Saturday 21 March 2009

VOR: Ericsson Racing Team Hones in on Finish of Leg 5

Magnus Olsson shows his happiness at closing in on the finish on board Ericsson 3. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson Racing Team.

by Victoria Low

Ericsson Racing Team holds first and second on the water as the Volvo Ocean Race fleet hones in on the Leg 5 finish in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

At today's 1317 GMT position report, Magnus Olsson's Nordic crew aboard Ericsson 3 led Torben Grael's International crew aboard Ericsson 4 by 87 nautical miles, and had 1,207 miles to the finish of this epic leg that began Feb. 14 in Qingdao, China.

Ericsson 3 was about 600 miles southeast of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and eyeing a finish on Tuesday evening. Ericsson 4 was predicted to finish early Wednesday morning.

"At present we are running on port in a very sloppy and mixed up seaway in 14 knots of wind, and we are anticipating a jibe onto starboard with the weather predicting and relatively fast starboard tack into Rio," said Ericsson 4 media crewman Guy Salter.

Ericsson 3 has padded its lead slightly in the past 24 hours. Yesterday it stood at 50 miles. Ericsson Racing Team meteorologist Chris Bedford says that's likely because Ericsson 4 has been slowed a bit more by a high-pressure zone that's bubbling off the Argentinean coast.

Bedford also says that the course for Ericsson 3 looks uncomplicated, except for a ridge of high pressure that could slow the pace on Sunday.

"The ridge marks the change from mid-latitude to sub-tropical weather and from westerly winds to easterly winds. They'll cross that later tomorrow or early Sunday," said Bedford. "The ridge has the potential to be large. It looks narrower on this morning's forecast than yesterday's, but still has the potential for a 6- to 12-hour slow period."

When the Volvo Ocean Race schedule was released it listed today as the estimated arrival in Rio. Instead, on Day 35 of the 12,300-nautical mile leg, both crews are reporting a high level of exhaustion and the boats are showing the strains of having sailed the Pacific Ocean, Southern Ocean and now Atlantic Ocean.

Ericsson 4 in the past week has ripped the steering sheaves off the hull and also had a leak in the keel hydraulics manifold. Ericsson 3 has been at sea longer, owing to it completing Leg 4 before beginning Leg 5, and is showing strain.

"The boat is really bruised and battered after this wrecker of a leg," said Gustav Morin, Ericsson 3 media crewman. "The boats are not the only part being exhausted. The crew is, if possible, in even bigger need of some rest. I believe all the crews are crying for some time to relax. Not the least us on Ericsson 3 who haven't had any time of since Singapore."

(Mar. 20, 2009, 1317 GMT)
1. Ericsson 3, 1,207 nautical miles to finish
2. Ericsson 4, +87 NM
3. Puma, +193 NM
4. Green Dragon, +272 NM
5. Telefónica Blue, +738 NM

Ericsson Racing Team
Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: ERICSSON 3 LEG FIVE DAY 35 QFB: received 20.03.09 1445 GMT

Ericsson 3 holding on to their lead with 1,500 miles to go, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Gustav Morin

A rough night

If someone thought the tough days were over, they were wrong. Yesterday evening and the entire night has been a fight. Boat-breaking conditions, for sure.

Hard reaching with a really nasty sea state and a never ending slamming and bashing. I was bumping around in my bunk and one time I slid out of it and woke up to a déjà vu experience. We were taking on water.

We have a fitting on deck which has been leaking since the start. We never had time to fix it properly before we left Taiwan. It is nothing serious; we just have to bail out a couple of buckets a couple of times from the bow every day. But tonight we suddenly had a couple of hundred litres in there. Déjà vu...

The fitting had come off and the water was pouring in. But Jens Dolmer and Anders Dahlsjö managed to fix it. We got the water out and everything was back to normal again.

Everyone is pretty used to this kind of weather now. It is not very nice and whatever you do, it takes a lot of energy. We are all a bit afraid that the boat is going to break, that would really feel bad, not the least now when we are in the lead. When we started to leak on leg four, we were in a pretty solid second place and it was not a nice feeling to being forced to miss out on those points. If we again would lose a nice position due to the boat breaking I would have a personal breakdown I think.

I now know how much it takes to fix the boat and come back as a crew and perform on the sea again after an incident like we had. I am very proud to be a part of this crew having achieved what we have since Taiwan.

Back to the rough last night:
Since the breakdown, everyone is a bit worried when we hit bad conditions with a lot of slamming. But we all put a lot of trust in Jens, our boat captain, and if he is happy, we are usually happy. Yesterday he stayed up during the night looking after the boat. He spent most of his time in the nav desk checking the numbers, being the performance police, while Aksel Magdahl was sleeping. But, at the same time, he is listening and instantly reacting to noises he has not heard before and making the call when the guys should take the foot off the pedal.

‘If I think we are pushing to hard I let the keel down a couple of degrees to make the boat go slower’.

There are a lot of noisy bangs and slams going on, but you get familiar with the sound and you can filter out if something is not as it should be. Jens looked calm almost all the time during the night and that means everyone else was calm as well.

We have made big gains the last 24 hours, but it is far from a straight highway to the finish. There are still many things that can go wrong and the next thing to worry about is a high pressure that we will soon reach. And now it looks like it will be very light when we get closer to Rio, which also gives the others an opportunity to catch up...

This morning we had a nice visit that made us think of something else for a second. The Norwegian squad with Eivind Melleby and Arve Roaas were happy with seeing a new face onboard. It was a very small swordfish and it did Arve a big favour by doing some cleaning between his teeth.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: TELEFÓNICA BLUE LEG FIVE DAY 35 QFB: received 20.03.09 1026 GMT

Telefonica Blue feeling the full force of the Southern Ocean when they approached Cape horn, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Bouwe Bekking (skipper)

Finally yesterday late afternoon we got moving again in the right direction, as it took a long time before the breeze started filling in. It is amazing so much influence a landmass has on the wind. Sixty miles further south of us it was blowing a full gale, a tough one to answer when asked what I would have preferred.

We ended up going east of Staten Island, as we otherwise wouldn’t have made good progress with our J4 jib. Now we are going west of the Falkland Islands as we don’t want to get trapped by the building high pressure in front of us. These highs are moving from west to east, and since we can’t make it in front of it, this is the only choice we have. This means as well sailing very tight angles and later during the day we will be going upwind again. But tonight is just beautiful, a clear night, not a single cloud to spot: still a bit nippy, but who cares? We are going north.

We had, though, a slow down period, after a so-called checkstay had stripped completely off the mast. This is a stay which roughly attaches in the middle of the mast, and with that we can control the bend of the mast. We were fully aware that this could happen, as we had damaged it when we broke the forestay. It was a good thing that we had set up a temporary stay already from day one, just in case this would happen.

David (David Vera) had to go up in the rig, remember night time and waves of around 2-3 meters high, to take the checkstay down and of course to check if there was any further damage. It all looks good, but we are going to do another one as soon the sun comes up. We are taking these kinds of setbacks with a ‘smile’ on our face, nothing what we can’t face and we will tackle it and move on.

Gabry (Gabriel Olivo – MCM) had a full-on day, from 0230 yesterday until late this evening, not only taking all the footage when we rounded the Horn, but making sure as well to get all the videos and pictures off the boat. He has been sitting for hours behind his laptop editing every single item to make sure it was perfect before sending it off. He got his well deserved bonus, even that he will only realize tomorrow morning. We didn’t wake him up for covering the mast ascent. The boy needed some well deserved sleep!!

Volvo Ocean Race

Friday 20 March 2009

VOR: ERICSSON 3 LEG FIVE DAY 34 QFB: received 19.03.09 1955 GMT

by Gustav Morin

Not over until it's over

On deck it is a wonderful day with sunshine, calm seas and around 16 knots of wind. The boat is dry and nice and the temperature is steadily increasing. We are still going upwind and the four guys on deck are trimming and trimming to keep the boat up to speed. But even down below there is a lot going on.

We are in somewhat of a peak, with people beside me and Aksel (Aksel Magdahl) using the computers. It is not for writing emails to beloved family members or anything else private. No, it's about preparing the boat for the in-port race and to get it ready for the next leg. We are sending work-lists to the shore team.

