Saturday 11 April 2009

The Volvo Ocean Race, Fishy Shark Tales... and April Foolishness

A lucky Leprechaun for Green Dragon... or more fish? Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Anne Hinton

Green Dragon appears to be having issues of speed in relation to the fleet in 2008-9 that bring to mind the experiences of Ericsson Racing Team in the last Volvo Ocean Race (2005-6).

Again, like the 2005-6 Volvo Ocean Race, the fleet experienced "very light and fluky winds on their way to Rio de Janeiro". Back then, Ericsson Racing Team's media gurus, Bernard Schopfer (now of and Annabel Merrison, commented that "In ideal conditions, the final 800 miles could be covered in two days, but the light airs may delay the fleet for another three days or more." A sense of déjà vu for the old hands once more this year?

A tale in Sailing Scuttlebutt on 1st April, attributed to 'Ian Walker', claimed that they had tried more than the spear fishing method on board the Dragon on the way to Rio. Aspects of the tuna tale bear resemblances to the reply by 'Yan T' from Belgium to the then Ericsson navigator, Steve Hayles', call for "ideas on how to squeeze more speed out of our boat" in the 2005-6 Volvo Ocean Race. Use sushi on the hull, was the recommendation!

Green Dragon resort to desperate measures by making a fishing spear, as food runs low on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

However, in 2009, as opposed to Ericsson in 2006, the need for food was uppermost on board Green Dragon approaching Rio, as 'Ian Walker' commented in the 1st April edition of Sailing Scuttlebutt: "we were very low on food, the three boats ahead were already in, and Telefonica was not going to catch us", so the tale led on to how the second tuna, hooked from a line trailed behind the boat, became the bait for a shark...

There are easier ways of catching sharks in the ocean, as, for example, the crew of ICAP Leopard 3 discovered in the 2007 Fastnet Race - even if their shark was only five and a half feet long, and not the seven feet of the proverbial Green Dragon one - although you might have to send someone into the water to disengage the beast from the boat, always a dodgy business!

The Leopard team, however, preferred using the toasted sandwich maker, microwave and plentiful food stocks already on board the boat to eating raw fish or cutting up a dead shark. Their toasted sandwich maker was described by one of Leopard's crew as "one of the best features I've seen on an offshore boat for a long time". Food for thought for the present Volvo Ocean Race teams on some of the shorter legs around Europe, maybe? After all, people perform at their best when they have good quality sustenance and sleeping time...

One other potential food source that the present Volvo Ocean Race fleet might encounter could be from the San Seriffe islands, which are now believed to have 'drifted' into the Atlantic Ocean. If they pass near Cocobanana Beach, the teams may be lucky enough to pick up the odd coconut, of similar quality to those found on Copacabana Beach in Rio, let alone a banana or two to supplement their staple re-hydrated rations.

The Green Dragon crew with Pádraig the bear. Image copyright Huang Jian/Green Dragon Racing.

Returning to the issue of how to improve Green Dragon's performance, in Taiwan a colleague gave me symbolic fish to hang up, saying that they would bring me money. (Unfortunately he omitted to mention when this would be...) Maybe reveering fish, rather than trying to catch them, will bring Green Dragon better fortune in future legs? A lucky leprechaun or two, with a pot of (sailors') gold that would turn to dust if given to other boats in the fleet, may also help Green Dragon on their way. Perhaps Pádraig the bear, Green Dragon's mascot, could befriend such a leprechaun before the next leg...

Fair winds and good speed to all the Volvo Ocean Race fleet en route to Boston!

P.S. The frequency of sightings of, and collisions with, sizeable sea creatures appears to be on the rise in round the world races. Given the vastness of the oceans and the still relatively small number of yachts racing through them, this just goes to show how full of life the water-dominated seven-tenths of our planet actually is, and emphasises the value of ecological work, such as that carried out by the Volvo Ocean Race teams. It also makes one wonder how very many collisions of sea mammals with commercial shipping go unreported - as well as how many containers and other large items lost from such vessels not only create their own navigational hazards for round-the-world yachtsmen but also have an impact on the sealife in the oceans. AH

A Southern Right Whale breaching off the coast of Hermanus, South Africa. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: 'We have to win'

Gabriele Olivo, the media crew member on Telefonica Blue. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Gabriele Olivo (interview by Riath Al-Samarrai)

We sailed the practice race, the in-port race and the pro-am, but Monday was my first real day back. I still feel the effect a bit, but I had a nice break from it all. I went with my girlfriend to Busios for three days - including my birthday - and it was just really nice to disconnect and relax.

I'm still getting over the leg physically. I went running when I was away and could see my body is still so bad. I'm not tired, but as soon as any physical effort comes in I notice it is not like before. I try whenever there is flat water to do some push ups or exercise, but you cannot do enough to make a big difference. My sleep is also getting normal again. The first days I kept waking up at 6am, but now it's fine.

Looking back at the leg it was hard in different ways to normal. Because we broke the forestay halfway through, we never really got back to racing mode. We always tried to come back, but we never really went into the stressful, pushing the boat 100% all the time. We probably had 20 days out 40 on that, so physically it was not bad. I lost about five kilos. The weather was also a lot calmer than we expected so we didn't suffer too much.

The most difficult thing was the psychology onboard. It was pretty devastating, the leg. We had come in with two leg wins and the conditions would have been perfect for us: there were maybe only three or four days where we would not have been in ideal conditions. But the forestay broke and it was a lot of points gone.

It is tough to spend 43 days onboard with 10 people anyway, but when you are not racing 100%, it is pretty hard for everyone. I think this group is a very good one, everyone tried hard to make it work, to not be too impatient or irritated with each other. I tried hard to help in this area because I am the only one who runs through the day; I get to see everyone two or three times a day. You see everyone and you can make sure there are no misunderstandings, especially in the opposite watches because they only see each other at the change of watch. But we tried to keep the spirit as high as possible, talking about anything, parallel universes, Pavlov's dogs, anything.

I also got to go round Cape Horn, which was great. It was a calm day and I got the photo. Things like that are very personal and for me it was special. I can tick it off my list. I would like to go round in tougher weather and I would also like to see an iceberg one day, maybe when I am sailing this race as a competitor.

As a media man, it was also quite a hard leg. I never want the team to do badly, even though it probably means I might get good footage. But when the forestay broke there were drops all over the lens and I couldn't get good footage anyway, so it was bad from all points of view! It was interesting seeing the guys reaction to everything though, you learn a lot at that kind of time. I was happy to see Gustav (Morin) with the media prize. He is a great guy and his work so far has been excellent.

The last few days have been good. Leg five was not good for the morale, as you would expect. But we won the in-port race and also the pro-am and that has made a big difference. It was perfect timing. Now we need to do well in the next leg. Everyone in this team really wants to win the race and I think the next leg is essential. I think we have to win.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: 'I feel ready'

Ian Walker in Rio. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Ian Walker (interviewed by Riath Al-Samarrai)

Well, we're about to go off again.

I feel more ready than I thought I would. I spent a couple of days away with my family about an hour or two south of here, had a nice little break. I'm sick of eating, though. I've been doing nothing but eat to put as much weight back on as I can.

It really is an exhausting race. When I started I was 82 kilos and I had a big set-back because I picked up Giardia, a parasite, in India. I didn't realise until I was about three weeks into the Singapore stopover and I lost a lot of weight on leg 3. In China I got a back to 78 kilos but fell back to 71 on the last leg. Now I'm just eating and eating and I think I'm back to 75 or so.

I don't feel as strong as I was. Performance in that respect must decline and you can see it in boat handling, hoisting sails and that. I think that's why you will increasingly see a strategy of crew replacement as you go along. We have rested people and given a choice it's something I would do more in the next race.

The tiredness of the whole thing just washes over you when you stop. I can't be great company when we get in, I must admit. You just get in and sleep. When I got here I found it hard to sleep initially because you are stuck in your watch system. I was waking up every three or four hours for the first five nights that I was here. Now I am finding the opposite as I can't get out of bed in the morning!

The race is looking interesting. Ericsson 4 can still lose, but I think they would have to throw it away. I haven't looked at the points that closely, but I think Ericsson 3 is the only team that has the pace to live with them. I think Telefonica are fast in the light and upwind, but they don't seem to have the consistency in power reaching, which is an area where Ericsson 4 are very good. PUMA seem to have bursts of speed without being able to sustain it. But without being on those boats it's pretty hard to know why.

As for us, leg five went much better than one might have thought. After four or five days we were over 200 miles behind, but then we were closer by Cape Horn. In actual fact, for four or five of the six weeks we were still in the race, which was great for us. It was just the last 10 days that were difficult.

