait here with baited breath once more. On thing is for sure is it's going to be warmer though, as we are not going deep into the south just yet which seems to be a nice result for some on board!

The final bit of drama we have had to contend with was a massive rip in the main. Due to rather too much water sitting in the fold of the reef it decided it had enough and tore through the clew to let the water out, but, sadly left a hole about four-foot across, which we spent much of the afternoon repairing. Hopefully by daylight though it will have dried off once again and we will be up to full strength. A lot of stickyback and several tubes of Sikaflex sealant seem to have done the job. You can tell who was on the front line doing the repair - both Jordi (Jordi Calafat/ESP) and David (David Vera/ESP) finished up pretty much head to toe in white Sikaflex!

As you can see there is plenty going on right now, the race is getting interesting and, on top of that, we are busy trying to keep the boat in good shape for the remainder of this marathon. For me right now it is time to sleep a bit before getting back to it in a couple of hours time...

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: TELEFÓNICA BLUE LEG FIVE DAY 20 QFB: received 05.03.09 0800 GMT

by Bouwe Bekking (skipper)

Some very mixed feelings onboard of Telefónica Blue. First the dramatic weather change and the threat of the high pressure system moving very far south, basically blocking the strong westerlies wind.

Worse, this means sailing upwind for at least another 1000 miles. Still we were very keen to be the southernmost boat, and we made very good progress, which is a nice surprise. Why? Since 36 hours ago, our bottom part of the mainsail is completely delaminated. The sail has Kevlar strings running over all the loading points, which are covered by a Mylar film, which basically is preventing the breeze blowing through. Now that Mylar film has disintegrated, and is not attached to Kevlar any more and big holes have appeared in the mainsail. It looked more or less as if 10 men had emptied their guns with our main as a target.

So since yesterday we have been sailing with one reef in the main, not ideal, but what else can we do. This morning when the wind dropped a little, the repair forces have to come out. Jordi (Jordi Calafat/ESP) as the leading sailmaker, wanted to do a perfect job, but the more he looked at the sail, the more evitable it became that the job was nearly hopeless. So out has come the 5200, a sort of Sikaflex. It is almost bulletproof and has very high glue capabilities and is able to cure under water.

With this Jordi has been trying to stick big panels of Kevlar and Cuben fibre repair material onto the mainsail. Of course that was more boatbuilding than sailmaking so David (David Vera/ESP) came in action. To do the job, we had to lower the main to the third reef and have been sailing like that for about seven hours.

It plays on your nerves as you know you are sailing slow, but you just have to patient, nothing what you can do. Heat blankets had to come out, to help kicking off the 5200 a bit quicker. Now the job is done, just before sunset, but still sailing with one reef, to let the repair job cure more. David’s foul weather gear must be 100% watertight again, as he managed to cover himself in the 5200, and his gear is whiter than their original colour blue.

Now we have to wiggle ourselves over the top of the high pressure system, then tack, it will be very slow progress..............who said we were going to be in Rio in 34 days, was very wrong!!!!! But plenty of food on our fine vessel.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: PUMA LEG FIVE DAY 20 QFB: received 05.03.09 0353 GMT

by Kenny Read (skipper)

Close but no cigar! Not literally, because we still have a few left over from Micky's (Michael Mueller/GER) baby shower...but figuratively.

After nearly 6000 miles of sailing the scoring gate was decided while going through a weather ridge about 500 miles from the scoring gate. Essentially Ericsson 4, Ericsson 3 and ourselves were lined up about one mile from each other ready for action. We took the leeward side expecting a large header. The breeze did head, but after a cloud literally came in and took Ericsson 4 away over the horizon in front of us. Ericsson 3 was next, off to about a 2 mile lead. Then il Mostro.

What ensued was a high speed port tack very wet reach, which had pretty much nothing in it. When we finally bailed out and started for the ice gate still 10 miles or so away from the scoring gate it was Ericsson 4 and Ericsson 3 who held on to nip us by almost exactly the amount they nudged us by at the ridge. A frustrating third, but I have said before and will say again - not for lack of trying. The boys aboard are in great spirits and we have preached a short memory. Time to concentrate on winning the gate at Cape Horn.

One thing that ceases to amaze me out here is the quickness of climate change. It seems like it went from sweating hot to four layer cold in about a day. Literally a day. We have a bit of a reprieve now, but we are in for an upwind slog for a couple days before we can get to some quick reaching to take us to the first ice gate. From there on it is anyone's guess.