‘Hey guys, it is a bit early for that isn't it?’", Arve Roaas commented. Well, yeah, in one way. We still have to concentrate 100 per cent to keep our position and make it to Rio, preferably in the first position that we are in. And I can assure you, everyone is working their thumbs and nails off for that. It would be a huge win for us to win this leg after all we been through with fixing the boat in Taiwan, sailing it shorthanded to China, starting seven hours after the others, and first around the Horn.

But the race is not over in Rio and the work-list-writing for sure needs to be done.

This race is not like it used to be with several weeks to rest and prepare the boat for the next leg. The time spent on land has really become a race and we have no time to lose. We need to know exactly what to focus on when we hit the shore, so our shore team can get going.

The boat is really bruised and battered after this wrecker of a leg and it needs to be taken care of, quickly. With the routing we are going for now, we expect to land in Rio on the 24th, which gives us nine days until the in port-race. It is a bit crazy.

The boats are not the only part being exhausted. The crew are, if possible, in even bigger need of some rest.

I believe all the crews are crying for some time to relax. Not the least us on Ericsson 3 who haven't had any time of since Singapore. But you just have to keep focused and realise that this race is not over until it's over. In St: Petersburg.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Telefónica Blue Leg Five Day 34 GMT: received 19.03.09 1926 GMT

Telefonica Blue feeling the full force of the Southern Ocean as they approached Cape horn, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Simon Fisher (helmsman)

At last we have made it around Cape Horn! Early this morning we finally made it to the most famous of Cape's and took a little time to celebrate and relax as we left the Pacific and once more returned to the Atlantic Ocean.

We were lucky enough to have a good view of the Horn, having rounded close in, so it was in clear view as we rolled passed and the camera came out! However, the view came at something of a price, as we made the mistake of many a sailor keen to get to fairer weather and a good view - we promptly ran out of wind and have spent much of the morning battling with the lee trough that is just downwind of the cape.

However, a little light airs were not going to dampen our spirits after so many days waiting to round and out came the treats to celebrate our achievement. We all drank some Grappa, prepared by Gabri's father and enjoyed some Cuban Cigars. Lots of photos were taken and, for a brief while, we enjoyed the moment with everyone on deck together.

The celebration all got a bit too much for Tom (Tom Addis – navigator) though. Upon completing his cigar, which he admitted to enjoying immensely, he went a sickly pale colour, then white, then green! After some time of feeling sick his face slowly came back to a yellow colour and his stomach settled down. For a while downstairs was off limits for him as he was worried about throwing up, which made checking the computer something of a challenge. Sadly he didn't receive much sympathy as his entertainment brought much amusement to the rest of the crew! Poor guy!

The crew of Telefónica Black will probably also be pleased to know that David (David Vera) and Mike (Michael Pammenter) got a picture in front of Cape Horn in their Speedos - the only time on this leg that they were allowed to wear them!
We are now back on the road again, we have finally escaped the light airs, or at least I hope so and everyone’s focus is first getting to warmer weather and then finally to Rio. Hopefully not too long to go now...

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: GREEN DRAGON LEG FIVE DAY 34 QFB: received 19.03.09 1652 GMT

Route of the 2008-9 Volvo Ocean Race, copyright Volvo Ocean Race.

by Ian Walker (skipper)

Before my grandfather passed away he gave my mother some handwritten letters written by her grandfather when he was shipwrecked on the Falkland Islands as a boy, probably around 100 years ago.

I keep copies of these letters and from time to time I read about how he had to swim ashore as the ship went down close to shore. Well this morning at first light we had to tack to pass around the northern edge of the Falklands and I found myself dodging the unmarked reefs.

Every mile we had to sail on starboard tack to clear the island was a mile lost to the opposition as we needed to head east. Wouter (Wouter Verbraak) and I checked the chart and found a very tenuous passage inside some islands and through some reefs that would cut 10 miles off our course. Wouter was very confident in the accuracy of the charts ('the British Navy would have surveyed every inch of these islands') and after consulting with Damian (Damian Foxall) and Neal (Neal McDonald) we decided to take it on.

I have to admit the thought of explaining how a second member of the family had become shipwrecked on the Falklands had crossed my mind but, with some short tacks and some weaving, we safely found our way through. Well done Wouter - I never doubted you!

The Falkland Islands look to be a wild and inhospitable place with drizzle, strong winds and grey skies (and this is summer here) but there is a wild attraction to the place, not unlike the west coast of Scotland.

On the race course still we lose miles to the opposition as they sail in a more lifted breeze ahead of us, but I am confident our time will come if we can keep some pressure on. As I write this blog the breeze is finally starting to lift and we should see our speeds rise. Speed now is crucial to get around the high pressure before it spreads across our path and forces us further off course. Onboard conditions slowly improve and everyone is catching up on sleep. It won't be too long now before the first pair of shorts and T shirts come out.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Ocean Science

Mikel Pasabant water testing onboard Telefonica Black, on leg 3 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Cochin, India to Singapore. Image copyright Mikel Pasabant/Telefonica Black/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Riath Al-Samarrai

"Science is simply common sense at its best." Thomas Huxley may have been one of the most renowned biologists of the 19th century, but that particular pearl of wisdom is unlikely to draw approval from the media crewmembers right now.

To that group of would-be scientists there appears to be little common sense in hanging over the stern of a runaway Volvo Open 70 in the name of science. Or in studying the particles in a water sample while their laboratory clatters from wave to wave.

In fact, as Rick Deppe, the PUMA media crewmember (MCM), joked ahead of leg five, "there can't be many harder places to do an experiment than one of these boats".

But, then again, the project the MCMs enlisted for was never meant to be easy. Specifically, the MCMs are working with race partner Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL) to gather information to tackle the issue of invasive marine species.

It is one of the "four major threats to the world's oceans", according to Melanie Moore, WWL's global head of environment, and is caused by the dumping of untreated ballast water by the shipping industry. An estimated three to five tonnes of ballast water is transferred around the world each year, potentially introducing alien species to new ecosystems every time it is discharged untreated.

The effects have already seen in countries visited on the race route, with the Ostrea gigas (oyster) in South Africa destroying habitats and causing eutrophication, while the Gymondinium catenatum algae in China has caused shellfish poisoning. In Cochin, Water Hyacinth had taken over the water surrounding the race village and yet it is native to the Amazon basin.

But it is the impact of untreated ballast water on the open ocean that is being examined by WWL. According to Moore, "a large percentage" of ballast exchanges take place in the open ocean, areas of the world considered by assumption to host considerably fewer species than coastal waters. However, this experiment has been commissioned to prove that life in the open ocean is not marginal and, therefore, vulnerable to untreated ballast discharges.

The MCMs' role in tackling the problem is to lean over the stern every three days and collect water samples for testing. Upon collection, the samples are examined down below with a luminometer to determine the amount of micro organisms, expressed as biomass, while the air temperature, cloud cover, water temperature and the GPS position of the boat are also logged.

The results are then sent electronically to Stockholm for further examination by scientists at Wallenius Water, a WWL sister company.

Already the results are supporting the hypothesis. "The results we have gathered so far support what we are working to prove, but the conclusions will not be released until after the race. We have so far been very impressed by the ability of the media crew members to provide us with the information. It's not an easy job they are doing," Moore said.

Although the findings will not be announced until after the race, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the marine body of the United Nations, is in the process of getting member nations to ratify a convention which would force countries to ensure that their ships treat their ballast water.

It's all very noble. But at the coalface, life is a little less simple.

"On leg one I was doing the test when a sail broke and was pulled down on top of me," Deppe recalled. "A complete failure and a total mess of scientific equipment mixed up with sail-making paraphernalia."

Gabriele Olivo from Telefonica Blue finds it no easier. He, like Deppe, has carried out the procedure approximately 23 or 24 times in the four legs so far, with each attempt taking between 30 and 45 minutes depending on the weather. They aim to carry out one test for every three days of sailing, which in the repeated fire hose conditions of this leg is not so easy.

"When you're travelling at 30 knots or more it is not an easy thing," Olivo said. "Even at 25 knots it is very difficult, but after a while you handle your equipment better and find some tricks to make the measuring easier, but that requires more time."

Despite the practical difficulties of playing scientist, there is no doubt onboard that the health of marine ecosystems is of paramount importance.

"The actual project is very noble and for me is very important that we do all what is possible in order to improve the regulation of cleaning and emptying tanks on commercial vessels," Olivo said. "I'm very proactive in terms of preservation of the sea, but again I'm not sure the Volvo 70 is the right environment in which to do it."