We have to assess our performance against our original goals. We wanted to get in the top three and we wanted to get in amongst it whenever we could. We have done that at times but not as consistently as we would have liked. Having said that, certain things we have done very well. Our boat handling has been good and strategically we have sailed well on the whole. We are also one of only four boats that has raced and finished every leg and in-port race, which is no small achievement and without assistance which speaks volumes for the shore crew. Financially, and as an organisation, we have done well to get to where we are. I think the race needs people like us, we have added some colour and we have put our mark on the results at times.

We are still striving for the podium. A few things haven't gone our way, but anything can happen in this race and for that reason nothing is unobtainable. It is frustrating not getting the results you always want, but this is, on the whole, a great experience. I love the concept of sailing around the world, the sense of achievement, the people, the places. I'm certainly glad that I'm involved and I would hope to be again.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Chasing down the Grael

The seven Volvo Ocean Race skippers at the press conference in Rio. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Riath Al-Samarrai

Six skippers beat Torben Grael to the press conference room this morning, but reaching Boston ahead of Ericsson 4 remains a conundrum that none of them has fully solved.

There is hope among the chasing pack, not least from Telefonica Blue skipper Bouwe Bekking, who believes his third-placed boat will revel in the conditions ahead.

And Ken Read, the PUMA skipper, is expecting his team to respond positively to the pressure of reaching their home port in first place.

But so far Grael's team have racked up a 9.5-point cushion over second-placed PUMA and, crucially, this next stage is expected to be decided predominantly by boat speed. On that score, gaining significant points on Ericsson 4 in a reaching leg will not be easy.

"Reaching, tight reaching, we are one of the quickest in the fleet," said Bekking, whose team are 11.5 points adrift. "We can see that most the way to Fernando de Noronha (scoring gate) will be tight reaching. If we go the right way we have a very good chance of being first over there. After that it is still reaching and then from the Bermuda Islands different things can happen and we might get splits in the fleet. But our boat is well suited to the next leg.

"I'm feeling very happy about our boat and the Black boat in these conditions. We need to start gaining points soon and I hope we can do it on this leg. I think we are one of the quickest in these conditions, but Ericsson is also very quick."

As is PUMA. The team have proven their credentials by claiming top-three positions at 11 of 14 scoring opportunities, but they are yet to win any. Read admitted his boat might not have the extra gears needed to make it stand out. He said: "I think we have a good boat. I'm not sure we have a great boat, and we certainly don't have a bad boat.

"Ericsson 4, if they get their conditions, especially windy reaching, they just seem to be able to punch it into another gear and off they go. Same with Telefonica Blue, that light and flat water stuff, they just seem to have an extra gear. We just seem to be good. The boat really doesn't have a weakness, but on the other hand...we don't look at the weather map and say ‘fantastic, in that little area there, we are going to be going two knots faster'. We haven't found that yet. Trust me, we are searching for it but so far it is quite elusive.

"Unfortunately Ericsson 4 haven't shown any weaknesses either. In the last race clearly ABN AMRO ONE were so dominant in any wind, but if it was less than 10 knots they showed an Achilles heel. They can show it to us anytime they want. Fact is they haven't. clearly they figured out any weaknesses they have in that time pre-race and they made up for them. Good for them."

How they fare against Ericsson in the forthcoming conditions remains to be seen, especially as the leaders have tactical flexibility. Whereas Grael insisted his team would be "looking to win because that is always our intention", his navigator Jules Salter suggested the objective might be simplified to staying ahead of PUMA and Telefonica Blue.

Salter said: "We've been pretty conservative through the race, so I imagine we'd continue that. If Green Dragon or Delta Lloyd or someone else were to steer off somewhere I would think we might let them go and stay close to Puma or Telefonica Blue, the two boats closest to us. But each situation is different and you can't call it until it's time.

Rio de Janeiro, stopover port for the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

Time will tell how that - and the leaderboard battle - plays out, but the sub-plots to this leg are numerous. Not to mention the teams that could get between the three main protagonists and enhance the point differences.

Ericsson 3 was identified by Green Dragon skipper Ian Walker as the only boat with "the pace to live with Ericsson 4" and have the fresh memory of winning leg five. "For sure we can win again," said Magnus Olsson, their skipper.

Meanwhile, Delta Lloyd's new rig and fresh inventory of sails, coupled with four new crewmembers, reaped an immediate return at the in-port race, where they finished third.

Skipper Roberto Bermudez played down their chances. "It's a difficult competition, every team is really good, with really good sailors," he said. "It will be difficult to fight with them. If we can get something good in Boston, it will be very good."

Like Delta Lloyd, Telefonica Black missed leg five because of damage, but their skipper, Fernando Echavarri, expects to see his team bounce back.

"We always said to Rio was going to be hard for us," Echavarri said. "Now we have more experience, but we don't have any excuse. This is our opportunity and we have to be thinking about being on the podium...we have a new sail inventory and I think the boat is in good shape to push to be on the podium in this leg."

PUMA also have pressure to deal with. "Everyone I have spoken to in the region says you have to win this leg," Read said. "It's a pressure I've felt this week and we're really trying to downplay it now...we have to treat it like another leg...let the chips fall. With that said, it's really good to be going home."

But better if Grael hasn't already crossed the threshold.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: 'Why Change?'

Torben Grael of Ericsson 4. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Riath Al-Samarrai

Who would want to sit on the Ericsson 4 substitutes' bench?

The team lists are in and once again Torben Grael's crew is unchanged, meaning they have now kept the same 11 men onboard for the entire race.

"Why would we want to change?" the Brazilian asked. "It is always good to have as few changes as possible. We tried to do the same with Brasil 1 in the last race, but we knew we would change for Knut (Frostad, the current race CEO) for the Southern Ocean legs because we had no experience there. We also changed the navigator for technical reasons.

"This time we have had the luxury of practising for almost a year. Your problems should come in that period and not the race. The advantage is we don't want surprises in how people behave and sail. And no one is afraid of being dropped. There are many advantages."

A look at the leaderboard would appear to support his stance, but crew consistency is far from easy to attain.

Between arriving in Alicante and now, on the eve of leg six, there have been 50 changes to offshore personnel, with sailors replaced either temporarily or permanently.

Delta Lloyd and Green Dragon have been the most prolific shufflers, each making 11 changes - the equivalent of a full crew - while Ericsson 3 have made nine, PUMA and Telefonica Blue six, Team Russia five, and on the Black boat just three.

Some changes are unforeseen - such as injuries - while it has not been uncommon for sailors to leave a team because of performance, social or personal issues.

But for many teams it is a viable strategy in a nine-month race where fatigue is inevitable.

PUMA's Rob Greenhalgh said: "This latest edition of the race is tougher as legs are longer and stopovers shorter. As a result there is little time for recovery and recuperation."

In real terms, it means the rotation of crew can be desirable to reduce the impact.

Greenhalgh's skipper, Ken Read, is open in his belief that rotation is a good idea. "I think if I did this again I would do way more rotation than we are doing," he said. "This race is brutally hard, both physically and mentally and there are enough good sailors out there to make it worthwhile. You bring in fresh guys, like we do with Shannon Falcone and Jerry Kirby, and they just lift everyone around them.

"You look at football players or hockey players, they are not going to do the whole season.

"But you look at Ericsson and there's definitely something to be said for keeping things the same: this guy has a particular way to set up the reefing lines and this guy has a particular way of surfing down the waves. There are good arguments on both sides.

"I just think at the end of the day I'd prefer rotation, keeping the guys fresh physically and mentally. This race is only going to get harder from here until the end: the stops are getting shorter and the racing more intense."

Telefonica Blue skipper Bouwe Bekking added: "I think Torben has been fortunate in the sense that they have not had to make injury changes. They had one mishap with Tony (Mutter, who was evacuated but recovered in time for leg two) in the first leg, and since they have kept everything together which is nice.

"It was our first intention (to keep the same crew) as well, but we couldn't."

Now, with three changes made for this leg, Bekking's crew could, in theory, benefit against the potentially tired sailors of Ericsson 4 in the run-in.

"Making changes has advantages," he said. "A person like Iker (Martinez) sitting out this leg shows how we are thinking. It's not about an individual; it's about what is better for a team. He was a bit tired and now we might get a little push with fresh guys.

"We have three fresh people on this leg and I think it will make a huge difference. When I went for a run the first time after the 40-day leg (leg five) I couldn't manage more than five or 10 minutes. They will probably have the same issue and will be feeling more tired as we go on.

"But why would you replace somebody when you are winning?"

Grael accepts that fatigue will continue to be an issue for his team, but the extent, and indeed the amount fresher teams can benefit, is down to respective fitness levels. But he clearly feels confident in their endurance - they spent a year working on maximising their fitness and reducing body fat before the race began - and he said he will make changes only "in an emergency".

