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Champagne Sailing? Definitely Not!
Today at 1300 GMT, Bouwe Bekking and his team on Telefónica Blue held the lead from Ericsson 4 by eight miles. Still sticking the offshore side of the course, Bekking was 270 nm from the Itabuna lighthouse on the Brazilian coast.
photo credit: Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race
Pepe Ribes repairing a small hole in the sheet, onboard Telefonica Blue, on leg 6 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Rio de Janeiro to Boston

“We want to be on the right hand side of the course,” said Bekking in a radio interview this afternoon. “We are making some gains now,” he said. Bekking is expecting very mixed conditions in the light breeze over the next 48 hours, which he says will be very tricky. The fleet is currently hard on the wind.
Following faithfully in the wake of Telefónica Blue were Delta Lloyd, just slightly to the east, Telefónica Black directly in her sistership’s wake, and Green Dragon, the furthest west of this bunch. Fourteen miles east of this pack are the two Ericsson boats and their long-term friend, PUMA.
Now thoroughly into the south easterly trade winds, the fleet should be enjoying a fast transition to the scoring gate at Fernando de Noronha, 700 nm to the north, but instead, the trade winds are not living up to their reputation. In fact, champagne sailing this most certainly is not.
Wouter Verbraak, the Dutch navigator of Delta Lloyd in third place reports winds varying from seven to 18 knots with a wind direction from almost everywhere. To make this even more difficult, clouds have appeared. Some are windy, some are big, some are small, and some have no wind at all. This has meant the crews have had to change sails on a constant basis. Although Verbraak says that using their furling masthead code zero sail has made sail changing in the squalls more palatable. Verbraak’s strategy is to stay with the easterly route, as he believes there are less squalls and better wind further away from the shore.
For Fernando Echávarri’s Telefónica Black, the leader in the initial stages, hope has changed into temporary frustration. “What next?” questions their navigator Roger Nilson. “We are just looking for new chances to be the over-taker instead of the over-taken,” he said.
While the crews struggle under the influence of the clouds, the end of this edition of the Volvo Ocean Race is looming. Rick Deppe, MCM onboard PUMA say’s he is amazed at the way the race has changed his sense of time and distance.

“Capey (navigator Andrew Cape) and I were idly chatting this morning about the way we can just walk down the dock, throw some gear on the boat and set off on a 5000 mile leg with very little fuss. Of course, we want to do well in the race, and we must be sure that everything is taken care of in our own particular area, but pretty much, we take this leg on as though we were going out on an overnight trip. Most of all, you become patient… 750 miles to the gate, then another 300 to the finish. No biggy, we’ll get there.” Others are not counting off the miles and Ericsson 3’s skipper Magnus Olsson, doesn’t want the race to finish at all. This morning his crew mentioned that it is only approximately two months until the race arrives in Stockholm, the home city of Ericsson. Magnus instantly changed from the smiling skipper the crew are used to, and became very serious. “I know,” he said. “It feels tragic. I don’t want to think about it. Can’t we just continue and make another lap straight away,” he said.

Leg Six Day 4: 1300 GMT Volvo Ocean Race Positions (boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish) 1. Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) DTF 4232 nm
2. Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) +8
3. Delta Lloyd IRL (Roberto Bermúdez/ESP) +14
4. Ericsson 3 SWE (Magnus Olsson/SWE) +20
5. Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) +21
6. PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) +25
7. Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian Walker/GBR) +32
8. Team Russia RUS (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) DNS

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