Saturday, 23 May 2009

VOR: GREEN DRAGON LEG 7 DAY 8 QFB: received 23.05.09 0853 GMT

Rough seas in the North Atlantic, onboard Green Dragon, on leg 7 from Boston to Galway. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Ian Walker (skipper)

Galway should prepare itself for a grandstand finish in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The Dragon has had a good night and we have popped up out of stealth mode only 1 mile behind PUMA in 2nd position. Some boats gybed later than us and some gybed earlier, but it seems we have come good in the middle somewhere.

We have also pushed the boat hard all night with the fractional spinnaker with no mishaps. Despite big waves and 25 - 30 knot winds it was a clearer night with fewer squalls making life easier for all onboard.

We now have a 330 mile drag race to the Aran Isles. The race now is all about speed - there are no tactical options. We are running extra people on deck and putting every last drop of energy into the last 360 miles to the finish. I am sure no crew are willing their boat forward more than ours right now.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: PUMA LEG SEVEN DAY 7 QFB: received 22.05.09 1835 GMT

Navigator Andrew Cape, onboard PUMA Ocean Racing, on leg 7 from Boston to Galway. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Kenny Read (skipper)

For all of you addicted to the three hour position reports, I write to you now because we are about to go Stealth and disappear for the next 12 hours or so. Why?

Because after our rudder fiasco we have battled back to be at least in the hunt and the next key part of this race is critical - the final gybe into Galway expecting a wind shift to the south.

When we all time our gybes will make or break the leg (probably shouldn't use the word ‘break’ right now but it was appropriate). And my guess is that you have seen the last of the fleet for a while. Ericsson 3 is already Stealth and I would put a dollar on the entire fleet going stealth at about the same time for the first time this race.

So does this build up the suspense for all of you, or is like turning off the lights so you can't actually see the seventh inning of a baseball game?

Does it give you a reprieve so you don't have to rush to your phone or computer every three hours? Does it allow you to sleep through the night and not get up to check in on your favourite boat for at least one evening?

Or does it really tick you off that you have followed closely this entire race to be literally put in the dark for maybe the most critical tactical call of the race?

I have mixed feelings on the StealthPlay. A lot of it would depend on your answer to the above questions. As a fan, I think I would want to see what was happening at this critical juncture. As a competitor, I think the three hour reports are really tight together and for sure they give us way more anxiety aboard, but they also seem to keep the fleet together as there is little opportunity to make a break with three hour scheds.

Stealth mode really is a blast back to the past when there were no position reports. Folks I have spoken to from the first Whitbread Races tell stories of not knowing how you did until the boat got into the harbour and saw who was tied up to the dock. Now that is the ultimate StealthPlay! But honestly, I could take or leave StealthPlay. In the end it is pretty overrated in my book.

So goodbye for now. Hopefully when you see us again we will have closed the distance to the group that is to the northwest of us. Although I believe the distance to the finish shows differently right now, I believe that most of the group to the northwest is actually ahead of us when we all gybe, and we still have plenty of catching up to do. So let’s hope we get this next play right. See you in 12 hours. Sleep well knowing that you don't have to get up to see our scheds.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: TELEFÓNICA BLUE LEG SEVEN DAY 7 QFB: received 22.05.09 2237 GMT

Rough weather in the North Atlantic, onboard Telefonica Blue, on leg 7 from Boston to Galway. Image copyright Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Gabriele Olivo

Take what you most love doing in your life and keep it doing it for hours and hours day after day... That's how I would describe the sailing conditions at the moment. No matter what, this remains the best sailing in the world.

Yes, there is the other side to the coin, it’s impossible to sleep, to eat; you're always damp and cold even when you go into your bunk. It's really hard work, don't get me wrong, but if this is the price that I have to pay, I pay and please, keep the change.

Of course we would like to go a little faster, we're not quite fast enough compared with our competitors, but we made massive progress since the first leg and we're quite happy about it. Even if we work harder than the others, the adrenaline you get when you surf the boat down a wave, makes you forget about it and pays off all the efforts.

We will fight until the end, in 36 hours time we will know the results but what we will never forget is the beautiful sailing that we have the honour to experience right now.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: DELTA LLOYD LEG SEVEN DAY 8 QFB: received 23.05.09 0916 GMT

Andre Fonseca, trimming the sheet on the jib. Image copyright Sander Pluijm/Team Delta Lloyd/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Wouter Verbraak (navigator)

Everybody is out of stealth. We are in fifth but fighting for the podium. It is so close anything can happen.