There do not appear to be any flashing lights just yet.

Crew Changes across the fleet for Leg 6

Delta Lloyd - Ben Costello for Ed O'Connor
Delta Lloyd - Nick Bice for Martin Watts
Delta Lloyd - Ed Van Lierde for Guillermo Altadill
Delta Lloyd - Wouter Verbraak for Frits Koek

Green Dragon - Ian Moore for Wouter Verbraak
Green Dragon - Jim Carroll for Tom Braidwood
Green Dragon - Anthony Merrington for Chris Main

Ericsson 3 - Richard Mason for Arve Roas

Telefonica Blue - Pepe Ribes for Mike Pammenter (Returns to Telefonica Black)
Telefonica Blue - Daryl Wislang for Iker Martinez
Telefonica Blue - Laurent Pages for David Vera (returns to Telefonica Black)

PUMA - Shannon Falcone for Jerry Kirby

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Shipping up to Boston

Mark Chisnell previews the Volvo Ocean Race leg 6

Rio de Janeiro, stopover port for the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-9. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Mark Chisnell

After four legs of new oceans, currents, island chains, weather patterns and stopover ports, we are now well and truly back on the beaten track. The Volvo Ocean Race hasn’t been to Boston before, but the 4,900 miles north up the Atlantic Ocean from Rio de Janeiro is very familiar. Not only is it the traditional race route back to Europe, from South America via North America, but it also passes through a pattern of climate zones that we should all be able to recite by heart by now – south-east trade winds, Doldrums, north-east trades, Azores High and the westerlies...

The race will start from Rio, close to the southern limit of the south-east trade winds. I say close to because we know it can be hard to leave Rio - and not just because of the people, the music, the beaches... High pressure and light air often smother the city, as we saw at the finish of Leg 5.

So our heroes may have to battle through some tricky weather before they emerge into the trade winds and relatively steady conditions. Nor should we forget the south-running Brazil Current, the adverse affects of which the fleet will find it difficult to avoid.

But once they have escaped the immediate confines of Rio, the initial strategic problem is how close to cut the corner of Brazil at Recife. Two things have to be balanced – the further offshore they sail, the stronger and steadier the breeze ought to be, but the more miles they have to sail. There’s an old rule of thumb – stay within 10 miles of the coast, or stand further off than 100 miles.

In theory, there’s no in-between choice - although this rule could go the way of the ‘go south in the south’ rule for the Southern Ocean. But generally, once everyone has picked their corner, there’s a chance for a big gain here. One of the most famous breaks was by Lawrie Smith and his navigator, Vincent Geake, who in 1997-98 took the ‘within 10 miles’ bit very seriously. They crept around Recife in sight of the buildings on the waterfront and pulled into a comfortable lead. I believe that Bouwe Bekking and his team on Movistar also made this move work for them more recently in 2005-06 – something which he will doubtless be bearing in mind this time around.

Once they have that hurdle behind them, attention will turn to the fleet’s fourth and final encounter with the Doldrums. When they raced south down the Atlantic in Leg 1 it was Green Dragon’s bold move to cross the Doldrums to the west that got them the lead. So this transition should be more straightforward, as the fleet will already be lined up to transit the Doldrums at what is usually the narrowest point.

The first boat clear of the Doldrums should reap the usual reward of some steady, fast sailing in the north-east trade winds. It’s at this point that we fall once again under the influence of another name familiar from Leg 1, the Azores High. Its position will determine the strength and whereabouts of the trade winds. The strategy will be to ride the trades north and skirt the western edge of the High - but it can move a long way west and is known in the States as the Bermuda High. If the centre is closer to the latter than the former, then dodging light air may become an issue – let’s hope not, I think we can all agree that the teams deserve a fast leg...

The final section is potentially the most complex. The fleet will be heading north-west away from the influence of the Azores High and into the path of the low pressure systems spinning off the North American continent and heading for Europe. The behaviour of these systems will be critical in the approach to Boston. And given that we’re still not far from the spring equinox – traditionally an unstable time of year – there’s every chance of the fleet meeting some energetic weather.

If that wasn’t enough, the navigators will simultaneously have to negotiate the influence of the Gulf Stream. Crossing this swirl of north-east flowing warm water and eddies while dealing with the low pressure systems will challenge everyone. The combination has the potential to reproduce conditions like those of Leg 4 and the Black Tide. Going upwind in the Gulf Stream can be just as tough – in the last race, it was only here that some of the boats finally had to use the third reef in the mainsail - at least this time around they’ve had plenty of practice with that set-up.

Ericsson 4 sails into Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

A few other things that are worth thinking about – we’re back with seven boats on the water, and two of them have got fresh crews. Most of the guys walked off the boats at the end of Leg 5 with a lot less muscle than they started with – while the Delta Lloyd and Telefonica Black crews have no excuse for not being at the sharp end of a couple of months of conditioning in the gym. It will be interesting to see if they can make the advantage count.

The other benefit that these two re-starters have is that they have sailed 12,300 miles less, but are still allowed to use the same number of sails. That ought to mean that they have fresher equipment for the rest of the race and give them a little edge – although it may not be immediately apparent.

Telefonica Blue’s skipper, Bouwe Bekking has already said that they have an almost complete new sail inventory for Leg 6 – and they may not be the only one of the five Leg 5 competitors to reload at this point. So any advantage that Telefonica Black and Delta Lloyd have could be negated out of Rio, but at some point they are going to be sailing round the track with a lot less miles on their sails than the others. It isn’t going to make up for the vast points deficit that they’ve accumulated, but it might make for some interesting racing in the later legs if these two can start putting themselves between the boats challenging for places on the podium overall.

The new sails may also overturn some of the things that we’ve learned about performance so far – perhaps some of the crews have learned more and faster about their sails, and the new gear coming out of the bags for the first time will give them improved relative speed. It will also be good to see both the Telefonica boats sail closely alongside the others with their new rudders. By all accounts, they should show a gain.

Up until now, the real sweet spot for the Ericsson boats was reaching at angles aft of the beam – with a true wind angle (TWA) of more than 90 degrees - and the windier it got, the better they seemed to go. But their advantage was much less obvious when they were all sailing upwind or close reaching.

We should get a good mix of conditions in this leg – it will be interesting to see how things compare, and who’s made the most gains.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Bouwe Bekking: From China to Rio, and now to the USA

Telefonica Blue, skippered by Bouwe Bekking (NED) (pictured) finish first in the Light In-port Race in the Volvo Ocean Race in Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Javier Sobrino

Bouwe Bekking may be enjoying the fact that his TELEFONICA BLUE won the in-port race this past weekend in Rio de Janeiro. However his mind is already on the next big thing: Saturday, April 11, the Dutch skipper and his ten crewmates on board the Spanish blue VO70 will leave the carioca city for Boston, USA on Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race 2008/09.

When talking to Bouwe about the monster leg from Qingdao, China, to Rio de Janeiro, he resumes the 12,300 nautical mile journey in just five words: "It was a tough one." Straight after crossing the finish line in Guanabara Bay, Bekking highlighted the situation of his team and his wishes for the next leg: "We are 13 points behind Ericsson 4, so a good in-port race and a good leg are a must." One week later, the first part of that wish came true with a win in the in-port race and the corresponding addition of 4 points to TELEFONICA BLUE's overall score.

Recalling Leg 5, Bouwe says he didn't miss anything in this Southern Ocean crossing when comparing it to his previous experiences. Now on his sixth Round the World Race, one can safely assume that he knows what he is talking about. "This was my seventh Horn rounding, and I can tell you, every one has been different. This one I really liked as we were pretty relaxed- we had a very funny moment when I allowed David (Vera) and Mike (Pammeter) to run around in their speedo's." How's that for a relaxed rounding?

But ask Bouwe about the entire leg, and the expression on his face is slightly different: "Should I be asked about repeating this leg for the next VOR, I would generally suggest to not make any leg longer than 7,500 nautical miles, and to not go to Qingdao in particular. This has by far been the longest leg of my career; before this, my longest leg was from Perth (Australia) to Punta del Este (Chile) in 7,558 nautical miles. Leg 5 this year was a new record for me."

Bouwe and his crew spent almost 43 days offshore -42 days, 22 hours and 55 minutes to be exact - before finishing Leg 5 on March 29. Most of the teams competing in this leg reported food shortages after too many days on the water and an incorrect calculation of provisions. That was not the case for TELEFONICA BLUE, and in the words of her skipper: "We loaded up plenty of food, keeping in mind the fact that it could almost be a 40-day leg. The most important thing is having enough food, so that the guys don't get hungry; it makes a huge difference in terms of having good spirits on board. For me it was not a problem, even when I was having the same dish twice a day for the whole trip... I suppose you could say that I missed some variety..." One question for the curious, what was your first meal in Rio? "Chicken and rice" Bouwe says, an easy one.