Deppe added: "I am very interested in the findings. Even in my short sailing career (20 odd years) and my own personal observations, I feel that the oceans have become more polluted. I am interested in commercial fishing especially on a regional level and the effects of overfishing and ecology imbalance are of grave concern to me."

And so for another four months the mobile laboratories will clatter across the world's oceans, fighting not only for a worthy cause but also to keep water in a glass.

It's probably not what any of the media guys envisioned they'd ever be doing in their lives, but, to quote the philosopher John Dewey, "every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination".

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Delta Lloyd and Telefonica Black Undergo Repairs in Rio

Telefonica Black is repaired in the Volvo Ocean Race Rio de Janeiro Race Village, after the boat was shipped across the Pacific for repairs having sustained major structural damage during Leg 4. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

Telefonica Black and Delta Lloyd undergo repairs in the Volvo Ocean Race Rio de Janeiro Race Village, after the boats were shipped across the Pacific having sustained major structural damage during Leg 4. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

Delta Lloyd's new mast is prepared in Rio de Janeiro. Originally intended to be installed in Qingdao the mast was shipped with the boat across the Pacific having sustained major structural damage during Leg 4. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

The boatbuilding team inspect Delta Lloyd's newly fitted bow piece in Rio de Janerio, in preparation for Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

Killian Bushe, leading a team of boatbuilders, inspects Delta Lloyd's new bow section, being installed in Rio de Janeiro in preparation for Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

Delta Lloyd's new bow section, approximately 5 square metres in size, was cut from a new carbon core piece shipped from Italy. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

Boatbuilders work on Delta Lloyd's new bow section in the Volvo Ocean Race Rio de Janeiro Race Village, after the boat was shipped across the Pacific for repairs having sustained major structural damage during Leg 4. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: TELEFÓNICA BLUE LEG FIVE DAY 34 QFB: received 19.03.09 1456 GMT

The toy horse which was given to Xabier Fernandez sits on top of the crews Cape Horn sign. The horse has become a mascot for the crew onboard and will be re-united with Xabier's son when they reach Rio de Janeiro, before they set off with it again on leg 6. Image copyright Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Bouwe Bekking (skipper)

Just went in great style around Cape Horn. Not meaning blasting around, the opposite is true, only four knots of breeze, so it gave us a splendid opportunity to have a real rounding party.

The cigars were out, home brewed grappa was served and each of us got a golden earring. Plenty of time for individual pictures and interviews, with a big sign Cabo de Hornos in front and the Cape on the background.

David Vera and Mike Pammenter were, on this occasion, allowed to pose in their Speedo swim shorts, as that is what they wear on Telefónica Negro when it is warm. But here onboard we have the rule to wear ‘proper’ clothing, so they can pack them away until Rio, where they probably will exchange them for some tangas instead.

This was my seventh rounding, and number four in very little wind, even now I’m not sure what I prefer. The breeze gives you the classic rounding, but in little wind there is more enjoyment and actually the opportunity to live the moment is more intense. Of course this was a way better rounding then last time, when the night before we nearly sank. We talked a fair bit about that experience and still realize how lucky we were at that time. But we talked as well about the old days when the square riggers came around; they must have sometimes been completely handed over to the will of King Neptune and praying for survival when rounding in a gale.

Yesterday we had some big breeze, up to 35 knots and beam reaching, so the fire hose was continuously on and very uncomfortable on deck and downstairs as we were slamming hard. I gave up trying to count the number of slams in minute, as it was nearly every second we bounced off the waves. We had to slow down, and hoisted a small staysail. So today is the complete opposite. Now slowly heading north and every mile we sail it will get warmer, especially good news for some of the Spanish guys, who still and never will get used to colder temperatures.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: ERICSSON 4 LEG FIVE DAY 24 QFB: received 19.03.09 1439 GMT

Tony Mutter helming Ericsson 4 as they pass the Falkland Islands, 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

It’s an interesting concept - time. Or maybe it’s just the fact that we have been out here for so long with little contact with the outside world that we are starting to show the developed signs of insanity?

The routines onboard carry on regardless of time and we are now noticing the fact that we have overtaken the date regarding local time. When we set off on this leg we were firmly in the eastern side of the globe and therefore we would have 'our day' at the start of the world day sequence.

Now we have moved into the western side we should have our day towards the end of the world day. This would normally be taken care of around the 180 degree line - the opposite of the Greenwich mean line - known as the International Date Line.

Onboard Ericsson 4 we didn’t bother with this and as always just kept on UTC time or the correct time for Greenwich (0 degree line). Time for us doesn’t really have the same meaning as ashore. We don’t need to know what time the news is on or if it’s time the dog should go for it’s walk. All we need to know is what time the watches start and what time is meal time - all of which rotate on an eight hr cycle (a meal every eight hrs and an off and on watch every eight hrs).

But we now are really noticing onboard that we have run back into ourselves somewhat with the date. On the yacht we feel that it’s the morning of the 20th March as far as our daylight schedule goes, where as our watches tell us it’s the 19th! Just a little confusing it has to be said (although not as confusing as the babble you have just read no doubt!)

So, the fact of the time being a little out of kilter and the fact that, over the last few days his off watch has either been in the middle of a sail change or that no off watch has existed due to sail changes, has meant Dave Endean has had very little sleep.

So it also doesn’t help Dave that the watch hanging in his bunk and owned by Tony Mutter is firmly in NZ time and on a 12hr setting. What it has basically meant is that for the second time this leg Dave has sprung out of his bunk and got himself prepared in all is thermals and outwear only to find that he is on deck a full hour before he needs to be - he read the watch to say 10am when it was actually 10pm NZ - 13hrs different from our UTC.

This doesn’t sound much, but when you are running a four hrs on and four hrs off schedule, the time off is the most valuable thing ever. In your four hrs off you need to get undressed, eat, get dressed and to do your business if you get my drift, so it doesn’t leave much time for sleep, which at present is probably about two hrs max if you consider the thermal layers to get in and out of. It doesn’t help to spring up an hour earlier as you can’t really just go back to bed, as by the time you have undressed, it’s almost time to get dressed again.

At present we are jib reaching on port (be interesting to see time spent on port for the leg as a percentage as I remember moaning about it some time ago!). The sea is very flat and it is slightly overcast and quite chilly on deck. There seems to be a flurry of emailing and writing as it seems everyone is either typing away furiously or queuing to use one of the boat’s computers. These chances don’t appear too often as the nav area is usually involved in some tactical play or being used to hatch some cunning plan to take over the world.

Ryan Godfrey has been gloating at his winning the sweep stake - he was just under three hrs out - not bad considering we made the bet 6000 miles away from the Horn. He is, however, suggesting a date when we all meet up to help him drink his winnings!

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: GREEN DRAGON LEG FIVE DAY 34 QFB: received 19.03.09 1045 GMT

Celebrating the night-time Cape Horn rounding with a cigar on Green Dragon. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing.

by Wouter Verbraak (navigator)

My second rounding of the Horn and out of luck again. None of the glamorous pictures of a yacht blasting along the green rocks in bright sunshine for us. On the contrary we were hanging on for dear life in 40 knots of wind in a pitch black night. The waves were so bad we even had to drop the fractional spinnaker and went to the smaller blast reacher. Cold, wet, overcast and stormy is a better description of Cape Horn if you ask me.

They say the Horn marks the end of the Southern Ocean. I would like to disagree with that statement and suggest changing it to the Strait of Le Maire. A mere 100 NM around the corner of Cape Horn, this 16 NM wide strait is for me the gateway to the Atlantic. On the one side, grey and overcast skies with storm force winds and squalls, on the other side, sun, clear skies and a gentle NW breeze. The contrast can’t be bigger. A wild scramble for sunglasses, foul weather gear being peeled of, and frozen feet regaining their feeling.

It is here that we finally found a good moment to celebrate the rounding of Cape Horn, the end of the Southern Ocean and the return to our home waters of the Atlantic. Our fantastic shore crew provided us with all the necessary ingredients to mark this special day. Big bellows of smoke signalled the end of our two weeks of wet clothes, cold feet and frozen hands as we lit some big cigars.

A pleasant surprise found its way up from the galley too in the shape of a bottle of Linje Aquavit. Whereas most of the crew threw some inquisitive and curious looks at this unknown bottle, I felt right at home. Living in Norway this traditional drink is no stranger to me as we typically drink it with our Christmas dinner. A very nice gift from race sponsor Wallenius Wilhelmsen Lines indeed, and soon the bottle was shared around us heavily bearded group of smelly men.