After almost seven days across the Atlantic it is going to come down to the last 24 hours. Ahead of us lies first a high speed drag race to the Aran Islands. Good sail choices and focused driving and trimming are crucial. It is all on.

The sailing continues to be fast and wet. Fortunately the waves are finally getting better, so we are not nose diving all the time. Most dominant now are the squalls. One minute we are on course ripping it, the next we are 20 degrees low and too overpowered, then 15 minutes later we are light and lifted above course. The big question: what sail to have up? Sail changes are expensive, so patience seems to be key at the moment?

Being up here, fighting for the podium, means spirits are high, the mood focused, eager and determined. The last two days have been intense, and we are all feeling the grunt of that. We have to keep pushing hard all the way to the end. This is what ocean racing is all about; the end of another marathon is drawing to a close, with it the grand slam finale right in front of Galway. Perfect!

Volvo Ocean Race


Rough weather in the North Atlantic, onboard Telefonica Black, on leg 7 from Boston to Galway. Image copyright Anton Paz/Telefonica Black/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Roger Nilson (navigator)

The night is ice cold as 28 knots of SSW’ly wind is blowing over rugged water which has the modest temperature of 9 Celsius.

Exactly at midnight GMT the predicted left shift came and we turned the boat from north to east, allowed the wind to put the pressure in the sails from starboard side instead of port. What a sailor calls a gybe...

The position report at 2200 looked, at the first glance, great with us at the top of the scoring board! The simple reason was that all the other boats were in ‘Stealth Play’ and the Black boat was the only boat with a position...

The truth is that we are most likely last in the fleet after 900 nm of intense running downwind were we have been demolished. Big, painful losses at each position report has made that information hard to hand out from the nav station, but we are quite philosophical about it. We push our Black boat as hard as we can without taking too big risks. That is all what we can do....

With 500 nm to go into Galway it feels great to finally coming back to ‘the old continent’, Europe. It looks like Green Dragon is doing well on this leg and we are happy for them, coming back to their home country in good shape.

A common topic of discussion onboard is what kind of whiskey is the very best. I am personally more interested in a proper English breakfast which surely also is served in Ireland...

Volvo Ocean Race

18 Foot Skiffs: Awesome Sydney Harbour Skiffs

Images from the 2008-9 season by Frank Quealey.

Appliances Online becomes airborne! Image copyright Frank Quealey. All Rights Reserved.

Close racing. Image copyright Frank Quealey. All Rights Reserved.

GottaLoveIt 7 takes off. Image copyright Frank Quealey. All Rights Reserved.

GottaLoveIt 7 takes off. Image copyright Frank Quealey. All Rights Reserved.

Close racing. Image copyright Frank Quealey. All Rights Reserved.

Close racing. Image copyright Frank Quealey. All Rights Reserved.

Asko in front of Sydney Harbour Bridge. Image copyright Frank Quealey. All Rights Reserved.

Yandoo has a close call with a ferry. Image copyright Frank Quealey. All Rights Reserved.

Rag and Famish planing downwind. Image copyright Frank Quealey. All Rights Reserved.

Close racing. Image copyright Frank Quealey. All Rights Reserved.

Close racing. Image copyright Frank Quealey. All Rights Reserved.

Southern Cross Constructions planing downwind. Image copyright Frank Quealey. All Rights Reserved.

Skiffs in front of the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge. Image copyright Frank Quealey. All Rights Reserved.

Racing the ferry! Image copyright Frank Quealey. All Rights Reserved.

Appliances Online. Image copyright Frank Quealey. All Rights Reserved.

Kinder Caring having fun. Image copyright Frank Quealey. All Rights Reserved.

Australian 18 Foot Skiffs

BlackMatch reach new heights in ISAF World Rankings

BlackMatch Racing versus Damien Iehl in Marseille, 2009. Supplied image.

by David Swete

The recent release of the ISAF World Match Racing rankings has seen Adam Minoprio and the BlackMatch crew elevated into a career high 5th place World Ranking, one place behind Austrailian and fellow Line 7 sponsored Torvar Mirsky. The ISAF World Rankings count results over the past 2 years and as last year was our first year on the tour this is an extraordinary effort, well beyond what we anticipated. Our recent climb through the rankings was not only due to our victory in Marseille, but also helped by the fact that we have made the the last 3 World Tour finals in a row, it's this kind of form that we are hoping to carry into our upcoming events. Next week we are back competing, travelling to Germany for the second event on the World Tour, this is immediately followed by the Korea Match Cup Tour event, where we finished third last year.