Volvo Ocean Race

Audi Etchells Worlds: Sizing Up the Competition

Etchells racing at a previous World Championships. Image copyright Andrea Francolini/Audi.

by Di Pearson

As entries reach a crescendo and skippers name their crews, the Audi Etchells Worlds is guaranteed to be a pot-boiler when the first race of the nine-race series, to be conducted by Royal Brighton Yacht Club in Victoria, gets underway on Port Phillip in six day’s time.

Such is the talent in the fleet, that even the top skippers cannot agree on who could finish in the top five by the end of the event. The names that come up with regularity though, are John Bertrand and Jud Smith; two crews with targets on their backs.

One of Melbourne’s top skippers Mark Bulka confidently names three he thinks will finish top five: “Jud Smith (AUS), because he’s always there, Chris Busch (USA) because anybody who takes the trouble to bring their own boat so far has to have something special – and he’s a very good all-rounder.

His top pick, like all others, is the John Bertrand crew. “John’s ticked all the boxes. He’s got Ben Ainslie (British four-time Olympic medallist) and Dog (Andrew Palfrey, an Olympian and coach of note), a new boat from Ontario and his speed is good; he’s going faster all the time.”

“They have Victor Kovalenko (who’s coached four Australian teams to Olympic gold medals in recent years) coaching them and they won the recent Nationals,” Bulka continues.

Queensland representative Mark Bradford is another name that often crops up. The North Sails Brisbane proprietor is very serious about winning, one of the traits that landed him a job in the afterguard of the America’s Cup Oracle team.

Bradford’s crew are long-time Etchells partner Michael O’Brien and Peter ‘Billy’ Merrington, who has just come off winning the Louis Vuitton Pacific Series with Emirates Team New Zealand. “If you’re going to win the Worlds, you have to have the best crew you can,” the Queenslander says.”

“We’ve just got a new rig from John Denton at Whalespar and we’re getting new sails to go with it,” says Bradford who will sail with an older hull that he considers “very reliable.”

Bradford and his crew, like a lot of the Australian fleet, have been going to Melbourne regularly to train, and tune boat and the rig. “That’s what you have to do if you want to win and you have to be on the pace every day in this all-star cast.”

Apart from the obvious choices of Bertrand and Smith, Bradford adds 2001 and 2002 Worlds winner Stuart Childerley to his top five, but says there are so many others that can’t be discounted, including his fellow America’s Cup crew, Noel ‘Nitro’ Drennan and his crew of Steve Jarvin and Will McCarthy have a solid chance of being in the mix.

Drennan finished third at the 1997 Worlds. Jarvin is a big boat sailor and has also had the benefit of sailing Etchells with Mr America’s Cup, Dennis Conner, while McCarthy crewed on America’s Cup winner Alinghi and has raced Etchells for years.

Bradford also cites Melbourne’s Mark Bulka as a good chance. Bulka, though, admits he is struggling with pace in heavier winds, normally his strong point: “We’re actually going better in light winds, but we’ve just re-cut a sail and hopefully that will make the difference,” he says. James Rysenbeek, a relative newcomer to Etchells, and Steve Young will crew for Bulka.

Former 18ft skiff world champion Rob Brown from Sydney is another name being bandied around as a possible winner. His response: “We’re (he, Garry Gudmunson and Bruce Wookey) the best prepared we’ve ever been and consider ourselves top ten finishers – a top five would be fantastic. We are the most relaxed we’ve ever been.”

Brown and his crew have been together five years and in that time have won a National title, the NSW Championship and finished second at the latest Victorian Championship. Although they were seventh at the 2009 National Championship, Brown points out they were only five points behind the third place getter.

“This is a quality fleet, so anyone in a top 15 position towards the end of the regatta could win it. The finishes will be close and so will the scoreboard,” states Brown who like many others has spent countless weekends in Melbourne training and racing with the Royal Brighton YC fleet and other Worlds contenders.

Last weekend, crew Brown contested the Entire Etchells Regatta at Brighton. He says the conditions were light with massive wind shifts. While some got it right, others, like his crew, did not always pick the shifts. “We have to expect those conditions at the Worlds and we’ll have to be good every day to win – starts are important.

“It’s pretty exciting stuff; we’re really looking forward to the Audi Etchells Worlds,” he says.