So now it is all good news as we are heading north towards Rio de Janeiro. The weather looks to be a right mess, which suits us very well as it will provide us with some snakes and ladders to try and overtake Puma. This marathon is not over until we cross the finishing line, that is for sure.

The 10000 nm behind us have been the warming up for the grand finale which is about to start. The crew is hungry for a podium place and Ian and I have been spending some decent time on trying to second guess the weather models that are spitting out a rather chaotic pattern of small low and high pressure systems. First we will have to deal with the Falkland Islands which are of course right in our way, and then we will slalom north through what the weather Gods are going to throw at us. At least my feet are dry again, so life is looking up. The Southern Ocean has been everything it is meant to be, but we are happy to leave it behind us for a while.

You know those pictures of Volvo 60s running under spinnaker in a beautiful sunny day with the green mountainous Horn in the background? Fake and trick footage if you ask me. A pretty story to keep us motivated through the cold, wet and stormy Southern Ocean.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: ERICSSON 3 LEG FIVE DAY 34 QFB: received 19.03.09 1018 GMT

Media Crew Member Gustav Morin gives the thumbs up as Ericsson 3 leads the fleet up the Atlantic towards Rio. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Aksel Magdahl (navigator)

We had a BIG celebration passing Cape Horn. In 25 knots breeze with the big spinnaker up, we smoked cigars, had a few sips of rum, joked and had more fun than on this leg to date.

It has just been such a tough leg that there has not been time or energy to waste on anything else other than trying to sail the boat at 100 percent in the right direction. But yesterday, all the held-back happiness was released at once when we passed the Horn leading the fleet after having started behind the others due to our ‘hole in the hull’ on the previous leg.

Just after that, we tried to sail through the convergence zone off the southeast Argentinean coast, and parked there for a few hours before we got going again. Very nervous times on deck for Magnus Olsson, who is not exactly of the ‘cold, calm and quiet’ personality type! But as the guys behind parked as well, it was actually quite welcome, we could sleep without bouncing around for the first time in a while.

It is nice to go into the last week of racing with an advantage of 50 miles, but it is not a very comfortable lead because we are sailing through this area of high pressure bubbles. My biggest concern is the high we will have to negotiate in two to three day’s time. It can easily become a parking spot. Then of course the light breeze as we get close to Rio. But already tonight we will have to try to get ahead of another light patch developing between the two highs to our north and south. It looks like we may just manage that.

We just had to back down the boat twice to get rid of kelp hanging on our keel, daggerboard and rudders. It is still quite cold, but from the satellite pictures it looks like we will get into warmer water tomorrow. The cold water is actually helping us north, as it means we are still in the north-flowing current bringing cold water from the south. Jens Dolmer agreed under doubt to give our sleeping bag another day before we tough it out and remove the warm part of it.

Time to eat my second pack of noodles for the day, once again I was last to the food pot and nothing left. Someone must be trying to eat heaps before we go empty.

To everyone sending emails to the team and leaving messages on the web site:
Lots of thanks for all the support in the early stages of this leg, and the greetings in the later stages of the race, we really appreciate it!!

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: TELEFÓNICA BLUE LEG FIVE DAY 34 QFB: received 19.03.09 0047 GMT

Telefonica Blue feeling the full force of the Southern Ocean as they approach Cape horn, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Simon Fisher (helmsman)

With only a few hundred miles to go until the Horn, everyone is getting anxious to round and head back into the Atlantic once more. The steady monitoring of the distance to waypoint has continued at an increased pace and I think now anyone would be able to tell you how far it is to go within about 20 miles! That said, our last few hundred miles of the Pacific are proving to be exciting.

As if to show us how small we really are, the might of the Southern Ocean has whipped up 35 knots for us, more rain, more cold and even a little bit of fog too. Despite the cold and the wind though, I was thinking today how lucky we are that we are able to come down here to a place that few really get to see and experience. It was then pointed out to me that not many people would really want to come and put up with this weather, but I feel both privileged and lucky all the same that I have had the opportunity to sail in the Southern Ocean once more... I have to admit though, I will also be very happy as we turn the corner and start to head north to Rio too!

On board all is well, spirits are pretty high although there was a little drama last night - Mike (Michael Pammenter) was feeling very aggrieved for a while as his chocolate bar had been stolen. After many days at sea these things become something of a treat and was feeling very hard done by that someone had robbed him of it.

Luckily though, it was found later in the snack box on the other side of the boat and Mike, once more full of chocolate was happy again. It was however, fairly entertaining to watch Mike cross examining each person as they came on deck to see if they would admit to eating his chocolate!!

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: PUMA LEG FIVE DAY 34 QFB: received 19.03.09 0025 GMT

PUMA Ocean Racing leave the Southern Ocean behind, 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)

Flat water and a bit less sting to the breeze greeted the fine yacht today as we travel north towards Brazil. Still one dilemma though. What is it with these damn islands always being in the way! Fiji on the other side, which we had to cut through (which seems like a lifetime ago) and now the Falklands. There is a big ocean out here and we are magnets to land.

Life onboard has taken a significant turn for the more liveable, even though we are crawling towards Rio at this point. Our sleigh ride ran out about 100 miles from Cape Horn and since, we have had flat seas and light breezes which have done one thing in a big way: made for some incredibly sound sleeping!! Maybe the deepest sleep I can ever remember having, when Capey (Andrew Cape) woke me to go on deck for a sail change this morning, I had absolutely no idea where I was. Couldn't find any of my gear (which was right in front of me). I guess I could have been hung over from that sip of rum at the Horn. Don't think so.

This is going to be a tricky bit of the race. Each three hour sched is showing huge gains and losses for each of us. Believe me there is a method to the madness, as boats aren't exactly taking three hours off to rest. The spacing of the boats is proving to have just enough room to create your own little weather situation that can be significantly different from the other boats. Kind of a yo-yo effect.
Sometimes you are going down on the string, but nearly always you will come back up as well. Objective is to have more ups than downs. At least for IL Mostro.

We actually had hatches open and a bit of air out today and people are looking and acting like completely different humans. Amazing what it feels like not to be wet 24 hours a day. I don't think any of us are going to miss that for a while. A change of socks and undies was a major highlight for me personally. You see, we are dealing with the little things in life out here. For example one of our snacks was a real granola bar today for the first time in the trip. It tasted so good that my eyes started to well up. Not really, but it was really good.

So, game on from here to the end. We are going to need to get lucky for sure and we will need to know what to do with the luck if it gets thrown in our lap. For sure we help make our own luck but, with that said, opportunity is needed.

You can throw that opportunity our way any time you wish.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: GREEN DRAGON LEG FIVE DAY 33 QFB: received 18.03.09 1808 GMT

Snow accumulates on the deck of Green Dragon. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing.

by Ian Walker (skipper)

Who would have thought at the outset of this project that we would round Cape Horn on St Patrick’s Day? You couldn't have scripted it better.

Amazingly both Justin (Justin Slattery) and Damian (Damian Foxall) have done this before onboard the maxi cat Cheyenne - how freaky is that?

It was not an easy passage this time with 30 - 40 knot westerly gales and a large and disturbed sea state on the continental shelf that bounds the Horn. We took a cautious approach given the conditions, and stood 30 miles offshore to avoid the worst of the waves and to make sure we didn't have to gybe to round the Horn.

We didn't get to see the actual Cape because we were so far away, but had we been closer it was a dark, rainy night so visibility was next to zero. By first light this morning we had sailed the 100 miles to the Straits of Le Maire, a 16 mile wide channel between the mainland Chile and Staten Island (Argentina).

We were blessed with flat water and a fair tide (four knots) to usher us into the Atlantic. Here we celebrated our rounding of the Cape. We toasted our rounding with a bottle of Norwegian Linie Aquavit given to us by Wallenius Wilhelmsen and a Cuban cigar or two - thanks Odd Egil. I had my best sleep of the trip immediately after!

We toasted our rounding and I took time to reflect on all those who had lost their lives trying to round the Cape in years gone by. I also remembered Glyn Charles, a friend and member of our 1996 GB Olympic Sailing Team, who died in the 1998 Sydney Hobart disaster. As a skipper you feel the responsibility for boat and crew at all times and I am a very happy man to have crossed the 4500 miles of open Pacific Ocean and rounded the Horn safely.