BlackMatch would like to thank their friends and family for all their support over the years. We would also like to thank our two loyal sponsors Fedex Express and Line 7 New Zealand for all of their help and support and also our yacht club the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, without their efforts none of this would be possible.

BlackMatch Racing

VOR: Rick Deppe Turns the Wide Angle Lens on PUMA

Boom detail, onboard PUMA Ocean Racing, on leg 7 from Boston to Galway. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

Climbing the mainsail, onboard PUMA Ocean Racing, on leg 7 from Boston to Galway. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

Climbing the mainsail, onboard PUMA Ocean Racing, on leg 7 from Boston to Galway. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

Craig Satterthwaite checks to leward, onboard PUMA Ocean Racing, on leg 7 from Boston to Galway. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: The Further Exploits of Padraig the Bear in the north Atlantic Ocean...

Ian Budgen and Padraig the Bear. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing.

Padraig the bear tucks into some Irish cheese. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing.

Padraig the bear fishing. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing.

Andrew McLean writing home with Padraig the bear watching. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing.

Green Dragon Racing
Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Green Dragon - A Fast and Furious Ride into Galway

Waves tumble over the deck of Green Dragon. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing.

by Lucy Harwood

Leg 7 is setting up to be a classic race, with the potential for a grandstand finish into Galway Bay this weekend. It was a long night at sea for the fleet as they battled storm force conditions, gusts of over 40 knots, big seas, knock downs and breakages. PUMA was one of the biggest casualties of the night after they broke one of their rudders, quick work by the crew meant that they were back on the race course after losing only 24 miles to the fleet. Elsewhere Green Dragon and Ericsson 3 made a gybe north and headed in line behind current leg leader Ericsson 4, some 100 miles north of the remaining pack. It was a good night to begin with for Green Dragon as they started to gain miles on the fleet, but it was not to last after the conditions built. The boat suffered several knock downs and an electrical failure which forced them to pull back the throttle for some time. The electrical issues now fixed onboard, boat speed is back up as they scream along at plus 25 knots to Galway.

The fleet are expected in from Saturday evening in what could be a very close finish. Green Dragon remains one of the most northerly boats and has moved to fifth. Reports from onboard all the boats suggest this is the best sailing the teams have experienced so far in this race. The next big decision for the crews will be when to gybe for Galway, there is another big depression on its way, as Ian Walker described last night “We could gybe earlier and avoid the worst of the strong winds, but not have such a good shift. Or we could just send it straight in there and hope you come out the other side and you’ll have a good shift if you do”.

Green Dragon Racing
Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: ERICSSON 3 LEG SEVEN DAY 7 QFB; received 22.05.09 1342 GMT

Rough weather in the North Atlantic, onboard Ericsson 3, on leg 7 from Boston to Galway. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Gustav Morin

Squall night

It has been a crazy night. It was full on action before darkness with 30 to 35 knots of wind and really messy sea state which throws the boat up to speeds over 30 knots and the next seconds stops it with another massive wave.

When darkness fell we took the second reef in and that was lucky, a couple of hours later we had a few squalls coming in and pushing the gusts up to almost 50 knots.

The guys did an amazing job keeping the boat upright and in one piece. When these conditions go on for a while, the race is a lot about endurance. Being on deck demands full concentration at all times, one second of bad helming can result in a bad broach. Just at this moment we are hoisting a bigger sail to be able to sail a bit lower without loosing speed. But the broach will be even closer.

"Sometimes there is just nothing you can do to prevent the broach. You nosedive so badly that the rudders lose their effect and when the wave starts to turn the bow you can't fight back", says Magnus Olsson.

But we need to keep this big sail up and push harder than our opponents to gain back from our loss with the keel and daggerboard issues.

"We are sailing at the same speed as with the smaller sail, but the 10 degree lower course makes a difference in 60 miles towards the finish if you count on a distance of 400 miles", says navigator Aksel Magdahl.

The water temperature has been changing from 5 to 20 degrees the last couple of days and we are now back in the cold. The water is about 10 degrees and you have to keep moving not to freeze. You can also notice that the wind is a lot more powerful now when the temperature is lower and a bit more stable. The guys are exhausted when they come of watch.