Brown paid tribute to the organisers and race officers for the Worlds who have been running Etchells regattas in Melbourne in preparation for the Worlds: “They have been doing a fantastic job, so I know the event will be a success.”

Although they are one of the fancied favourites, Jud Smith and his crew Mark Johnson and Nik Burfoot know what they are up against.

Smith, an American who runs the Doyle One-Design program in the USA, but qualified for Australia for this event, says: "Royal Brighton is a great venue, and by the look of it, we could get all conditions on the one day!

“It's going to be a tough regatta with such a fantastic fleet. The Melbourne locals must be favourites. It would be impossible to go past John Bertrand and his team as the boat to beat, particularly with their recent form.

“And Mark Bradford, he finished fifth at the Audi Worlds in Perth with a hastily prepared campaign. He's gone back to an ‘old’ boat and will be beautifully prepared.”

“The Audi Etchells Worlds fleet is an incredible one. The depth, particularly with so many America’s Cup professionals at a loose end, is extraordinary,” says Smith’s Sydney crew and co-boat owner, Johnson, who is impressed by a Kiwi crew skippered by Alastair Gair.

“They just missed out in Perth and will be formidable. Then you’ve got Rupert Henry’s entry from Sydney. His crew has three Olympics and an America’s Cup winner,” he says, referring to triple Olympian Anthony ‘Nocka’ Nossiter and bowman Chris Ward, a mainsheet grinder for Emirates Team NZ.

Australian competitors should be prominent. They have had the advantage of being able to flit off to Melbourne to race the local fleet and put in some hard practice on Port Phillip, a tough sailing ground. However, every competitor has been training and racing hard, either in Melbourne, or at their home venues.

The Worlds Invitation Race, scheduled for Sunday March 8, should give some indication as to who is hot and who is not.

A number of equations come into winning the Worlds. Hulls will play a part. Some are sailing new boats from Australia and Canada, while others have stuck with their older hulls.

While the Etchells is a one-design class, some hulls weigh heavier than others, so weather conditions will dictate performance to some degree. Light winds are the norm in late February and March, but those conditions have not materialised, so anything could happen on the windward/leeward race course each day.

Sails and their cut will also be a deciding factor, along with crew choice, the right tuning of the boat and rig and most importantly, getting it right each day on the race course. There is no room for error in this fleet.

Mark Bradford got it right when he said: “We can talk it up all we like, but we won’t know the answer (as to the winner) until the end of the Championship.”

The Audi Etchells Worlds, to be held from 5-14 March, with Race 1 scheduled for Monday March 9, is organised by the Melbourne Etchells Fleet in conjunction with the Royal Brighton Yacht Club.

Audi Etchells Worlds 2009

Thursday 5 March 2009

VOR: ERICSSON 3 LEG FIVE DAY 19 QFB: received 24.03.09 15:25 GMT

A day of destruction

Magnus Woxen changing sails on board Ericsson 3. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Gustav Morin

We are very happy with being second to the scoring gate. It was a hard fight against Puma. We were both pushing our boats beyond the limits, reaching in average 25 knots of heavy air and difficult sea state. Even though it was broad daylight it was tricky to see anything. It was a bit of a wet roller-coaster ride and a huge contrast to the kind of sailing we have seen for the past few days with flat water, sunny sky and average of 10 knots of wind. Now the boat is rocking and slamming like crazy again and you have to do some bailing every second hour. And it's not shorts and t-shirt temperatures anymore. In just around 30 hours we have changed mode to wearing warm thermals, fleece and full on wet weather gear.

"Someone said to me that this is a down wind race. I don't really agree". Thomas Johanson said today, coming down from a bumpy watch.

I don't really agree either. So far the only memorable downwind we have had was from the start in Alicante and the days close to the Southern Ocean on leg 2, before turning to port and starting reaching up to India.

Anyway, it has been pretty rough the last 30 hours and we are a bit bruised and battered. More than one has sore ribs from being washed around in the cockpit and we have had some other misfortunes as well.

I started yesterday evening when I slipped in the media station area and taking my laptop with me. It did not come out of that situation without injury like me. It fell to the floor and the screen broke. I guess I should be happy that it has been working for this long, but still I was a bit upset and went to sleep to put an end to my anger.