TELEFONICA BLUE sailed with no forestay for 6,000 out of the 12,300 nautical miles of Leg 5. That played a key role in the final result of the Spanish entry according to Bouwe, even more so than the time lost in Qingdao when they hit a hidden rock five minutes prior to the start of the leg. After repairing the boat and starting the monster leg 18 hours behind the leaders, Bouwe Bekking's team managed to pass the entire fleet, moving into first place, before breaking the forestay. This incident ended their chances for a good result on this leg, although Bouwe insists on the fact that they always felt safe: "We had very safe settings for the emergency forestay and we never had moments when the forestay was put under too much strain. Safety is always first on the list."

"That was a hard moment," Bouwe continues, "but we kept the morale up by just looking forward to the remainder of the race and all the points we still stand to gain." Even with the forestay handicap, TELEFONICA BLUE managed to finish Leg 5 only a few hours after Green Dragon, who came in fourth. "Fortunately, the job list was relatively small, no big items, and that's why our shore team could get the boat in shape in such a short time span. They did a superb job, as usual, and we ended up winning the practice race, the in-port race and the pro-am race of Rio de Janeiro... three wins in three days, not a piece of cake!"

From the arrival in Rio until the start of Leg 6, TELEFONICA BLUE will spend just two weeks ashore, too short a time for the crew members, as Bouwe says: "There is not really enough time to recover, so training for me will be some light running, stretching, abs etc. Albeit the leg was rough, even though I didn't really lose too much weight, but one always needs to recover one's aerobics before facing another couple weeks of non-stop offshore racing."

"Luckily, none of us suffered from any serious physical problems during Leg 5, just some rashes and one person twisted his ankle, but that was it. That's a hard part of this race, the hygiene on board. The salt water on your skin, for example, is always a problem- that's why I didn't have a single shower for the whole journey."

The next step in Bekking's schedule is a 4,900 nautical mile leg from Rio de Janeiro to Boston (USA), starting on Saturday. "If you look at the scoring we are doing just fine, and we just have to forget our last leg and fully focus on next week's leg. There will be a lot of reaching and we have shown in the last leg that we can move very well. The next leg is crucial, as we have to beat Puma and especially Ericsson 4 to keep the game close. I am confident we will do well."

Bouwe Bekking
Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Crew List for Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race - Rio de Janeiro to Boston

The Skippers' Press Conference before the start of Leg 6, from Rio de Janeiro to Boston, of the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Volvo Ocean Race media

1. Roberto Bermúdez De Castro/ESP – skipper
2. Wouter Verbraak/NED – navigator
3. Sander Pluijm/NED – media crew member
4. Stuart Wilson/NZL – watch captain
5. Nick Bice/AUS – watch captain
6. Andre Fonseca/BRA – helmsman
7. Ben Costello/NZL – helmsman
8. Ed Van Lierde/NED – trimmer
9. David Pella/ESP – trimmer
10. Gerd-Jan Poortman/NED – Bowman
11. Morgan White/AUS - bowman

On: Wouter Verbraak/NED – navigator
Ben Costello/NZL – helmsman
Ed Van Lierde/NED – trimmer
Nick Bice/AUS – watch captain
Off: Frits Koek/NED – navigator
Edwin O’Connor/IRL – trimmer
Martin Watts/GBR – trimmer
Guillermo Altadill/ESP – watch captain

1. Torben Grael/BRA - skipper
2. Jules Salter/GBR - navigator
3. Guy Salter/GBR - MCM
4. Brad Jackson/NZL – watch captain
5. Stu Bannatyne/NZL – watch captain
6. Dave Endean/NZL - pitman
7. Horacio Carabelli/BRA - trimmer
8. Tony Mutter/NZL - trimmer
9. Joao Signorini/BRA - trimmer
10. Ryan Godfrey/AUS - bowman
11. Phil Jameson/NZL – bowman

No changes

1. Magnus Olsson/SWE – skipper
2. Aksel Magdahl/NOR - navigator
3. Gustav Morin/SWE MCM
4. Thomas Johansson/FIN - helmsman
5. Richard Mason/NZL - watch captain
6. Magnus Woxen/SWE – trimmer
7. Eivind Melleby/NOR - helmsman
8. Martin Strömberg/SWE – trimmer
9. Jens Dolmer/DEN - pitman
10. Anders Dahlsjö/SWE - bowman
11. Martin Krite/SWE - bowman

On: Richard Mason/NZL - watch captain
Off: Arve Roaas/NOR – trimmer/helmsman

1. Ian Walker/GBR - skipper
2. Ian Moore/IRL - navigator
3. Guo Chuan/CHN - MCM
4. Neal McDonald/GBR – watch captain
5. Damian Foxall/IRL – watch captain
6. Anthony Merrington/AUS – helmsman/trimmer
7. Phil Harmer/AUS – helmsman/trimmer
8. Andrew Mclean/NZL – pitman/trimmer
9. James Carroll/IRL – pitman/trimmer
10. Justin Slattery/IRL – bowman
11. Freddy Shanks/GBR - bowman

On: Ian Moore/IRL – navigator
Anthony Merrington/AUS – watch captain
James Carroll/IRL – pitman/trimmer
Off: Wouter Verbraak/NED - navigator
Tom Braidwood/AUS – pitman/trimmer
Chris Main/NZL – helmsman/trimmer

1. Ken Read/USA - skipper
2. Andrew Cape/AUS - navigator
3. Rick Deppe/GBR MCM
4. Sidney Gavignet/FRA – watch captain
5. Robert Greenhalgh/GBR – watch captain
6. Rob Salthouse/NZL – helmsman/trimmer
7. Justin Ferris/NZL – helmsman/trimmer
8. Erle Williams/NZL – helmsman/trimmer
9. Shannon Falcone/ANT – bowman/pitman
10. Casey Smith/AUS – bowman/helmsman
11. Michael Müller/GER – helmsman/bowman

On: Shannon Falcone/ANT – trimmer/pitman
Off: Jerry Kirby/USA – bowman/pitman

1. Bouwe Bekking/NED - skipper
2. Tom Addis/AUS – navigator
3. Simon Fisher/GBR- strategist/helmsman
4. Gabriele Olivo/ITA - MCM
5. Jonathan Swain/RSA – watch captain
6. Jordi Calafat ESP – helmsman
7. Xabier Fernandez/ESP - trimmer
8. Pablo Arrarte/ESP Spanish - trimmer
9. Laurent Pages/FRA – trimmer
10. Daryl Wislang/NZL - bowman
11. Pepe Ribes/ESP - bowman

On: Laurent Pages/FRA – trimmer
Daryl Wislang/NZL - bowman
Pepe Ribes/ESP - bowman
Off: Iker Martinez/ESP - co-skipper/helmsman
Michael Pammeter/RSA - bowman
David Vera/ESP - bowman

1. Fernando Echavarri/ESP – skipper
2. Roger Nilson/SWE – navigator
3. Anton Paz/ESP – media crew member
4. Antonio (Ñeti) Cuervas-Mons/ESP – bowman
5. Gonzalo Araujo/ESP – watch captain
6. Jaime Arbones/ESP – watch captain
7. Pablo Iglesias/ESP – helmsman
8. Javier de la Plaza/ESP – helmsman
9. David Vera/ESP - trimmer
10. Maciel Cicchetti/ARG – trimmer
11. Michael Pammenter/RSA - bowman

On: Anton Paz/ESP – media crew member
Maciel Cicchetti/ARG – trimmer
Off: Mikel Pasabant/ESP – MCM
Francisco Rivero/ESP - bowman

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Ericsson Racing Team Sets off for U.S. on Saturday

Ericsson Racing Team sailing in Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.

by Victoria Low

After a busy but enjoyable layover here, Ericsson Racing Team stands ready for Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race to Boston, USA.

Ericsson 4, skippered by Brazil's Torben Grael, enters the leg with a 10-point lead in the overall standings. Ericsson 3, skippered by Magnus Olsson of Sweden, is fourth, 21.5 points behind its teammate and 10 points behind third place.

The Volvo Ocean Race has visited the East Coast of the U.S. since the 1989-'90 edition, calling in Florida, Maryland and New York. The move to Boston brings the race to the northeast, where spring is in season.

"That's an important difference," said team meteorologist Chris Bedford. "People may not realize there's a fairly large difference between the south or mid-Atlantic states and the northeast. How you handle the trade winds in the North Atlantic is different for going to Boston."

The 4,900-nautical mile leg begins Saturday at 1800 GMT (1500 local) and is the longest of the five offshore legs remaining in the race.