Down below there is also a bit of an endurance race going on. For me as a media crew member, the never-ending story of bailing out water is full on and making food takes a lot more time and energy than in the light. I kind of like the food part though, I see it as a challenge every time I go up to the galley and get thrown around when the boat is smashing into the waves and bashes hard in the landings.

Working with computers and cameras is less amusing since they tend to break down in bad conditions. Water is dripping from all kinds of places and you have to be very careful, which is easier said than done since I struggle just to sit upright with the computer in my lap. One second the boat is diving so I almost fall forward, next second we are broaching and the third time we are heeling heavily to windward. It is just a big mess.

I was planning to do some filming which would require one of the guys to help me hold the camera. But I realise that is not going to happen. Sailing, eating and sleeping are the only things of importance for them now.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: ERICSSON 4 LEG SEVEN DAY 7 QFB; received 22.05.09 1209 GMT

Rough weather in the North Atlantic, onboard Ericsson 4, on leg 7 from Boston to Galway. Image copyright Guy Salter/Ericsson 4/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Guy Salter

It’s nearly impossible to do anything down below - so violent are the movements onboard today that I can’t get any video onto my computer.

The sound is unbelievable - it’s not the classic wind whistling in the rigging, but more the yacht whistling through the air. The sound is a mix between the turbo charge of an engine and the sound of a half filled bottle as you blow over it - only louder.

The problem with the sound is that it usually ends in a large bang as we land on the water once again before skipping aggressively on our way. Thirty knots and above is common place on the scoreboard, but we are often decelerating by 10% or more in the next wave. Once again my arms look like I have had a week on the rack as they have been stretched from hanging on! Typing is very difficult - the keys come up to my fingers, a complete opposite to normal and this short paragraph has taken nearly 30mins to write - I think I am running at 10 swears spoken per word written and have involuntary head butted the screen three times as we nose dive.

Every now and again the roar of a jet engine can be heard only this is the sound of cavitation around the rudders as we struggle to keep the boat on her feet. This boat is a weapon - a weapon of mass destruction and I’m sure in years to come you will need a whole host of certificates to sail it. It’s a credit to its designers and builders as it flies and keeps going - giving the helmsmen the odd second or two of grace to correct any minor errors - although these are rare with our bunch of legends.

As I was filming forward yesterday I took quite a pounding - again in true accident prone Frank Spencer fashion I got wrapped around the shrouds... Luckily my left ' particular' took the impact - I say luckily, when I finally got my breath back the boys were still rolling around laughing. I guess it was like watching the slam section of a skateboard movie where the hand rail always wins!

I have stopped talking like the late great Alan Ball now but I am a bit bruised so I don’t think I will be hitting the beaches of Galway in my 'man-kini' this year.

Sorry ladies

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: TELEFÓNICA BLUE LEG SEVEN DAY 7 QFB: received 22.05.09 1137 GMT

Rough weather in the North Atlantic, onboard Telefonica Blue, on leg 7 from Boston to Galway. Image copyright Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Bouwe Bekking (skipper)

We are fighting like gladiators, but we can’t get more speed out of our puppy. We feel we made improvements, but we are still missing that little of bit of pace which is needed to stay up front.

Most of the time we have been running with six guys on deck, so everybody gets less sleep, if you can sleep at all when you are off watch. The boat is shaking violently, and sometimes you nearly get launched out of your bunk, when we stick our nose in a wave in front. From 25 knots to 12 knots in matter of seconds, the forces on the hull and the gear are enormous, but no gear damage.

I just remind the guys as well to enjoy the ride, as it still very fast. The Atlantic shows once again, it can be a nasty place where weather forecasts change quickly. The northwest wind brings us heavy squalls and the temperature drops considerable, we even had hail. But downstairs it is cosy, warm, dry sleeping bags and even the foul weather gear dries partly out as the heater is running full noise.

Still looks like we will arrive somewhere on Sunday, which makes it still a relatively quick trip.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: GREEN DRAGON LEG SEVEN DAY 7 QFB; received 22.05.09 1038 GMT

Wet on deck! Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing.

by Ian Walker (skipper)

It’s 3 am pitch black and you are on the edge of control when the wind gusts to 42 knots and all the electronic instruments go out. What do you do next?

The answer is you pray the helmsman somehow manages to keep steering that fine line between success and failure. The reality is that he will only succeed for a short while before a wave or gust catches him out and sure enough that's what happened.