At the same time we were pushing hard towards the scoring gate. Once we were there, we tacked. Everything was a bit of a mess.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: GREEN DRAGON LEG FIVE DAY 19 QFB: received 24.03.09 15:18 GMT

by Ian Walker (skipper)

Anybody watching the fleet on the internet would be used to seeing all the coloured dots (boats) moving along a pretty similar path. Every now and then a boat may take a slight risk and go away from the others but normally the only boats that separate are those that lag behind and may have different weather or those that feel they need to gamble to get back in the race. All of a sudden after the scoring gate at 36 South on leg 5 the fleet has scattered, so what is going on?

What we are dealing with is very changeable weather as a new low pressure forms and breaks up the long standing high pressure that you historically route around to the South. This coupled with the ice gate being very far North makes it very unclear what should be the fastest route to take.

For three days we have been running or reaching South in the traditional way whilst talking about going East and 'cutting the corner' to the Ice Gate which is ESE from us. For the last 36 hours the computer has given this Easterly route the edge over one to the South - but only just and not without considerable risk of getting caught up in the light winds of the high pressure. Much as we would love to try something different we didn't want to go against all the historical routes to the South and nor did we really want to beat upwind in 30 knots for two days.

Well three hours ago that all changed when the latest weather gave even more credibility to the 'Easterly route' and the Southerly route suddenly looked the more risky. I suspect there have been a lot of skippers and navigators scratching their heads. Wouter and I have been agonising over this for days and we needed no more persuasion to turn left and head directly upwind for the ice gate. E3 had the guts to make this call earliest and may have stolen a march on the fleet - well done to them if it works out. I have to say the crew have taken the change of plan well considering they no longer have a week of downwind sailing to look forward to - at least it should stay warmer in the North.

The fleet is now well and truly scattered and with a lot of uncertainty in the weather it can only be good news for the Dragon. There will be no Southern Ocean for a while and there will be lots more upwind sailing, which we don't like but there should be some big opportunities ahead. Each six hourly weather forecast will be awaited with even more anxiety than normal.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: TELEFONICA BLUE LEG FIVE DAY 19 QFB: received 24.03.09 10:00 GMT

Average Wind Speed over 40Kn, gusts of up to 50Kn apparent, True Wind Speed 30-32Kn. The only protection is the helmet. Image copyright Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Bouwe Bekking (skipper)

It has been another very tough day in the office, with some very, very wet sailing conditions on deck. Did we have fun? Not really, the survival kit has come out, as it seems the only way to keep some dry clothes underneath, and most of the guys have swapped to their boots. Also the water temperature has dropped nearly 7 degrees. The good news with that is, we have a nicer environment downstairs, not sweaty at all anymore.

So we beat the odds to actually pass one team to the scoring waypoint, I had never expected that. But it showed again today that when close reaching, we seem to be slippery. So now we are on our way into the southern ocean, which looks to be a very tricky affair. One boat has taken the option for a northerly route. If that route wins them the leg, they will write history, as up to now in all the legs down south, the south has won.

Ok, keeping it short, it is too bouncy to type. Might go up and take a fresh shower, with the rest of the guys.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Ericsson Racing Team First and Second at Leg 5 Scoring Gate

Ericsson 4 escaping rain clouds, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Guy Salter/Ericsson 4/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Victoria Low

Ericsson Racing Team's yachts in the Volvo Ocean Race were first and second past the first scoring gate of Leg 5.

Ericsson 4, skippered by Brazil's five-time Olympic medalist Torben Grael, collected the maximum 4 points available when it led the fleet across latitude 36 South at 00:21:09 GMT. The overall fleet leader, Ericsson 4 now has 53 total points.

Ericsson 3, led by Swedish skipper Magnus Olsson competing in his sixth circumnavigation race, scored 3.5 points when it followed 32 minutes later. For Ericsson 3 the achievement was deeply satisfying considering the Nordic crew started the leg seven hours late after a two-week layover in Taiwan for repairs.

Not content to rest on their laurel, Ericsson 3 further intrigued race followers with an immediate tack to the north after clearing the scoring line. The bold decision from navigator Aksel Magdahl caused a stir across the fleet, including sistership Ericsson 4.

"That option has been around a lot of the way down here; we discounted it and went for the points," said Ericsson 4 navigator Jules Salter. "Every weather model is showing different things, but [Ericsson 3's option] does look like the favored route and looks like it might be the quickest way to Cape Horn, so they are in very good shape. Having said that there might be some other reasons why that might not work and the more traditional strategy of heading south might work better."