The boat and crew are in great shape and able to sail a hundred per cent and push hard in the hope that the weather gives us an opportunity to make a move and get on the podium in Rio. Finishing this leg will be a great achievement for the whole team but it would be far sweeter if we could get on the podium in Rio.

So far we have sailed 10,500 miles in 33 days and we now have 2,000 to go. We are heading north and will soon be feeling the warmth of the sun again. The old hands say it warms up by the Falklands and I am prepared to admit for me that cannot come soon enough.

Volvo Ocean Race

Thursday 19 March 2009

WMRT: Young Guns Come Out Blazing

Minoprio takes early Tour lead with victory in Marseille

Minoprio and Richard come together upwind. Image copyright Gilles Martin-Raget/World Match Racing Tour.

by Dobbs Davis

In having scored their first World Match Racing Tour victory on Sunday at the Marseille International Match Race, Adam Minoprio (NZL) and his Emirates Team New Zealand/BlackMatch Racing team have taken an early lead in the Tour standings over some much more established teams. Their win, along with the 3rd place finish of 22-year old Torvar Mirsky (AUS) and his Mirsky Racing Team, shows that these young teams are a force to be reckoned with for the upcoming 2009 Tour season.

Taking the very talented runner-up Mathieu Richard (FRA) and his French Match Racing Team/Team French Spirit to three matches in the first-to-three point Finals at an event hosted in their native land, Minoprio showed signs of talent and poise under pressure well beyond his 23 years. And while Mirsky could not get past Richard in the Semi-Finals, he did take that series to three hard-fought matches, and then proceeded to dominate another native French team led by Damien Iehl 2-0 in the Petite Finals.

For their efforts, Minoprio won €10000 of the €50000 purse and 25 points on the Tour leader board, while Richard won €8000 and 20 points, and Mirsky €7000 and 15 points.

So with these two young Antipodeans having gotten off to an impressive start to the ten-event 2009 season, they may very well present a formidable obstacle to Richard, fellow Frenchman Sebastian Col and his French Match Racing Team/K-Challenge, and reigning World Champion Ian Williams (GBR) and his Bahrain Team Pindar to once again dominate the podium positions in this year’s Tour standings. Col finished down the pack in 6th in Marseille, his hometown, while Williams finished deep in 8th place.

But ironically there was another surprise in Marseille, but at the other end of the age spectrum: veteran Tour campaigner and reigning America’s Cup champion Ed Baird and his team from Alinghi sailed to the top of the 12-team field in the Round Robin, and went on to finish a respectable 5th in the event. After a several year hiatus to focus on the America’s Cup competitions and training, Baird said “It is great to be on the Tour once again and to get an opportunity to sail against these guys. The game has clearly moved on since I was last on the Tour, so we’re pleased we can come out and learn and still be competitive.”

And speaking of hiatus, there will be a long break in Tour action until 27 May which marks the start of Stage 2 of the 2009 schedule, Match Race Germany held on the beautiful Bavarian shore of Lake Constance in Langenargen. This event will feature several teams holding Tour Cards, including Minoprio, Mirsky, Richard, and Col.

Current World Match Racing Tour Leaderboard (top eight teams after stage one of ten):
1. Adam Minoprio (NZL) Emirates Team New Zealand/BlackMatch Racing, 25
2. Mathieu Richard (FRA) French Match Racing Team/Team French Spirit, 20
3. Torvar Mirsky (AUS) Mirsky Racing Team, 15
4. Damien Iehl (FRA) French Match Racing Team, 12
5. Ed Baird (USA) Alinghi, 10
6. Sebastien Col (FRA) French Match Racing Team/K-Challenge, 8
7. Paolo Cian (ITA) Team Shosholoza, 6
8. Ian Williams (GBR) Bahrain Team Pindar, 4 points

World Match Racing Tour

45th Congressional Cup Preview

Minoprio steps up as a Con Cup favourite

Adam Minoprio stays ahead of Ben Ainslie to secure a place in the Bermuda Gold Cup finals 2008. Image copyright Charles Anderson/World Match Racing Tour.

by Rich Roberts

Just when it seemed there was no more room for talent in the Long Beach Yacht Club's 45th Congressional Cup next week, here comes Adam Minoprio politely elbowing his way into the overcrowded circle of favorites.

While showing due respect for his elders and their rankings, the 23-year-old New Zealander and his BlackMatch Racing crew scored their first victory on the World Match Racing Tour in last week's season opener, the Marseille International Match Race in France.

Along the way the team that also included Kiwis David Swete, Tom Powrie and Dan MacLean defeated double WMRT defending champion Ian Williams of the UK, Ed Baird of Alinghi's America's Cup champions and, in the title finals, No. 3-ranked Mathieu Richard.

"I think that it will only increase our self-belief when going into big matches against well-known sailors like Ben Ainslie and Terry Hutchinson," Minoprio said this week.

Not to mention Richard who, like Baird, is a past Congressional Cup winner, as is Hutchinson, the 2008 U.S. Yachtsman of the Year. Minoprio will meet both next week, along with Ainslie, Great Britain's Olympic triple gold medalist and three-time Rolex World Sailor of the Year.

Ainslie, by the way, lost to Minoprio in last fall's Bermuda Gold Cup, which was won by Sweden's Johnie Berntsson, a former Con Cup runnerup who also will be here . . . plus two of the few to beat Minoprio at Marseille: France's Sébastien Col, currently ranked No. 1, and Philippe Presti, No. 6.

Well, nobody can win 'em all.

Finland's Staffan Lindberg, the U.S.'s Brian Angel from nearby Redondo Beach and Italy's Francesco Bruni---no pushovers themselves---round out the fleet.

Minoprio has been here before as tactician for older brother Simon Minoprio in the 2006 Congressional Cup. They missed reaching the semifinals in a three-way tiebreaker as Gavin Brady---not competing here this year---went on to win the third of his four traditional Crimson Blazers awarded to the winners.

"Yes, it was a close regatta," Minoprio said. "We were a little disappointed to miss out on the semifinals, but we got to do the fleet race and enjoy the local bars."

As usual, the six teams that miss the sailoffs will have their own fleet race on the last day Saturday. The bars are optional.

Minoprio put his team together later that year, and he still treasures the experience which, as ever, was enhanced by the service of more than 300 Long Beach YC volunteers.

"The regatta was fantastic," Minoprio said. "We were looked after really well and everything was organized very professionally."

He also liked the Catalina 37s, which were designed and built by Catalina Yachts for match racing but have also proven versatile as fleet racers chartered by Long Beach Yacht Club Sailing Foundation over nearly two decades.

"The boats are all very equal and are good for match racing," Minoprio said. "They don't handle like dinghies with tight turning circles and acceleration, so you have to really be on top of your match racing tactics, especially in the prestart."

The only downside for Minoprio is that he's blown his cover of relative anonymity and is no longer likely to be regarded lightly. At Marseille, Ed Baird, with the best round-robin record, had the privilege of picking his quarterfinal opponent.

“We did not want to select any French team, as they would be the home favorites," Baird said at the time, "and picking the reigning world champion [Williams] would be stupid, and choosing a guy who won all his races on the first day [Paolo Cian] didn’t seem smart, either. That left the two youngest teams. So, since Torvar [Mirsky] is ranked higher than Adam, we chose Adam.”

And you know how that turned out.

The 10 teams will arrive in Long Beach over the weekend and draw for boats and practice Monday. Double round-robin racing starts Tuesday off Long Beach Memorial Belmont Pier, which will have seating and commentating for spectators. The top four advance to the sailoffs on Saturday.

The total purse is potentially worth $83,500, including prize money through 10 places, the fleet race, six $2,000 Oceanaut watches to the winning crew, plus an Acura TSX or $30,000 to any skipper that can sweep every race before winning overall.

The Congressional Cup has maintained a high level of organization over the years with a volunteer force of some 300 club members and their families. Each crew will be assigned boat hostesses and a housing team to deliver the outstanding local hospitality the Congressional Cup has offered now for 45 years.

The 2009 Congressional Cup is supported by Spinnaker sponsors F&M Bank, Catalina Adventure Tours, the Press Telegram and Oceanaut Watches Luxury Swiss Timepieces; Sail sponsors Union Bank, Newmeyer and Dillion LLP, Port of Long Beach, Gladstone's Long Beach and MCA Logistics; Hospitality sponsor Mount Gay Rum, and Honorary sponsor Catalina Yachts.