"This leg represents a bit more than half of the remaining miles of the race," said Ericsson 3 navigator Aksel Magdahl.

The route takes the fleet from Guanabara Bay, through a scoring gate off Ilha de Fernando de Noronha, through the Doldrums for a final time, and then towards Boston. Once through the Doldrums the fleet should enjoy reaching conditions in the northeasterly trade winds of the North Atlantic Ocean.

"It should be another interesting leg," said Ericsson 4 navigator Jules Salter. "It's got a bit of everything in it: Doldrums, trade winds and some cold, windy, bumpy stuff in the end as we approach spring in the North Hemisphere. We'll be sailing slightly tighter angles through the trades, which will make it different."

The exit from Guanabarra Bay and passage around Cabo Frio will be important in the early going because the fleet will be positioning for the scoring gate at Ilha de Fernando de Noronha (passed to port), approximately 1,350 nautical miles from the start.

Thomas Johansson packing provisions for leg 6. Image copyright Oskar Kihlborg/Ericsson Racing Team.

After the scoring gate the fleet will have to contend with the Doldrums, which should be much narrower this time of year than last fall when boats such as Ericsson 3 were besieged by the light winds for up to 18 hours. Free of the light winds, the fleet will leg into the northeasterly trade winds of the North Atlantic and some fast sailing.

"Coming out of here to Fernando is a well-worn route," said Bedford. "From there it'll be critical to get through the Doldrums first because there'll be few passing opportunities once into the North Atlantic trade winds. In the trades, it's 1,200 to 1,500 nautical miles of high-speed sailing in winds 15 to 20 knots."

The approach to Boston is far from straightforward. Due to an abundance of the endangered North Atlantic right whale off of Cape Cod and a U.S. law prohibiting vessels longer than 65 feet and faster than 10 knots from traversing Seasonal Management Areas along the U.S. east coast, the fleet must honor an exclusion zone.

The diamond-shaped zone is roughly 150 nautical miles from top to bottom and side to side, and forces the fleet to sail as far north as Maine before beginning the approach to the finish line, approximately 100 nautical miles to the south/southwest.

"They'll have to pass through a narrow opening of four miles between Cape Ann and the western zone marker," said Bedford. "It adds a lot of coastal sailing to the end and should make an interesting finish to the race. It's never straightforward."

The zone could add anywhere from 12 to 24 hours to the leg, which is predicted to last between 17 and 19 days. The fleet has the option of Stealth play on this leg, but the time "invisible" has been reduced to 12 hours from 24 hours on the previous leg. Also, the fleet may not use Stealth play in the final 250 nautical miles of the leg. Previously, the boats could use it to within 50 miles of the finish.

Ericsson 4's navigator Salter said the International crew won't change its strategy despite its lead.

"We've been pretty conservative through the race, so I imagine we'd continue that," Salter said. "If Green Dragon or Delta Lloyd or someone else were to steer off somewhere I would think we might let them go and stay close to Puma or Telefónica Blue, the two boats closest to us. But each situation is different and you can't call it until it's time."

(After Rio In-Port Race)
1. Ericsson 4, 66 points
2. Puma, 56.5
3. Telefónica Blue, 54.5
4. Ericsson 3, 44.5
5. Green Dragon, 41
6. Telefónica Black, 23
7. Delta Lloyd, 15

Ericsson Racing Team
Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Green Dragon Announce Crew Changes for Leg 6

Boat Captain James Carroll. Image copyright Yongtao Jiang/Green Dragon Racing.

by Lucy Harwood

Green Dragon has announced a crew change for Leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race from Rio to Boston, which starts on Saturday April 11th 2009.

As part of the ongoing crew rotations pitman Tom Braidwood will stand down for the 4,900 mile leg to Boston and he will re-join the crew in Boston for the remainder of the race. Taking his place onboard the Dragon will be Green Dragon’s boat captain Irishman James Carroll. This will the second leg for Carroll who stepped onboard for leg 3 from India to Singapore. Also returning for Leg 6 are Green Dragon’s navigator Ian Moore and pitman and trimmer Anthony Merrington who has made a full recovery from the back injury he sustained during Leg 4.

Green Dragon Crew List Leg 6

Leg 6 will kick off from Rio de Janerio at 1500 local time (GMT -4) this Saturday 11th April. Green Dragon’s navigator Ian Moore filled us in on the weather forecast ahead, “The forecast for Saturday looks promising as the light variable conditions that we have had for the last week looks like it might give way to more predictable trade winds between Rio and Recife. The South Atlantic high looks to be moving to the south east which could bring more reaching than beating conditions for the first couple of days. The longer term outlook is less certain and although the Azores high is well established at the moment, the North East Trades east of the Caribbean look only moderate in strength.”

The 4,900 mile leg to Boston will throw some challenges at the crews. Just as the last few days into Brazil were testing, the first few days out may also prove to be tricky as they set off in the light airs that slowed the fleet as they approached the finish. Going offshore means more consistent conditions but it also means a longer route to Boston! Once past Recife, the seven teams will once again have to face the Doldrums. It will be the fourth time on this race and they will have to navigate the light and tricky conditions to get north as fast as possible.

Once through the Doldrums they will be looking to hook into the North East Trade Winds and then head onto the Gulf Stream. The last stretch will see the fleet enter the North Atlantic for the final approach to Boston, where they will have to navigate around an exclusion zone which has been added to the notice of race. The zone will prevent the boats from entering a breeding ground for whales, there is a speed limit within this area and as the race cannot guarantee the speed of the fleet the boats will have to sail further north and around the zone before the finish into Boston.

Green Dragon Racing
Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Bidding for the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 Ports Sets Sail

The Winter Palace in St Petersburg, the grand finale of the 2008-2009 race. Image copyright Michael Woods/Russian Challenge.

by Volvo Ocean Race media

The Volvo Ocean Race has announced that a formal bidding process to procure stopover ports and the finish port for the 2011-12 edition of the race is underway. Letters requesting expressions of interest were distributed to potential host ports worldwide at the end of March and initial responses are due in by 24 April 2009.

The Volvo Ocean Race has for 36 years joined together some of the world’s most prestigious ports and in response to the increase in interest from potential host ports, for the first time in the event’s history, applicants are being invited to bid for the right to become a host port on the route for the next Volvo Ocean Race. The Sports Consultancy, is managing the port procurement process on behalf of the race organisers.

Commenting on the bidding process and proposed new route, Volvo Ocean Race CEO, Knut Frostad, said, “We are hoping to build on the success of the current edition of the race, which visited ports in Asia for the first time. The stopovers in India and China have added a new dimension to the sport side of the race, and have been important in terms of bringing sailing to a new audience. We want to build on this momentum in Asia next time around.

“Whilst the route in not confirmed, I can say that the Volvo Ocean Race 2011-12 will start and finish in Europe, should have two or three less stopovers compared to the current race, and the total time for the race should be about one month shorter.”

Angus Buchanan, Director, The Sports Consultancy added, “To date, an impressive number of cities around the world have responded positively to our request for Expressions of Interest and this ultimately will give us far greater choice when planning a competitive route.

“The task ahead is enormous as we go through the bidding process and at the final stages we will be negotiating 8 -10 hosting contracts simultaneously to ensure the new route can be announced from March 2010.”

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Are you Ready to Play?

The Virtual Race winner of leg 5 beat the actual winner (Ericsson 3, pictured). Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Volvo Ocean Race media

On Saturday, leg six of the Volvo Ocean Race starts from Rio de Janeiro and that means it’s time to get behind your computer screen to get ready for the start of the Volvo Ocean Race official game.

With nearly 200,000 players currently registered, the game has been a runaway hit with both gamers and sailors from all around the world. It is the biggest global sailing community in the world, with registered players in more than 180 countries.

The virtual skippers compete on the exact same course and receive the same weather information as their real-world counterparts on the Volvo Open 70s, making it a true-to-life experience.

Although the teams in both the game and the Volvo Ocean Race are now more than halfway around the world, there is still plenty of action left. There are five full legs of the race left and plenty of sailing between now and the finish line in St. Petersburg at the end of June.

The overall prize is out of reach for new players. But there are great prizes still available to be won. The winner of the next leg is rewarded with a trip to the following stopover, where they can take in the action of the in-port race.

‘Hedgehog’, the winner of leg five, will be flown to Boston during the next stopover to enjoy the atmosphere of the Volvo Ocean Race and to meet the race crews.

On the last leg, the virtual boats beat the real boats to Rio by days. Can you do the same this time?

Leg six, from Rio to Janeiro to Boston starts at 18:00 GMT on Saturday.