For Ericsson 4, the achievement is a nod to the crew's consistency. The race to the scoring gate has seen unbelievably close racing among the top three, which included Puma of the U.S. In the past two days each boat has taken a turn in the lead.

"We managed to cross the first scoring gate in first earlier on today so the boys had something to smile about for a second, as the conditions were, to put it nicely, crap," said Ericsson 4 watch captain Brad Jackson. "It was an extremely wet angle to the mixed up waves, which turned being on deck miserable and below deck we were unable to sleep. But now things have moderated and settled down so we can get back in the rhythm of the days."

The frequency of the position reports, every three hours, has forced this 10th edition of the Volvo Ocean Race into a boat-for-boat struggle, rather than boat-versus-weather system as has been the case in past races.

"The boat-to-boat tactics which result from the three hourly position reports tends to keep the boats from getting separated," said team meteorologist Chris Bedford. "No one wants to give up a place in the interest of better routing."

Although the scoring gate is cleared, more than 7,000 nautical miles remain to the finish in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The majority of those miles will be sailed in the strong westerly winds of the Southern Ocean, featuring big waves and the threat of icebergs.

On the course ahead are two ice waypoints that must be left to starboard, the first at 47S between longitude 155 West and 140 West and the second at 45S between longitude 120W and 105W.

After the second ice waypoint the fleet must round Cape Horn, which is the second scoring gate on the leg. From Cape Horn it's about a 2,200-nautical mile jaunt to the finish in Rio.

"Now the hard part starts," said Bedford. "They have some very tough days ahead. On the numbers the leg is about half over. But physically, I'd say it's only about one-third complete."

(Mar. 4, 2009, 1302 GMT)
1. Puma, 6,941 nautical miles to the finish
2. Ericsson 4, +15 NM
3. Ericsson 3, +45 NM
4. Green Dragon, +58 NM
5. Telefónica Blue, +63 NM

Ericsson Racing Team
Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: ERICSSON 4 LEG FIVE DAY 19 QFB: received 24.03.09 09:55 GMT

Brad Jackson escaping rain clouds, onboard Ericsson 4, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Guy Salter/Ericsson 4/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Brad Jackson (watch captain)

Day 18 or 19 on Ericsson 4, not quite sure which day as it's not really important until we are getting close to Rio. We managed to cross the first scoring gate in first earlier on today so the boys had something to smile about for a second as the conditions were, to put it nicely, crap.

It was an extremely wet angle to the mixed up waves, which turned being on deck miserable and below deck we were unable to sleep. But now things have moderated and settled down so we can get back in the rhythm of the days. Congrats to Ericsson 3 for there 2nd to the scoring gate which has been a great effort and nice of them to position themselves between us and our opposition. After having fought their way back into contention they have headed off on a northern route to the ice waypoint by themselves so it will be interesting to see how they get on.

Another milestone today is passing by NZ which has had a few of us on here looking out to the west and thinking about being back home, which for most of us Kiwi's has been years, seems cruel to make us sail past so close and not be able to call in as in previous races.

Not sure how my bet in the sweepstake to Cape Horn is looking. I was so confident a week ago or when ever we made the call but things have been slow up until now, we will have to see how we go.

I'm off to bed as we head south at a fast bouncy rate to meet up with the Southern Ocean.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: PUMA LEG FIVE DAY 19 QFB: received 24.03.09 09:00 GMT

Checking sails ready for the Southern Ocean, onboard PUMA Ocean Racing, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Rick Deppe

It's been a tough day all around on ll Mostro. Ericsson 3, Ericsson 4 and ourselves locked horns about two days ago in a 3 way battle to get to the scoring gate off New Zealand. We were in the lead on paper coming out of Fiji but Ericsson 4 got into better breeze in the east and took over temporarily, then as the boats started to converge it was our turn again as we regained the lead from them while they played the clouds and we sailed straight. Sadly, in the end it was not to be and they beat us to the gate by about 5 miles with Ericsson 3 sneaking into 2nd 2 miles ahead of us. On top of this the conditions last night and today have been nothing short of horrible, blast reaching in 25 to 30 knots is the most uncomfortable angle on these boats - wet, REALLY WET, and bouncy, violently can't stand up bouncy!!!