With 'all hands' being called to shorten sail, down below was a mass of sleepy bodies trying to get dressed as the boat lay on its side sails flogging. On deck they fought to regain control and furl up one of the sails and Ian Moore went about fixing the electrical problem. Why do these things always happen at night and in the biggest gust of the day?

Minutes later we were back up and running again, with no damage thankfully to boat or sails. This was to happen two more times later in the night and contributed to a loss of some miles after good gains before nightfall. The boat is awash above and below decks.

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

As I type this in the nav station I am ankle deep in water. Our bunk is soaked and so are many others. Fortunately it doesn't matter. We have 750 miles to Galway and it doesn't matter if we live in our kit soaking wet for 36 hours. Nobody goes on deck without being harnessed to the boat and you need little reminder of why as time and time again people are washed down the decks. Neal got washed clean off the steering wheel twice last night alone. On deck is no fun at night but has turned into fantastic sailing by day.

This leg is setting up for an amazingly close finish into Galway, but wherever we finish the memory of this leg will live with me. What we do in these boats is quite extraordinary.

Volvo Ocean Race


Rough weather in the North Atlantic, onboard Telefonica Black, on leg 7 from Boston to Galway. Image copyright Anton Paz/Telefonica Black/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Roger Nilson (navigator)

The last 24 hours have been very different from the days before. The dreaded downhill battle has started. We got into harder running last night and had to accept that our boat speed was not matching the others. Ericsson 4 moved away from us fast on the radar screen and at 10.5 nm we lost her.

In the morning we found our selves on starboard gybe, with two boats in sight. Telefónica Blue behind on our port quarter and PUMA behind us on our starboard side. We had our A7 up, a furling fractional gennaker as we could not handle the Black boat with the large masthead gennaker in the building breeze. She was just nose diving too much.

Soon we realised that both the Blue boat and PUMA were considerable faster than us. We had to watch PUMA passing us effortless, going more than a knot faster and a few degrees lower, under her biggest masthead gennaker in 27 knots of cold air.

The Blue boat embarrassed us the same way as PUMA, but it was more painful with PUMA as she was so close when she passed us...! Just a few hundred meters away.

Next to come from behind and pass us was Delta Lloyd. She was a dot on the horizon to the south and a few hours later she disappeared straight in front of us! Very frustrating, to say the least.. Delta totally out sailed us with 1.5 knots more speed and going as much as five degrees lower...What to do...?

Our Achilles heel was hurting big time....and no medicine available.

The four of us PUMA, Blue, Black and Delta Lloyd chose the option to hang on to the SSW’ly breeze east of the front, on starboard gybe, rather than going north on port and crossing the front as soon as possible as Ericsson 4, Green Dragon and Ericsson 3 did.

In our case, we chose going east first as the pre-frontal breeze was more left than predicted. At 1800 GMT the front had caught us up and the breeze swung around fast from SSW to west and we promptly gybed to port. As it looks right now, my feeling is that the northern route will two days we will know...

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: DELTA LLOYD LEG SEVEN DAY 7 QFB: received 22.05.09 0759 GMT

Team Delta Lloyd moving up to third place. The water temparature is rising and the sun is back. Everybody is enjoying being back in the pack and is warming in the sun.
Image copyright Sander Pluijm/Team Delta Lloyd/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Wouter Verbraak (navigator)

Fast and safe?

I sat down to write that we are fast and safe, but thinking of it, it is hard to call this sailing safe when we are, most of the time, sailing right on the edge in 30-35 knots of breeze. A better description is wild. Tons and tons of water are crashing over the bow as we accelerating down the waves and spear through the next one.

My four year old son makes us go time and time again to the Volvo Ocean Race simulator. A compilation of some of the most spectacular sailing in the last Volvo Ocean Race. Afterwards people ask me: ‘is it really like that?’ Yes, it is like that and worse, as where the simulator stops after a few minutes, the pounding here is already non-stop since yesterday afternoon, and we are looking at having strong wind conditions for another 24 hours at least.

Through the night we have been sailing with the fractional code zero and a reefed mainsail. This set-up is relatively safe, and the best way to get through the night. Now, with daybreak here, we can see from the position reports that several boats are putting the hammer down again. The big question is will we be able to handle the A6 fractional spinnaker and be faster and lower? Or is the sea state still too bad and is it better to continue with the current set-up?