Volvo Ocean Race

Thursday 9 April 2009

RC44: Top-class Line-up for the Cagliari RC44 Cup

The second event of the RC 44 Championship Tour 2009 will take place in Sardinia on April 22 - 26. Organised by Yacht Club Cagliari, the regatta will assemble nine top level teams on board strict one design RC 44s, including Team Austria who joins the circuit for the first time.

The RC 44 fleet will be looking for some more strong wind action in Cagliari. Image copyright Gilles Martin-Raget/RC44.

by Bernard Schopfer

The second event of the RC 44 Championship Tour 2009 will take place in two weeks in Cagliari (Sardinia, ITA). Nine teams including some of the world’s best sailors will be pitting their skills on the short & sharp race courses, competing for the match race title on Wednesday and Thursday before racing the fleet regatta from Friday to Sunday.

Winner of the match race event last year, BMW ORACLE Racing, will have team owner Larry Ellison back at the helm in Cagliari. The USA team will once again face strong opposition with match race world champion Sébastien Col (Ceeref) and Cameron Appleton (Team Aqua) – respectively winner and second of the season opener in Lanzarote last month.

Other teams will look for precious points on the Championship Tour, such as Team Sea Dubai, back in action for the first time this season with Marcus Wieser at the helm, or Maciej Nawrocki’s Team Organika with Karol Jablonski at the helm. Dean Barker (Artemis) or Philippe Presti (No Way Back), are other obvious candidates for victory in this very open contest.

The fleet regatta will also see a strong opposition and offer a bigger chance to the new teams to shine. After training over the winter on Lake Traunsee, René Mangold’s Team Austria will participate in its first official RC 44 regatta in Cagliari. As for team Puerto Calero, it will be keen to repeat – if not better - its excellent fifth spot from last month in Lanzarote, including two race victories.

The RC 44 fleet has been transported fast and safely from the Canaries Islands with the help of DHL, who announced recently that it will compensate the carbon footprint of the Championship Tour and offset the carbon dioxide emission from transportation through their Go Green program.

The Cagliari Cup is organised by Yacht Club Cagliari, with the support of the City of Cagliari.

The teams involved:
(Name of team, owner, pro sailor)

Team Aqua, Chris Bake / Cameron Appleton
Team Ceeref, Igor Lah / Sébastien Col
Sea Dubai, DIMC, Markus Wieser
BMW ORACLE Racing, Larry Ellison / Russell Coutts
Team Organika, Maciej Nawrocki / Karol Jablonski
Puerto Calero Islas Canarias, José Juan Calero / Jose Maria Ponce
Artemis, Torbjorn Tornqvist / Dean Barker
No Way Back, Pieter Heerema / Philippe Presti
Team Austria, Christian Binder / René Mangold


Wednesday 8 April 2009

America's Cup: Post-Court Ruling Statement from Golden Gate Yacht Club

by Jane Eagleson

The Golden Gate Yacht Club and its team, BMW ORACLE Racing, remain committed to negotiate with the Defender, Société Nautique de Genève/Alinghi, a conventional mutual consent protocol for the next America's Cup that would involve all teams.

This follows the April 2 decision of the New York State Court of Appeals confirming the Golden Gate Yacht Club as the Challenger of Record for the 33rd America's Cup.

BMW ORACLE Racing's owner, Larry Ellison, and the President of Alinghi, Ernesto Bertarelli, have communicated with each other since the court ruling.

At this stage the club believes it is best to keep communications between the parties private in the interests of reaching a successful conclusion as quickly as possible.

America's Cup

Tuesday 7 April 2009

Audi MedCup 2009: Three New TP52s on the Track

Three new, recently launched TP52's are firmly on schedule with their work-up to the first regatta of the 2009 Audi MedCup Circuit. Emirates Team New Zealand, Artemis and Matador will race for first time in the City of Alicante Trophy (12-17 May) with their brand new TP52's.

Emirates Team New Zealand's new TP52 training out of Auckland. Audi MedCup supplied image.

by Audi MedCup media

The start of the season has always proven tough for crews getting to grips with new, relatively un-tried and tested boats. Often the advantage has lain with teams with proven TP52's that they know well from the previous season. But all three new boats have launched early and seem to be well up to speed with their build-up to the new Audi MedCup season.

In New Zealand, the Cookson Boats built duo Artemis (SWE), the Judel-Vrolijk design for 2007 MedCup Champion owner Torbjorn Tornqvist and Emirates Team New Zealand's Botin Carkeek design have been tuning and testing together on Waitemata Harbour last month before they go on a ship for Europe.

The third new boat is that of well known Argentine owner Alberto Roemmers. The new Matador was built by Argentine company King Marine near Valencia and was launched in mid March. Roemmers' previous Matador, also a Judel Vrolijk design, finished in third place on the 2008 Audi MedCup Circuit.

Ignacio Triay, Audi MedCup Circuit Director, emphasises the importance of the three new designs: “There is a lot of expectation on those three new boats, especially the one from Emirates Team New Zealand, a team joining the Circuit for the first time with a very revolutionary design. In theory, we are talking about the three favourite teams this year, but I’m pretty sure those racing with 2007 and 2008 designs won’t make their life easy.”

New team, new boat
Emirates Team New Zealand sailors have played leading roles on the MedCup Circuit since the first season. In 2006, the core team on Peter de Ridder's winning Mean Machine were from Emirates Team Zealand and indeed the second placed Warpath was steered by ETNZ's Louis Vuitton Cup winning skipper Dean Barker. This was not coincidental. It was part of the preparation strategy for Emirates Team New Zealand, strengthening the bonds and skills within the team sailing with, and against each other in a white hot fleet. Barker also steered José Cusi's Bribon, which is skippered by SM JuanCarlos, the King of Spain, to second place last season.

This is the first season that Emirates Team Zealand will race a TP52 in their own colours. They have taken all their learning from previous seasons and brought to bear a high level of their technological skills from their America's Cup programmes.

"The project involves the entire team: designers and engineers have been involved - Marcelino Botin, the team's principal designer, Giovanni Belgrano, principal composites engineer, Burns Fallow sails design, Martin McElwee, rig design." Highlights Emirates Team New Zealand's Grant Dalton. "The sailing team has been heavily involved in deck layout and the detail that can make all the difference when racing."

"It is always exciting to launch a new boat. A huge amount of man hours are required to tick all the boxes. I feel Marcelino desiged a great boat in Quantum last year and this boat is a clear evolution of that family. We have had a lot of input from ETNZ sailors and designers and now we look forward to seeing how she performs." Explains Emirates Team New Zealand's Ray Davies.

Over the back end of March the ETNZ TP52 and the new Artemis - the tenth TP52 built by Cookson, who built the 2007 champion Artemis - were working up together on the waters off Auckland. In previous years, initial sea trials have been limited to a few isolated days for New Zealand built boats but the new pair have enjoyed a period of sparring and tuning and should both be in the best possible shape when they go into the water in Europe.

Chris Hosking, boat captain on Artemis said: "We are very happy with the new boat. Cooksons have done a great job again and it is good to be back with what was a winning combination for us before, with Rolf Vrolijk and sails by North Sails NZ and a rig by Southern Spars." On the first contact of the boat with the water, Hosking added: "We had some good sailing out with the Team New Zealand guys. Their boat is a bit more radical and certainly it will be interesting to see how we both go."

The New Zealand built pair were shipped on 31st March and are due in Valencia very early May.

Meantime, Palma Vela, the multi class regatta which takes place over this Easter weekend off the Balearic capital, Palma, should see the new Matador ready to race in earnest. Skipper Guillermo Parada learned a great deal over the two years that the preceding Judel Vrolijk designed Matador was competing on the MedCup Circuit. Matador proved one of the most consistent performers over the second half of last season, going on to finish third. The new Matador has, again, been built in Spain by the Argentinian builders King Marine, who also built Bribon, and was launched in Mid March also. Sails are from North Sails Argentina on a rig by Southern Spars.

Alberto Roemmers says: "We hope this new boat will give us the opportunity to improve our results of last season. We know it's going to be another challenging, difficult year, with new teams joining the Circuit with great talents on board. But we really have good perspectives in terms of performance, and we look forward to be in there fighting for the top places. We know from experience it is a long season and that only by being consistent and by avoiding mistakes can you reach the top place on the podium."

Three new boats to race against a strong fleet for the first trophy of the TP52 Series at the Audi MedCup Circuit 2009. Only five weeks until their performance potential is put to the test.

Audi MedCup Circuit 2009

City of Alicante Trophy, 12 – 17 May
City of Marseille Trophy, 9 – 14 June
Autonomous Region of Sardinia Trophy, 20 – 25 July
Portugal Trophy, 18 – 23 August
Region of Murcia Trophy, 14 - 19 September

Audi MedCup

A 'Novice' Kiwi's View of the 2008-9 Volvo Ocean Race: Andrew McLean of the Green Dragon

Andrew McLean keeps smiling, no matter what, on board the Green Dragon. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing.