When you sign up for this Race you do it in the full knowledge that it's not a cruise and there will be some tough going along the way. I just don't remember it being like this when I did the race in 97/98. Of course I was much younger and stupider then but I was doing bow, and while it certainly wasn't easy I can't recall getting slammed over and over again by the weather, which once again seems to be setting itself up for a period of non-compliance.

Upon leaving New Zealand and heading towards Cape Horn you are not supposed to be beating which is what we are doing as I write. Beating seems to be all we've done in this bloody race so far... no I take that back - Leg 1 was OK. Either way, beating right now is not supposed to be part of the plan. Ken (Ken Read) and Capey (Andrew Cape) have been huddled in the Nav Station all day trying to figure out whether or not we should pass through the scoring gate and keep heading south or unbelievably as one computer model suggested that we pass through the scoring gate and turn immediately around and head back in the direction we came from! Looking back upwind from the stern of the boat (just an ex-bowmans opinion) I hope we don't do that.

Last night the J2 jib got itself a bit snarled up during a change, so Ken (when not scratching his head in the Nav Station) and Justin (Justin Ferris) have been battling to fix that all afternoon, not an easy job under the circumstances as the boat bounces along. The 3DL material used in our sails is fantastic but once broken, it can be very tricky to repair. The only place they can spread out is the main saloon but this is where everyone has to dress and undress as they come on and off watch, it's not ideal and I can see the frustration on everyone's face.

Volvo Ocean Race

Wednesday 4 March 2009

VOR: PUMA LEG FIVE DAY 18 QFB: received 03.03.09 1612 GMT

'The sky at night' onboard PUMA Ocean Racing, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Kenny Read (skipper)

I know I am sounding like a broken record, but the closeness of the racing out here is just phenomenal. We snuck by Ericsson 4 yesterday afternoon and they dogged us overnight gaining slightly as we sailed into lighter winds. It has been the nature of this leg so far for the leader to not have the chance to stretch, and so it went last night and this morning.

And as we went toe to toe with Ericsson 4, their other half – Ericsson 3 snuck up over the horizon and decided to play the game with us as well, so well that they blew right by the two of us as we sat in a hole.

The ridge that we had to get through proved to be our nemesis. We positioned ourselves to leeward of the two Ericssons, planning on getting headed throughout the day. And sure enough we did. Problem was, as both Ericsson 3 and us were headed, Ericsson 4 got on the other side of a cloud and literally sailed away over the horizon. Brutally frustrating for a team who has worked so hard.

So we shook it off and now are in a drag race with Ericsson 3 to the gate, with Ericsson 4 about seven miles in front. Breeze has filled and we pretty much went through our inventory today switching from the largest to now the smallest headsail we have as we went from four knots of wind at one stage to now 26 knots and climbing. Tight reaching, but at least putting some good miles under us.

Next issue is the dreaded scoring gate, a line of latitude. This line of latitude has forced the boats low toward New Zealand and taken about 300-400 miles from our trip towards Cape Horn and put us in a situation where we will most likely pass the line then turn and go hard on the wind to get away from New Zealand. Now, anyone could cut the corner and head toward the ice gate now, but nobody seems to want to give up the points. When Capey (Andrew Cape – navigator) told me about the 400 miles we will lose going to the scoring gate - I have to admit it was tempting, but we need the points and a extra half point may prove valuable in the end.

Our jaunt down the Pacific has pretty much come to a screeching halt as the fans have been turned on, the fire hose unscrewed and the temperature rapidly turned down. Back to fast wet sailing and chewing up the miles at least for the time being. Now I have to figure out a way to keep the Kiwis on board as we brush by their beautiful island.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: GREEN DRAGON LEG FIVE DAY 18 QFB: received 03.03.09 1256 GMT

"There is a twist in the bag!"

by Wouter Verbraak (navigator)

Pitch black, waves crashing over the bow, with five guys we are fighting the angry flapping jib on the bow. It is blowing 22 knots and we just made a very costly little mistake. What normally already is a rather tricky manoeuvre has now turned bad. The jib bag is inside out and we will have to redo it. The jib is already more than 80 per cent unhooked from the forestay, and it takes one bad wave for the whole sail to get washed into the ocean. It is a clear message that the champagne sailing of the last week is over. We have entered the South Pacific.

I have a quick check of my harness and safety line. Clipped on? You bet! It is in jib changes that people get washed over the side. We are always trying to minimise the time in the ‘dead zone’ on the bow, and now we are stuck. Not good.