Still a long way to go to Galway and the first priority is to get there with the boat in one piece. It is hard to hold back when the fleet is putting the throttle down, but we have to be patient I guess and see how the sea state develops. Pitch poling is expensive...

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: PUMA LEG SEVEN DAY 6 QFB: received 21.05.09 2224 GMT

PUMA Ocean Racing's leward rudder breaks after they caught a nasty puff of wind, in the North Atlantic, on leg 7 from Boston to Galway. The emergency rudder is fitted to il mostro. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Kenny Read (skipper)

Why can't we catch a break! We get ourselves into first and sail the boat hard only for a catastrophe to rear its ugly head again. This time in the form of our rudder - or lack thereof!

Sailing on starboard tack at about 1800 GMT we had about 28 knots of wind and were going pretty quick with an A-zero and full mainsail. The sea state was quite awkward. A ton of water was coming over the deck with each wave but it was no big deal. All of a sudden we got a pretty nasty puff and we were off. We were a bit on the edge and did a small spin out. I heard a bang at the back of the boat and hoped like hell that it was the runner block hitting the boom or something. It wasn't.

When the boat sat on its side with the sails flopping and there was nothing that we could do to get it back down away from the wind, it was clear that the leeward rudder had snapped off. We quickly got the boat going downwind again by using the sails to steer, and finally heeled the boat to windward so the weather rudder would control the boat while we assessed damage. Then we had to literally stop the boat and take down the sails and fit our emergency rudder to proceed to Ireland. We'll race as best we can. Our emergency rudder system is pretty slick. Time will tell if we have more rudder problems. We are all certainly a bit concerned right now.

However, we can leave it to Capey [Andrew Cape, AUS] to lighten up the situation and get everybody back into the swing of things... Here we are in the North Atlantic about halfway to Ireland and there is a loud bang and it is full stop onboard.

Everyone is a bit pissed off. Capey comes out of the hatch with his duffel bag over his shoulder, and says ‘last time I was here I heard the same noise and then it was time to get off’. He was talking about when the keel system broke on movistar in the last race and they sadly had to abandon ship. Eventually the boat was lost. It happened eerily close to our position here tonight when the rudder snapped off.

After a good laugh, the team onboard went to work and now we are back sailing again. I guess it is all in a day’s work. I just hate going to work on days like this.

Telefonica Blue shot from onboard PUMA Ocean Racing, on leg 7 from Boston to Galway. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: PUMA Breaks Rudder Mid-Way Across Atlantic Ocean

PUMA Ocean Racing's leward rudder breaks after they caught a nasty puff of wind, in the North Atlantic, on leg 7 from Boston to Galway. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Kate Fairclough

Just after 1800 GMT today, Thursday May 21st, PUMA broke one of their two rudders whilst racing hard across the Atlantic Ocean. Mid-way through leg seven of the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 from Boston, USA to Galway, Ireland, the PUMA Ocean Racing team suffered the breakage whilst blasting downwind at speeds of up to 35 knots in heavy seas. The team, who are safe and in good spirits, have rigged up their emergency rudder system and intend to carry on racing to Ireland.

Given that the PUMA Ocean Racing team had to physically stop, take down the sails, fix the rudder and then begin sailing again, they now lie only 26 miles behind Delta Lloyd, currently in first place. After an incredible day, which saw PUMA move up the leaderboard several places from fifth to first place before the incident, the team currently have 1,097 miles to go and are expected to reach Galway, Ireland this Sunday.

PUMA Ocean Racing
Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: Green Dragon - Into the North Atlantic

Strong conditions on deck. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing.

by Lucy Harwood

The fleet are setting themselves up for the low pressure system they hope to ride all the way into Galway Bay. Whilst Telefonica Blue, Delta Lloyd and PUMA made the gybe north, Ericsson 4 and Telefonica Black stayed in the middle and Ericsson 3 and Green Dragon kept the more southerly route. The next three days will be about riding the storm, keeping your boat sailing as fast as possible, whilst keeping the sails and boat in one piece. It is about smart and fast sailing, and a difficult balance for all involved, the prize is up for grabs and the downwind sailing is about to kick in. For Green Dragon the crew are looking forward to the bigger breeze, “Hopefully we can stretch our legs and show them what the Green Dragon does best, which is sail well and sail fast downwind,” commented watchleader Damian Foxall this morning. Due to a technical issue with the automated position report software, the fleet have effectively gone into stealth mode as we cannot see them on the race map at this time!