Andy McLean (aka 'Animal') has followed in the long-standing New Zealand traditions of match racing, the America's Cup (with Emirates Team New Zealand) and now the Volvo Ocean Race.

He is interviewed after leg 5, in Rio de Janeiro, by Anne Hinton... and it's clear that food, sleep and home are very important to this Kiwi international sailor.

AH: Why is your nickname ‘Animal’? How did this come about?

AM: I’m not exactly sure how that nickname came about, to be honest. I got given it during the 2007 America's Cup. I think it's because I spent most of my time downstairs in the sewer packing sails, and it has followed me to the Green Dragon.

AH: Why did you want to do the Volvo Ocean Race?

AM: I have always wanted to do the Volvo/Whitbread, I use to plot the skeds of Steinlager II on my wall when I was a kid. There is something cool about ocean sailing, especially circumnavigating the globe.

AH: How are you enjoying the Volvo Ocean Race?

AM: I am enjoying sailing with the Green Dragon, we have some really experienced guys on board with Neal McDonald, Damian Foxall and Justin Slattery, and I really enjoy learning from these guys. The new course has made the sailing lighter and more upwind than the previous editions of the race, which is probably less appealing than the old days of hauling through the Southern Ocean, but it has been challenging I guess. The Volvo 70s are powerful boats and really physically demanding to sail, but the speed at which you can cover the miles is pretty rewarding.

Andy McLean checks the mast in rough weather on leg 2 from Cape Town to Cochin. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

AH: What are your roles on board the Green Dragon?

AM: On board the Green Dragon I am a Pitman/Bowman/Trimmer; I think that is my technical role, and I do a bit of driving. You really end up all over the place on these boats, everyone has to be able to be pretty proficient in all areas, which I think is part of the fun of it. On board I look after the mast and the electronics. Both can keep you pretty busy.

AH: What is your onshore role?

AM: Ashore I look after servicing the rig along with guys from Southern Spars and Sydney Rigging. We have a pretty handy bunch of guys ashore which makes life pretty easy on the beach.

AH: How tough is this Race compared with other offshore racing?

AM: You would have to say that the Volvo Ocean Race is the toughest offshore race in the world, the standard of the fleet is very high and the course takes you through some of the toughest stretches of water. The leg into China has probably been one of the highlights of the race for me so far, just trying to keep the boat together and surviving in those tough conditions was awesome.

AH: ... and compared with the (very different) America's Cup?

AM: The America's Cup is very different to the Volvo Ocean Race, it is pretty difficult to compare the two events. The America's Cup is a very tough regatta, even though the food and sleeping programmes are much better in the AC, the intensity makes it pretty tough.

AH: The last two legs have presented big issues for the Dragon – structural and food/mechanical. How have you coped with these different challenges as a team?

AM: We did have a couple of breaks in the early legs on the Dragon, firstly hitting something coming into Cape Town, then breaking the boom into India and the Headstay hanger in the leg to China. I think each time we have dealt with the situation pretty well and minimised the effect it has had on our performance. We have pretty good contingencies in place on board for breakdowns, you have to be pretty self sufficient in the middle of the ocean.

Andy pretends to grab food when rationing comes into effect on board the Green Dragon on leg 5. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

AH: What experiences in your personal background have helped in these situations?

AM: My engineering background has probably helped quite a bit I think. It’s a full time job keeping these boats together, maintenance is just as important as the actually sailing. One thing is for certain, I love food! Rationing the last week into Rio was pretty tough!

AH: How do 11 men manage to live together on a 70 foot boat for 43 days?

AM: 43 days wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. We are pretty lucky on the Green Dragon as we all get on really well as a team. Everyone goes through their highs and lows during such a long leg, and you learn when to give each other a bit of space now and then, but generally we have a lot of fun sailing together.

'Animal' munching on a snack earlier on leg 5. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

AH: Tell us the secret of how you keep smiling (‘Happy of the Volvo’) even when exhausted after days of sailing and the constant challenges of life on board the boat?

AM: Not sure about that, maybe I just smile for the camera!
[AH: This is a very modest reply, as Andy is always to be found smiling, come what may, as the team confirms!]

AH: What are the best and worst things about doing the Volvo Ocean Race?

AM: The best thing about the Volvo is arriving at the dock at the end of each leg, when you see the Dragon shore team and friends and family. When you finish a leg you get a real sense of achievement within the team, even if you didn’t do as well as you hoped.

The worst thing is probably the amount of time you spend away from home, I’m really looking forward to getting back to New Zealand. It was pretty painful sailing so close to home and not stopping.

Go the Dragon!

AH: Thank you very much indeed for your time and all the best for the remainder of the Volvo Ocean Race to St Petersburg.

Green Dragon Racing
Volvo Ocean Race

Monday 6 April 2009

VOR: Future Steps for the Volvo Ocean Race

Volvo Ocean Race CEO Knut Frostad. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Volvo Ocean Race media

On Sunday morning, Knut Frostad, CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race, made the first of a series of presentations covering the current state of the race, and looking forward to the next edition, in 2011-12. Interested parties including sailors and team management, sponsors, ports, representatives from potential future teams and the media were in attendance.

The first order of business was an assessment of the current race; a mid-race report was distributed, showing this Volvo Ocean Race is on track to be the most widely-covered edition of the race in its 35 year history.

“As modern communications evolve, so too does the Volvo Ocean Race,” Frostad said. “For this edition we have introduced many innovations: the on board media crew member, shooting footage on board in HD, is at the core of everything we do; our mobile channel is a great success – in January the mobile site was hit every single second, for example; and I don’t think any of us anticipated the success of the Virtual Game, which will soon surpass 200 000 players, from nearly 200 countries around the world.

Highlights from the Mid-Race Report included:
• 811 677 – the number of visitors to the race village in Cochin, India
• 420 journalists from eight countries accredited in China alone
• 2 350 392 spectators in the Volvo Ocean Race villages to date
• 547 251 706 cumulative TV audience
• 319 broadcast media outlets from 55 countries taking news feeds
• 2 410 000 unique visitors to
• 180% increase in traffic to mobile site compared to last race

Attention then shifted to the next race, now significantly less than three years away. Before the start of the current race in Alicante last year, Volvo affirmed its commitment to the next Volvo Ocean Race which will start in 2011. At that time, it was decided that over the course of this race, through consultation with stakeholders, changes ahead of the next edition would be considered, and released in a timely manner. Sunday’s presentation was the first of a series where the evolution and philosophy of the Volvo Ocean Race will be revealed.

“As healthy as the race is now, we know that things are changing all the time, and the Volvo Ocean Race has to evolve if it is to remain at the pinnacle of the professional sailing world,” Frostad said.

“With our partners, the Boston Consulting Group, we’ve run extensive consultations over the past six months with teams, sailors, sponsors, and other stakeholders, to make improvements to the race. Our goal is to increase participation and get more boats into the next race. What we have come up with, I believe, are the right changes at the right time.”

In the current economic climate, increasing the value of the race is critical. Cost-cutting measures are being evaluated as are changes that will increase the return on investment to sponsors.

On Sunday, the Volvo Ocean Race announced that it has made a decision on the first of a series of changes that will affect the race, the crews, the boats and the way they are sailed. Over the coming weeks, these decisions will be translated into new Rules.

For the 2011-12 edition of the race, there will be a tighter restriction on the number of sails the teams are allowed to use. Sail inventory will be reduced by nearly 40 percent, and furling headsails will be introduced.

That in turn will make the boats easier to handle and so the crew on board has been reduced by one. It was also announced that each team will be required to have three crew members who are under 30 years of age when the race starts, compared to the current requirement for two.

These are the first of a series of changes to be made and announced over the coming months. Today, Frostad discussed the procedure in place for making these important innovations.

“These changes announced today, and the ones still to come, have come to fruition following an extensive consultation process,” he said. “And each one is measured against three criteria: to make and keep the race attractive for sailors, to reduce the cost for teams significantly, and to increase the return on investment for team sponsors. If a proposed change doesn’t measure up against one of those yardsticks, we won’t make it.”

Changes to the Rules for the race are being managed by Bill Edgerton, recently appointed as the ‘New Rules Project Manager’ along with Ken McAlpine, who has been hired as a Technical Advisor. Both men have a wealth of experience in rules management.

Finally, the proposed route for the next race was outlined. Last month The Sports Consultancy called for Expressions of Interest for stopover ports for the next race. To date, an impressive number of cities around the world have responded. Today, the full Port Procurement process was explained.

Although a route has yet to be finalised, the next edition of the race will start and finish in Europe, should have two or three less stopovers compared to the current race, and the total time for the race should be about one month shorter. It is expected that the full route for the 2011-12 race will be announced in the first quarter of 2010.