The 2009 skippers
(in order of world ranking)

1. Sébastien Col, France
3. Mathieu Richard, France
6. Philippe Presti France
8. Adam Minoprio, New Zealand
9. Johnie Berntsson, Sweden
19. Staffan Lindberg, Finland
53. Ben Ainslie, Great Britain
62. Brian Angel, USA
76. Francesco Bruni, Italy
921. Terry Hutchinson, USA

Former Congressional Cup Winners

1965 Gerry Driscoll
1966 Gerry Driscoll
1967 Scott Allan
1968 Skip Allan
1969 Henry Sprague III
1970 Argyle Campbell
1971 Tom Pickard
1972 Argyle Campbell
1973 Dennis Conner
1974 Bill Ficker
1975 Dennis Conner
1976 Dick Deaver
1977 Ted Turner
1978 Dick Deaver
1979 Dennis Durgan
1980 Dennis Durgan
1981 Rod Davis
1982 Scott Perry
1983 Dave Perry
1984 Dave Perry
1985 Rod Davis
1986 Harold Cudmore
1987 Eddie Warden-Owen
1988 Peter Gilmour
1989 Rod Davis
1990 Chris Dickson
1991 Chris Dickson
1992 Terry Hutchinson
1993 Rod Davis
1994 Chris Law
1995 Harold Cudmore
1996 Gavin Brady
1997 Gavin Brady
1998 Peter Holmberg
1999 Peter Holmberg
2000 Dean Barker
2001 Peter Holmberg
2002 Peter Holmberg
2003 Ken Read
2004 Ed Baird
2005 Dean Barker
2006 Gavin Brady
2007 Mathieu Richard
2008 Gavin Brady

Congressional Cup

VOR: Day 33 - Turning the Corner

Green Dragon. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing.

by Lucy Harwood

Today was a momentous day onboard Green Dragon as they rounded Cape Horn at 0215 GMT last night, for many of the crew it was their first time round this famous landmark as they join a special group of sailors who have accomplished this feat. Ericsson 3 took the honours crossing the scoring gate first and securing top points; this has now moved them ahead of the Dragon on the overall leader board, by just one point. But this leg is far from over and with just under 2000 miles to go Green Dragon will be pushing hard to make up some ground on the Nordic crew, “they haven’t beaten us to Rio yet,“ commented Ian Walker last night.

Cape Horn Scoring Gate
1. Ericsson 3 – 12:22 GMT: 4 points
2. Ericsson 4 – 14:48 GMT 3.5 points
3. PUMA – 20:46 GMT 3 points
4. Green Dragon - 02:15 GMT 2.5 points

Yesterday was also a special day onboard for this distinctly Irish entry as they celebrated St Patrick’s Day. Due to some extreme weather conditions, the weather took priority over the Guinness but they were all glad to pass the Horn and turn the corner to start heading north to Rio. “Nobody will mind turning north as the temperature will start to rise as the weather gets better!” reported Ian Walker from onboard last night.

For the fleet heading north the next obstacle on the radar will be the Falkland Islands and the route they will take. The first three boats are likely to head, “between the islands and mainland South America. They are holding the westerly breeze feeding between the top of the low pressure they’ve just left behind to the south, and a small high pressure to their north,” commented Volvo Race Expert Mark Chisnell.

The route the Dragon will take is yet to be seen, Bouwe Bekking onboard Telefonica Blue felt that Ian Walker and his crew may, “go wide around the Falklands, and maybe keep better breeze than the leaders. They have nothing to lose, so I expect something in that direction”. Only time will tell as the countdown to Rio begins and temperatures start to rise!

Le Maire Strait
The Le Maire Strait (Estrecho de le Maire) is a sea passage between Isla de los Estados and the eastern extremity of the Argentine portion of Tierra del Fuego. Jacob Le Maire and Willem Schouten discovered the strait in 1616, while attempting to find a navigation link between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and shortly before their discovery of Cape Horn. The strait was named in honor of Le Maire. The Magellanic Penguin is found in the Le Maire Strait; this penguin has a breeding colony on Isla de los Estados.

Leg Five Day 33: 1300 GMT Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)

Ericsson 3 SWE (Magnus Olsson/SWE) DTF 1, 872 nm
Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) +45
PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) +171
Green Dragon IRL/CHI (Ian Walker/GBR) +246
Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) +772

Delta Lloyd IRL (Roberto Bermudez/ESP) DNS
Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) DNS
Team Russia RUS (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) DNS

Green Dragon Racing
Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: ERICSSON 4 LEG FIVE DAY 33 QFB: received 18.03.09 1337 GMT

Ericsson 4 celebrate rounding in Cape Horn in second place at 14:48 GMT on 17th March 2009. Image copyright Guy Salter/Ericson 4/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Ryan Godfrey (bowman)

Well, I’m glad that bit is over. What a huge relief to have rounded the Horn and be heading north for warmer waters. The past 48 hrs or so have been very intense onboard Ericsson 4.

The unfortunate combination of variable wind speeds and directions and navigating our way close to land has meant many sail changes and very little sleep. I think most onboard would have had only one or two hours in the past couple days so we are all extremely tired and hoping that as we head offshore again the breeze will settle and we can return to our usual watch system.

It was also a bit of a worry early yesterday morning for us when we discovered a hydraulic leak in the keel manifold. Horacio (Horatio Carabelli) got straight to the repair and seems happy with its status now, but the usual contingency plans were discussed for after the scoring waypoint. Luckily Stu (Stu Bannatyne) didn’t have his third visit to Ushuaia!

We managed to celebrate the rounding with some port and cigars, which went down very well, everyone seemed extremely happy - even if we didn’t see the Horn this time.

But Brad (Brad Jackson) brought the brief relaxing to a perfect end by mentioning that in history, the first boat to round the Horn has gone on to win the leg! At that stage the boys got stuck back into pushing the boat - all joined in the common goal to break history and get to Rio first.

Its amazing to think we have a total of 29 Horn roundings onboard now, Stu Bannatyne 6, Brad Jackson 5, Tony Mutter and Dave Endean 3, Jules Salter, Torben Grael, Joca Signorini, Horacio Carabelli and Guy Salter 2 and Phil Jameson and me one.

On a personal note, to round Cape Horn has always been a dream of mine since childhood so have to achieved this is hugely satisfying. I'm truly grateful to have had the opportunity to do this, especially with such a top bunch of guys onboard.

Racing wise, we have managed to maintain our lead over Puma and push hard in the chase for Ericsson 3, but know their boat and sails are very quick and we will have quite the task ahead of us the pull them in.

Bring on Rio and a few of life’s little luxuries that we have forgone over the past 32 days.

Tony lost his balaclava a few days back and has been leant one by Horacio. This new one has a white rim to it so it gives big Tone the slight look of a Nun! It not everyday you see a nun with a goatee beard smoking a cigar!

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: TELEFÓNICA BLUE LEG FIVE DAY 33 QFB: received 18.03.09 1132 GMT

Skipper Bouwe Bekking helming Telefonica Blue, in the Southern Ocean, with sea temperatures on 7 degrees, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Bouwe Bekking (skipper)

Today was a fun day, as there where huge westerly swells and about 16 knots of breeze. It was up and down the waves and we made some huge surfs, where we sometimes did double the windspeed. On surfs like that all the sails were just flapping, impossible to hold up with grinding them in. But when the surf finished, often the boatspeed dropped to 11-12 knots, so the average was still not so high.

As the breeze was heading, we had to change from the a spinnaker to our Code Zero, but it didn’t last very long, exactly 15 minutes the sail was up, when all of sudden the wind increased by five knots, which meant again changing and this time to our small J4.

Now it is easy sailing, just trimming the mainsail in and out. So basically a three person job, one steering , one trimming the main and one grinding, so Mikelito (Michael Pammenter) took the opportunity to make us all a warm drink, a nice welcome for us on deck, as it is a bit nippy, with the wind now coming more from ahead. The wind-chill factor starts kicking in. On top of that more spray, but as well it is starting to get foggy, two things that don’t help to make you feel any warmer.

