VOR Report: Leg Five Day 13

The Volvo fleet is rumbling down the track towards Fiji, which is not a mark of the course or a scoring gate, but it is a significant milestone mentally for the five crews racing in this 12,300 nm leg of the Volvo Ocean Race, the longest in the 36-year history of the event. After passing Fiji, there is still approximately 1000 nm to run to the first of two gates, where the first points will be scored.
photo credit: Guy Salter/Ericsson 4/Volvo Ocean Race
Rain clouds approaching Ericsson 4, in the Doldrums, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race


The island of Fiji is approximately 400 nm on the bow, and it will have a huge influence on how the fleet sails in the next two days. The western-most boat in the fleet, fourth-placed Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED), is having to sail at the tightest angle since the start of the leg and the yacht feels more constrained than before.
“The guys above us (to the east) have a slightly better angle to the top of Vanua Levu Island than us, especially the Dragons, so we are holding a breath a bit,” said navigator Tom Addis. The team has made a spectacular come-back after starting the leg 19 hours after the rest of the fleet due to contact with a rock just minutes before the start of the leg in Qingdao. Telefónica Blue is now only 36 nm behind leaders Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA).
“We’ve had a great run in the last 24 hours through some very unstable weather, and have pulled the front runners back by a massive amount, to the stage of almost being in the same patch of water now,” says Addis.
Competition is very close. PUMA (Ken Read/USA) and Ericsson 3 (Magnus Olsson/SWE) are just 23 and 24 nm from Ericsson 4 and both Telefónica Blue and Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR) are making some fast runs. Everything is still open for the first scoring gate at 36 degrees south.photo credit: Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race
Sail changes on Telefonica Blue, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro


The thinking on the ocean is that the teams are out of the worst of the ‘squall zone’, and the sailing is starting to settle down. Simon Fisher (Telefónica Blue) reported a six-hour morning watch of beautiful, fast upwind sailing in a steady breeze with the Code Zero sail flying. There was sunshine, flat water and not too many clouds in the sky. However, the weather threatened to spoil things for the afternoon watch who were just getting in to the rhythm of sailing round the clouds. It seems unlikely now that fleet will reach the hoped-for complete standstill that the Telefónica Blue crew were counting on, which would have allowed a full restart of the leg and a further opportunity for this team to gain.
Meanwhile, Ericsson 4 has been up close and personal with some wildlife. Rather closer than they would have liked.
“Today we also saw some whales, one of them less than a boat length from us. They are beautiful animals and their size is impressive. But my memories of them are not all nice,” wrote Joca Signorini who, when sailing onboard Brasil 1 in a qualification for the 2005-06 race actually hit one. He was thrown against the main bulkhead had broke three ribs. “Let’s hope we don’t get any closer – although beautiful, they are a danger to us as we are to them,” he said.
Leading the fleet by just 23 nm, Ericsson 4 is reporting flat seas and 12 knots of breeze. The crew are wearing shorts and T-shirts and enjoying beautiful nights filled with lots of stars.photo credit: Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race
Sail stacking on Telefonica Blue, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro


Onboard PUMA, MCM Rick Deppe was chatting to New Zealander, Rob Salthouse about the night sky:
“I was talking about my new, super-duper infrared see-in-the-dark camera light and Rob was telling me that he missed his kids and wished that he could bring them out here so that they could see how beautiful the night was. We both lamented that the folks at Sony had a long way to go until they could make a camera that would record a night like tonight, but then Rob commented that maybe that is a good thing, because everyone would be out here if they knew what it was like.”
With 8,402 miles to run to the finish in Rio, at 1300 GMT today, the fleet was spread 70 nm from first to fifth, but 102 nm west/east divide from Telefónica Blue in the west to Green Dragon in the east. The leading trio has remained almost the same distance apart, just a two-mile gain in the 24 hours, but there have been substantial gains for the backmarkers. Telefónica Blue has caught up another 26 nm and Green Dragon 18 miles. Telefónica Blue posts the fast 24-hour run of 266 nm, while PUMA is currently averaging the highest boat speed of 11.8 knots.photo credit: Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race
The scarred hands of Ericsson 3 boatcaptain and pitman Jens Dolmer.


Leg Five Day 13: 1300 GMT Volvo Ocean Race Positions (boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish) 1. Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) DTF 8,402 nm
2. PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) +23
3. Ericsson 3 SWE (Magnus Olsson/SWE) +24
4. Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) +36
5. Green Dragon IRL/CHI (Ian Walker/GBR) +70
Delta Lloyd IRL (Roberto Bermudez/ESP) DNS
Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) DNS
Team Russia RUS (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) DNS
VOR Report: Leg Five Day 13 VOR Report: Leg Five Day 13 Reviewed by Panos Douros on Friday, February 27, 2009 Rating: 5

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