We sort the bag out and wrestle the jib, which is now filled with hundreds of litres of water, back onto the stack at the back of the boat. No time to take a breath, as we are straight into the hoist of the new one.

"Change, overdrive second, three two, one, on the lock. Sheet in, first, double change, three, two one, ok all good. Nice work lads!" Almost halfway around the world, and these changes are now second nature, even for a navigator!

A few minutes later whilst catching my breath and having a drink, I have a smile on my face. The teamwork on the Green Dragon is great. We just pulled off another good change and recovered from the small mistake well. Every job we do on this boat requires at least two to three people. We are a hundred per cent dependent on each other. Not just for getting the job done, but also with keeping it safe.

The realty check of this evening is a harsh reminder for me of what lies ahead for the next two weeks. It will be all about keeping the boat and the crew together, and I have to think for a moment of our good friend Hans Horrevoets whose tragic loss at sea is a bleak reminder to us all of how easy things can take a turn for the worse.

Every time when we are out there in the dead zone, I am happy to see that everybody is taking safety seriously and clips on. As Guillermo (Guillermo Altadill/ESP) says: "clip on mate, the lifejacket only means that you will be dead floating. Stay on the boat." At the speeds these Volvo 70s are doing it will be impossible to get back in time. A harsh reality we all have in the back of our mind.

Kristine, my love, I know you are worried, but know this: I am sailing with a great team of the best sailors in the world. No heroes here, just fathers, husbands and sons looking out for each other whilst racing their hearts out. Sleep well.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: ERICSSON 4 LEG FIVE DAY 18 QFB: received 03.03.09 1047 GMT

Fiji, as seen from onboard Ericsson 4, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Guy Salter/Ericsson 4/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Guy Salter

Do the words:

Port tack
Cold weather

Ring any bells? They do for us!

The temperature has dropped a fair amount today and one by one the kit bags have been emptying a fair amount as the first layer of thermals is put on.

We started the day within a mile or so of Puma and Ericsson 3 but as the convergence zone came then so did the rain and the clouds and the endless moments of being becalmed as we sat under clouds and lost sight of our competitors as we all focus on the scoring gate to our south.

It was also a tough moment for our Kiwis onboard who would have loved to have stopped off at home for a few days. This maybe a chance for Volvo to call us all in to NZ for a couple of days – I’m sure it would be extremely welcome around the fleet and may limit the amount of men in white coats required when we all eventually arrive in Rio! - Not even half way yet!!!

So the big clouds became less frequent, not sure if these clouds were part of the long white one famous in this region, and we are now getting used to going upwind on port once more. The sea is starting to get choppy and we are starting to slam a little - but most of this is probably us getting used to the motion once more after the calm waters of the last week.

It’s going to be nice to reach the scoring gate as psychologically this is the first hurdle and the others (ice waypoints and Cape Horn) should come frequently after that.

I’m definitely worried about my guess at the Cape Horn arrival time in our onboard sweepstake - think I may have gone a little early - but who knows, as when these boats get going it’s just a matter of head down and hang on as the miles dissipate.
At least with the first signs of the deteriorating conditions we know that the left turn and the east heading isn’t too far away - which means the finish, the families and freedom are just around the corner.

Volvo Ocean Race

Mirsky Racing Team Prepare for World Match Racing Tour Start in Marseille

Match racing off Marseille. Supplied image.

by Kinley Fowler

The stage is set for a vicious battle on this year’s World Match Racing Tour as a number of heavyweights in the sailing world have been given the chance to compete for the championship- including Alinghi skipper and America’s Cup champion Ed Baird, 3 time gold medallist Ben Ainslie, and 2 times defending World Champion Ian Williams, along with a number of America’s Cup teams and young up and comers.

It all kicks off next week in Marseilles as the Tour’s newest event gives 12 teams a chance to get some early points in the fight for the world title. With 5 months intense physical preparation in the lead up to the 2009 season and a good record in the event’s J80 boats, MRT looks to be in good shape to perform. The team will be travelling to France for some final training with defending champion Ian Williams and Alinghi’s Ed Baird in the J80’s. “It is exciting for us to be competing together again” said Torvar as the dates for the Marseilles International Match Race close in. “We feel like we have had a good lead up to the event with two physios working closely with our team and getting us in good shape for this year’s Tour. We have never felt better!”

Mirsky Racing Team
World Match Racing Tour