Had a chat by VHF with my mate, Michel Kleinjans, who is sailing on a 40’ boat 40 ft called Roaring Forty. He is even more crazy than us, and sailing single handed from Wellington to Brazil, as part of another round the world race. We passed very close by his position and you could hear in his voice that he was happy to speak to somebody, who has the full understanding how tough it can be here and how he is feeling. The poor fellow will encounter a big storm just before rounding the Horn, which we manage to stay (luckily) ahead of. But since he is travelling at half of our speed, he has to face the music. At least a very classical Horn rounding for him, but don’t want to trade with him, as 40 ft is very, very small in these big waves. I wished him good luck, and above all safe trip, and then it was back to solitary life for him.

So a bit more than one day to go for us, and then we get around this famous landmark, and it looks like we will pass in daylight. As we expect a further heading (more coming onto the nose) breeze, we will most likely scrape the rocks as close as possible, not only good for an impressive view, but more important to cut the distance towards Rio to the minimum.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: PUMA LEG FIVE DAY 32 QFB: received 17.03.09 2100 GMT

PUMA Ocean Racing, skippered by Ken Read (USA), celebrate rounding Cape Horn in third place at 20:46 GMT, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Kenny Read (skipper)

I have never been accused of being the sentimental type. Just not part of the game so to speak. Find a goal, plan it, and get it done. Keep it simple. Not a lot of moving parts to mess up. But the mould may now be broken.

Roaring into the most famous of all great Capes, our entire team has been asked collectively a thousand times what they believe they will feel while rounding Cape Horn. Remember, we have all types aboard this craft. This is Erle Williams’ fourth time, Justin Ferris ' second, Jerry Kirby's second. Andrew Cape's seventh, Sidney Gavignet's fourth, Rick Deppe's second, Rob Salthouse's second, Rob Greenhalgh's second, and for Casey Smith, Michi Mueller and myself... we are the rookies for Cape Horn passages.

Each has answered in their own way. Some take this milestone in a sailor’s life with passion and emotion; others say it isn't a big deal. All say it marks something major though, and that is simply that you are now out of the grasps of the Southern Ocean and, for this reason alone, it is time for celebration.

To take a step backwards, I have asked many of the Southern Ocean ‘experts’ onboard what they thought of this passage. All have said ‘different’ due to the amount of beating and tight reaching we had to do. All have said ‘odd’ because of the ice gates keeping us out of iceberg zone and further north than a usual crossing, but all have said ‘normal’ because of the cold and the grey and the general nastiness that broods here. Kind of daunting if you sit back and think about where you are, and where the nearest safe haven is, when you are halfway across the vast stretch of water.

I mentioned before in one of my blogs that if this, the southernmost point of South America could talk it would tell some harrowing tales of tragedy and heroics by sportsman and traders and businessman and adventurers alike. Probably more so than any other nautical landmark in history. For this reason alone, it is a privilege to be let through these gates. Entrance to which must be earned and not simply taken.

The boats we sail today are both good and bad for a place like this. Sure they are fast...too fast sometimes and, like last night for example, you are working hard to actually slow the boat down rather than speed it up. They have been shown to be brittle at times, as any new generation of technology will be. But their speed is also advantageous towards the safety of passages like this.

Modern day weather forecasting mixed with the raw speed of these boats allows us to pick and choose much of the weather we plan to entertain. Good and bad. Typically the ‘fastest route’. But the fastest route can also be the safest route as well.

We can get on a single front and ride it for a large part of the ocean if the angles are right. Avoiding multiple chances at really nasty weather systems that are simply just lining up down here to keep kicking you in the teeth.

I am by no means a Southern Ocean expert, nor will I ever be one of these guys who have done this route time and time again. Easy to say, at this point anyway. But I am in awe of the sheer magnitude of the passage and the final toll booth that lets you through and awaits the next yacht to venture this way. We appreciate safe passage more than anything right now, and with that in mind we thank this Great Cape.

PUMA's ‘il Mostro’ and her crew of 11 have now rounded Cape Horn. Easy to stare at and dream about what has been and what will be. Maybe I am becoming sentimental.

By the way, our team (family) celebration went off without a hitch. More Cuban cigars made their way on deck, a dash of ‘sailmakers oil,' a spot of Scotch whisky, and of course Casey found the energy to get naked again! On the bow, waves crashing over him with a Cape Horn sign. Dear lord. Welcome to my world. Never a dull moment around here.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: TELEFÓNICA BLUE LEG FIVE DAY 32 QFB: received 17.03.09 1921 GMT

Telefonica Blue, about to take a dive, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Bouwe Bekking (skipper)

First of all well done to Ericsson 3. They have sailed brilliantly so far in this leg, and the reward is there, first around the Cape. Let’s see if they can hold on as the next 2200 miles as it will be tricky again.

The last 24 hours have been nice sailing with big westerly swells and the good news is that we are now under 3000 miles from the finish. We have already made the decision not to make a stop, as otherwise we will most likely lose more time as the weather is not favourable, but as well, mentally, it is better to carry on, stopping twice in a leg will hurt even more.

We have come a long way, and have to say that the guys have done a tremendous job. Never dark, always seeing the positive side of life and all are happy how we have been performing as a team.

We have seen lots of albatrosses yesterday; we must have sailed through an area with a lot food for them, as normally you don’t see that many stuck together in a group. But for the rest not much to see. We are especially happy that we haven’t seen any whales, as that is biggest worry, especially at night time. Icebergs, nada, but saw one solid echo on the radar 16 miles away last night, but probably a fishing boat (they are really crazy to stay down here for months in a row). So an ‘easy’ ride into the Horn and then upwind for a bit, which should free up relatively quickly so then making good miles to the finish again.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: GREEN DRAGON LEG FIVE DAY 33 QFB: received 18.03.09 0749 GMT

The crew of Irish/Chinese entry Green Dragon celebrate St Patrick's Day in the Southern Ocean, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Ian Walker (skipper)

It is sad not to have seen Cape Horn. Not only was it the middle of a pitch black night, but we were 20 miles away at the closest point. I guess that means I'll have to come back with my camera another time.

It was over 30 knots and quite big waves so we gave the Horn a very wide berth. We dropped the spinnaker for a couple of hours to ride out the worst of it.

We are going to celebrate with a special bottle given to us by Wallenius Wilhelmsen at first light - I'm not sure what the bottle is yet, but I hope it is strong. We should be in the Straits of Le Maire at the time.

It feels great to be back in the Atlantic and heading north again.

Everyone on Ericsson 3 has done a fantastic job and I emailed Magnus to tell him as much. They haven't beaten us to Rio yet though!

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: TELEFÓNICA BLUE LEG FIVE DAY 32 QFB: received 17.03.09 1947 GMT

Telefonica Blue in rough conditions in the Southern Ocean, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Simon Fisher (helmsman)

We have made some nice progress recently, it s now only 680 miles until we are rounding Cape Horn and it seems we have endured the worst of the weather and the waves.

I have to admit when I look at the computer screen I am a little envious of the Ericsson boats who have now rounded the Horn and will now be looking forward to heading north towards Rio. However, it is only another two days for us until we reach what will be an important milestone, and it looks as though we have seen the worst of the weather for this episode in the Southern Ocean. I am not going to risk saying it will be plain sailing though - I will be satisfied when we have turned the corner and not before!

Sadly any aspirations of catching the others as we closed on Cape Horn were not realised, in fact I cannot remember a race when I have been so far behind. However, I think we are all looking at the trip from the Cape to Rio as a new chapter for us and hopefully in the later stages of the race we may be able to redress some of the mistakes we made earlier on...

On board everyone continues to be in good spirits, spirits that are gradually improving as we close on the Cape. Everyone is anxious to get there though and the distance to waypoint is regularly checked by those on deck. The last few days have been something of a countdown for everyone; although the joke is still running that it’s another eight days to the horn!' I guess we will believe we are there when we see it!!

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: GREEN DRAGON LEG FIVE DAY 32 QFB: received 17.03.09 1426 GMT

Guo Chuan (CHI) and Justin Slattery (IRE) on 17th March. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Ian Walker (skipper)

It must be fate that the Green Dragon, a project born out of Ireland, has reached the most famous sailing landmark of them all on Ireland's National Day. The crew of Green Dragon would like to wish everyone a very Happy St Patrick's Day from Cape Horn!

It is morning here and we still have 175 miles to go but we will be rounding the Cape at nightfall on St Patricks Day. I say 'rounding' loosely as we are in for a hard time. The forecast is for 40 knots and we will have to stand off the Cape to avoid the worst wind and waves. This will cost us an hour or 2 in the race which is frustrating but Cape Horn is no place to be cutting corners in rough weather.