“We are hoping to build on the success of this edition of the race, which visited ports in Asia for the first time,” Frostad said. “The stopovers in India and China have added a new dimension to the sport side of the race, and have been important in terms of bringing sailing to a new audience. We want to build on this momentum in Asia next time around.”

The next presentation is scheduled to take place in Boston on May 10, during the In-Port Race weekend. There will be two further presentations before the end of the race, one in Galway (May 31) and one in Stockholm (June 22).

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Telefonica Blue Rules in Rio

Start of the In-Port race in Guananbara Bay. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Riath Al-Samarrai

"What a result," screamed Wouter Verbraak. "Unbelievable."

The new era of Team Delta Lloyd was welcomed with a maiden podium finish, but Bouwe Bekking had the biggest grin at the end of the 'Light In-Port Race' in Rio de Janeiro today.

His Telefonica Blue team were seemingly out of the running when they passed the first turning mark in fourth place, 27 seconds off PUMA's well-earned lead.

But, having chosen the left-hand side of the track (looking upwind) on the downwind run, they profited from a wind shift and stormed to the front of the fleet.

They got to the bottom mark 20 seconds clear of Delta Lloyd - the only team to join them on the left having been sixth at the first mark - before extending to 50 seconds clear of PUMA on the beat upwind.

Ultimately they stretched their advantage to 54 seconds, celebrating their second win from four in-port races, but, more significantly, they gained half a point on PUMA in the overall standings and one-and-a-half on Ericsson 4.

"It feels pretty nice, to be honest," said Bekking, the team's offshore skipper and inshore tactician. "We sailed very well, made very few mistakes and I think the result shows that."

His team are now two points short of PUMA, while Ericsson 4, who finished fourth today, are a further nine-and-a-half points up.

"It's only a small gain for us, but it all counts," he said. "That was a great result for Delta Lloyd. They sailed a superb race and it's also helped us by finishing ahead of Ericsson 4."

Telefonica Blue, skippered by Iker Martinez (ESP) Bouwe Bekking (NED) finish first in the Light In-port Race in the Volvo Ocean Race in Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

At times Roberto Bermudez's team looked set for an even better result, claiming second when the wind shifted on the first run. On the way back upwind PUMA regained the spot, but il mostro skipper Ken Read had mixed feeling's about the result.

"We sailed well and got a point off Ericsson 4," Read said. Irrespective, he appeared bemused by his team's ability to finish anywhere but first, having taken second or third at 11 of 14 opportunities from legs, in-port races and scoring gates.

"We are the proverbial bridesmaid out here, we can't our help ourselves," he laughed. "This is what we do, we come in second. It's a shame, we had a good race going and Telefonica had a nice little breeze line that none of us had and went from pretty far back into a nice little lead. It was a pretty fluky day, but this is the story of our lives right now, but we'll take second, put a point on E4."

For a while his team held pole position after another superb start in which they were the only team to sail on port tack. They reached the top mark in first, but on the run Blue and Delta Lloyd came charging by courtesy of their favourable wind shift.

Despite losing second place, Delta Lloyd celebrated like champions. They had previously never finished higher than sixth in any stage, but the team has undergone major surgery. A new rig, new sails and several new crew members seemed to make a huge difference to the team that missed leg five because of serious damage.

"All credit to Bochecha (Brazilian Andre Fonseca), our tactician, he knows this place like his back pocket," Verbraak said. "It wasn't boat speed. We are still slow in light conditions (today fluctuated between 6 and 12 knots)." The navigator particularly enjoyed beating Ericsson 4 at the end of the final run.

"Our great moment was when we made a dummy-gybe against Ericsson 4 at the last downwind," he said. "They gybed away and we continued to the lay-line and got third place. We just sailed so well."

Bermudez put the result in perspective. "This is great," he said. "Really great. But we need to do more in the offshore legs. We sailed well today and there are lots of good things about this team, but we need to do well offshore and keep on fighting to St Petersburg."

Understandably, Ericsson 4 skipper Torben Grael was less pleased with his day's work. They were third at the top mark but fourth at every other check-point, meaning the home favourite could not give a win to his many fans at dockside.

"We could have done better, we didn't use the opportunities we had," he said. "We had a good start and we had a few opportunities we didn't use too well. It's a natural result. Point wise we haven't lost too much."

Ericsson 3, who fell from second at the top mark to seventh at the end, were also downbeat. They suffered a penalty on the second beat and never recovered, but skipper Magnus Olsson said his crew needed to improve their decision making on short courses.

"It's not quite right," he said after his team failed to get on an in-port podium for the third time in three attempts (they missed the Qingdao inshore race). "All the decisions need to be made fast and perhaps we are not doing that in a good way. Lack of experience in sailing big boats inshore in a tight fleet. But we enjoyed it."

Not as much as Delta Lloyd. And certainly not as much as Telefonica Blue.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Play of the Day: Two for One

Telefonica Blue leads the fleet home in the Light In-Port race in Rio. Image copyright Rick Tomlinson/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Mark Chisnell

Just one race, but two plays of the day in the Light In-Port Race in Rio de Janeiro - since both relied on a little bit of luck to convert a plan into an opportunity, and then into a result.

It was the third day of light-wind in-port racing out of the four so far, but the short-course format and the dynamic acceleration of these powerful boats always provides plenty of action, and the eventual winner, Telefonica Blue, came from deep at the first windward mark.

But the first play of the day was on the start line, when Ken Read lined PUMA up on port tack with a minute to go. Those with good memories will recall that Ericsson 4's first race, port tack start was the play of the day in Qingdao - Torben Grael rolled down from the pin, ducked Green Dragon and Telefonica Blue, sailed over the top of a late-starting PUMA and into the lead at the mid-course gate.

Interesting then, that Ken Read's return to form on a start-line he had previously dominated, until two shocking efforts in Qingdao, was using the same strategy that Grael had used so effectively in China. The port tack start has its risks - a starboard tack boat in the wrong place at the wrong time can really ruin your day. Someone late on the line, but not so late that you can't cross in front of them, for instance, will leave you with nowhere to go.

Fortunately for Ken Read, Roberto Bermudez de Castro had Delta Lloyd at pace and on time a couple of lengths from the committee boat. It left a perfect gap for PUMA to skim their transom and start at full speed. And once they were off the line cleanly, they controlled their own destiny all the way to the windward mark.

And that was the key to a second place finish for PUMA - they led round the windward mark, because they could pick the places to tack, rather than being forced to do so by other boats. In fact, so important was clear air and the choice of lanes, that the boat that did best from the group that started together at the pin buoy was actually Ericsson 3. Magnus Olsson and his leg five winners were forced to tack away first after not being able to hold their place in the starboard tack line up - and that's normally death.

The only reason that Ericsson 3 didn't lead around the top mark was because substitute navigator, Magnus Woxen (Aksel Magdahl is still on R&R leave) overstood the layline, allowing PUMA to make a nice leebow tack and round ahead. But from there, Ken Read still had work to do - as the race winning move was coming up.

PUMA and Ericsson 3 led away from the windward mark, gybing when they were lined up for the middle of the gate - a nice conservative pick. But fourth placed Telefonica Blue, and sixth placed Delta Lloyd kept going just that little bit further. Bouwe Bekking choosing to wait 30 seconds after he passed PUMA's line before he called for the gybe on Telefonica Blue, with Delta Lloyd's tactician, Andre Fonseca waiting another 30 seconds again.

Those were golden seconds. Telefonica Blue has always shown a capacity in the light air of the in-port races to sail a slightly wider wind angle downwind, without losing much, if any, speed. They sailed that mode now, and it won them the race. They joined Delta Lloyd in an entirely different lane of breeze, which got them all the way to the leeward gate in one gybe. On the way, they passed all three of the boats in front of them.

Telefonica Blue wins the In-Port race in Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race.

Telefonica Blue was untouchable from there, but Bermudez de Castro, Fonseca and their teammates still had plenty on in their three year-old boat. PUMA had kept themselves in the middle of the race track, and were able to recover second, but Delta Lloyd had to hold off a charge from the overall race leader, Ericsson 4 and Torben Grael - anxious for a good showing on his home water.

And so Delta Lloyd get today's honourable mention, not just for picking the right side of the first run, along with Telefonica Blue, but for two calls by Andre Fonseca. The tactician held his nerve and held his line on port tack, when crossing Ericsson 4 by the slenderest of margins at the bottom of the first run, and again at the bottom of the second run. The slightest misjudgement would have cost them a penalty and third place. But there was no misjudgement, Delta Lloyd past clear ahead both times, and recorded their best result of the event so far.

Volvo Ocean Race