Right now we are approaching 57 degrees South, the furthest we have been South all race. Conditions onboard are miserably cold and damp. The air and water temperature is about 7 degrees, it is 25 knots and everything onboard is a struggle. Nothing is more of a struggle than getting out of a warm sleeping bag, putting on cold, wet thermals and standing your watch on deck for 4 hours in the freezing cold.

This is a good time for me to reflect on my fantastic crew and their total commitment to the cause. Not once has anybody shirked a watch, even when ill, nor has anyone not done what has been asked of them by Neal (Neal McDonald), Damian (Damien Foxall) or I. Each would put their body on the line to help another and each wants nothing more than for the Green Dragon to succeed.

Thank you guys, I owe you a lot.

With deteriorating weather the next 24 hours seems like it may be our biggest challenge yet. I have dreamt about rounding Cape Horn since I was a little boy and this is the moment. I wish it was going to be a nice sunny day and we could go in close to the rocks and take lots of footage and photos, but sadly it will be windy, rough and dark. Cape Horn is going to give us something to remember it by. Any celebrations will be put on hold until first light tomorrow when I am pleased to say we will be round the Cape and pointing at the Emerald Isle for the first time since we left Cork in August. Happy St Patrick's Day and see you all in Galway in May!!

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: ERICSSON 4 LEG FIVE LEG FIVE DAY 32 QFB: received 17.03.09 1240 GMT

Ericsson 4 in rough weather on their approach to Cape Horn, 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

Not far now until we are round the Horn - the border between the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans - looks like the Ericsson 3 boys have managed to hold us off - and fair play to them - they played a good move early after the last scoring gate - a move which none of the rest of us were brave enough to play, and go against all that is traditional with the NZ to the Horn leg - but then this leg hasn’t really been very traditional.

A northerly route was a little surprising for all. But the race does not finish at the Cape and it’s all go for the rather long sprint to Rio. I know that there are a few of the lads on the good ship Ericsson 4 who are extremely hungry for his leg victory.

The cold doesn't automatically turn off when we round the Horn - there is a hell of a lot of sailing before the survival suits get packed away and the thermals slung in a plastic bag to fester until wash day ashore. There will no doubt be some light spots to deal with also as we head north.

We are expecting a bit of a storm as we round the Cape - so it will be the full Horn experience and maybe not the time for us to tuck into our nice cigars that I have stashed within my water testing kit. But even if they come out in a day or so, I’m sure we will all enjoy them as they will be something a little different to the mundane, day to day activities.

Everyone is excited about the Horn rounding with untold media requests. I just hope that we can deliver all that is expected. As I sit here at my office desk, I can see untold stumbling blocks lining up for a hectic few hours.

The top of my desk sits about knee height from the hull surface and around my ankles is about 40mm of fresh saltwater, which ingresses through a small leak below the media desk. It’s like typing whist sat in a kid’s paddling pool. This water obviously isn’t good for any of the electronic equipment we use aboard. It’s probably the reason why I have only one camera which works - so long as I cook it in the engine bay a few times a day.

I have avoided getting my Mac out of its waterproof case for the last few days as we have been getting thrown around a fair amount and also, when we broke our steering a few days ago, the wave we buried in also found a couple of other areas to pour inside the boat - all within a metre of the media area. So, apart from some bailing, there has been a lot of plugging going on.

We have a scheduled broadband outage also today, where the satellites get turned off for a few hours plus some live broadcasting planned which, if it works will be great but the satellites and the conditions need to be playing ball. So hopefully all will line up and the day will go without a hitch - but seeing as we are still in the Southern Ocean, I’m expecting untold dramas.

There has been a chat about rights earned for passing the Horn: earrings, feet on table at meal times and tattoos of tall ships under full sail. Ryan (Ryan Godfrey) is contemplating doing it all but I’m sure in reality he may not bother. I have often thought of the tattoo, but then thought against the idea as I’m sure it wouldn't suit - plus my Mum would probably get a little upset - as mothers do!, After all we are all still six years old in their eyes.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Ericsson Racing Team Leads Volvo Ocean Race Past Cape Horn

Thomas Johanson at the helm of Ericsson 3. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson Racing Team.

by Victoria Low

Ericsson Racing Team's Nordic crew aboard Ericsson 3, led by Swedish skipper Magnus Olsson, was the first yacht past legendary Cape Horn today at 1222 GMT.

The International crew on Ericsson 4, led by skipper Torben Grael of Brazil, followed at 1448 GMT.

The rounding of Cape Horn is a milestone in any sailor's career, professional or amateur. Going back to the golden days of the Age of Discovery many have come before, but not all have survived.

"Anytime you go round Cape Horn your heart beats a little faster," said Olsson, the 60-year-old who marked his sixth rounding of the Horn and third time in the lead of the Volvo Ocean Race. "You can feel the historical moments of this place, all of the seamen who've fought to get round it. It's fantastic."

Rounding the Horn brings with it many traditions, including a gold earring, the right to put a foot on the table at mealtime and tattoos of tall ships under full sail. For Ericsson Racing Team, the achievement of being first and second past the Horn brought with it more points for the crews' scorelines.

Cape Horn marked the second scoring gate on Leg 5. The team was first and second at the first gate on March 4, but that time it was Ericsson 4 which led Ericsson 3. The Nordic crew was happy to turn the tables.

"Everyone is very happy, it's a great feeling onboard," said Gustav Morin, Ericsson 3 media crewman. "It's a nice morning but quite misty. We could see Cape Horn for awhile. We celebrated with a drink of Captain Morgan rum. Captain Morgan's going to lead us to Rio now because Magnus is so tired."

Ericsson 3 added 4 points to its scoreline and has 35.5 points. Overall race leader Ericsson 4 increased its scoreline by 3.5 points and now has 56.5 total points.

"Cape Horn for sailors is like climbing Mount Everest," said Grael, who passed the Horn for the second time in his career.

At 12,300 nautical miles, Leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race is the longest in the 35-year history of the circumnavigation race. Currently the fleet is in Day 32 of the voyage that began in Qingdao, China, and will conclude in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The past two weeks have seen the fleet navigating the Southern Ocean, both revered and admired for its strong westerly winds. The conditions, however, have been contrary to expectations. The fleet has spent a large amount of time sailing upwind or close-reaching.

Even the approach to Cape Horn was atypical. Instead of approaching from the southwest, the fleet has been in a downwind jibing duel along the Chilean coast.

"About 48 hours ago we had a rough night with strong winds and only storm sails up, we had to slow down to keep the boat in one piece," said Aksel Magdahl, Ericsson 3 navigator. "Sailing down the Chilean coastline Ericsson 4 made gains by pushing a little harder than us. They probably had a bit more sail area up. We played it a bit safer. It's what we could do with our exhaustion level."

Ericsson 3 grabbed the lead on March 6 after it played a tactical move that saw it split from the fleet after clearing the first scoring gate. Late last week Ericsson 3 had opened a lead of 280 nautical miles on its teammate Ericsson 4, but since then the International crew has steadily reduced its deficit.

"Looks like the Ericsson 3 boys have managed to hold us off, and fair play to them," said Ericsson 4 media crewman Guy Salter. "They played a good move early after the last scoring gate, a move which none of the rest of us were as brave to play and go against all that is traditional with the New Zealand to the Horn leg. But then, this leg hasn't really been very traditional."

The passing of Cape Horn also marks the crossover to the Atlantic Ocean from the Pacific, and the finish line in Rio is about 2,200 miles away. While history suggests that the leader at Cape Horn wins into Rio, there are still many obstacles and decisions along the route.

"There are passing lanes on this trip north," said Ericsson Racing Team meteorologist Chris Bedford. "In previous races, leading boats have fallen into holes off the Argentinean coast only to see the fleet catch up and pass. Similarly, the finish at Rio can be in very light winds, and places can be lost without a little but of luck at the finish. This leg is far from over and I wouldn't count out any of the top four out at this point."

(Mar. 17, 2009, 1259 GMT)
1. Ericsson 3, 2,264 nautical miles to finish
2. Ericsson 4, +18 NM
3. Puma, +119 NM
4. Green Dragon, +210 NM
5. Telefónica Blue, +746 NM

Ericsson Racing Team
Volvo Ocean Race