Update from Watchleader Damian Foxall
"Hopefully we can keep the sails up there and the keel down there for the next 3 days, we should be coming into Galway looking good. Coming back to Ireland is a huge part of what this project is all about, I know all the lads onboard will remember Galway from when we were training pre start about 9 months ago. It is going to be a changed town by the time we get there in three days time. I think everyone onboard has someone coming to visit, whether they are coming from England, or New Zealand, Australia or Kerry! There will be a lot of people in Galway this next couple of weeks."

Green Dragon Racing
Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: ERICSSON 3 LEG SEVEN DAY 6 QFB: received 21.05.09 1601 GMT

Rough weather in the North Atlantic, onboard Ericsson 3, on leg 7 from Boston to Galway. Image copyright Gustav Morin/Ericsson 3/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Gustav Morin

Now we're talking

Now everything I thought was going to take place on this leg starts to happen. It is wet everywhere, bumpy, around 10 degrees in the water and we are doing between 20 and 30 knots of boatspeed VMG downwind with steadily around 30 knots of wind.

This is when these boats are in top of their game. Our Ericsson 3 is like a wild horse in this stuff. She is twisting and turning and all the time trying to take control of herself. The crew and particularly the helmsman has to wrestle and keep her down every second.

Standing at the wheel is no longer a matter of fingertip feeling and fine tuning with small soft movements. It's about having your feet far from each other and working hard to keep your balance, while turning like crazy between the waves.

Sometimes you are not fast enough, or there just is no path to find so you can do nothing but let the bow dig down in the sea with a massive wall of water coming towards you and flushes the crew around the cockpit as a result. You better stay clipped on in these conditions. You might think you are in control and that you can bear any wave. Believe me, that's not the case...

This morning was, without doubt one, of the most beautiful and memorable moments of sailing since the start of this race. We had around 25 knots of wind and were doing about the same speed when the sun came out. The temperature was perfect for a Scandinavian used to chilly winds. Full wet weather gear with one layer of thermals underneath was enough not to freeze and we were pretty smoothly running along with the sun in our faces and with Ireland coming up quickly ahead. Now it's a bit more crazy.

Unfortunately we haven't made the big gains on the guys in the front that we would have hoped. We don't have that much runway so we must start soon. But the big stuff has just arrived and we still have some cards to pull out of our sleeve.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: GREEN DRAGON LEG SEVEN DAY 6 QFB: received 21.05.09 1501 GMT

Justin Slattery checks the sails, onboard Green Dragon, on leg 7 from Boston to Galway. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Ian Walker (skipper)

Over the Handlebars

It feels like we are in the North Atlantic now. The wind built to over 30 knots ahead of the front but with a nice sea state we managed to keep the masthead spinnaker up as far as the last ice gate.

Since then we peeled to the fractional spinnaker and enjoyed an awesome ride as the waves rapidly built. Enough was enough and after one wipe out we have throttled back a bit by flying a flatter fractional zero spinnaker.

Boat speeds are solid twenties, often 25 and sometimes into the thirties. We are nearly pointing directly at Galway so life is good. This is what I had in mind when people talked to me about the Volvo Ocean race - hard, fast running in lots of wind. It is only the third time we have had these conditions all race. However much fun it is on deck there is always the nagging feeling that you are on the edge of control. You are heavily reliant on your equipment and teamwork.

Down below it feels and sounds horrendous. Everything is crashing and banging and the boat flexes this way and that. My ear is finely tuned to the sound of carbon cracking and I jump up at the slightest 'different' noise down below. So far so good however. Rest will be very hard to come by between here and Galway but at least we know we only have a few days of this to go. The miles are tumbling rapidly and our quest to sail back into Galway Bay ever closer. We may have sailed over 30,000 miles but we are going to be made to fight very hard for the last 1000 miles.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: ERICSSON 4 LEG SEVEN DAY 6 QFB: received 21.05.09 1438 GMT

Rough weather in the North Atlantic, onboard Ericsson 4, on leg 7 from Boston to Galway. Image copyright Guy Salter/Ericsson 4/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Guy Salter

Firstly apologies to all for having to read another report from me when I’m sure it’s the crew you would prefer to be reading right now.

The breeze has built steadily over the last few hours and conditions are once again what we would describe onboard as heinous. If you’re not on deck tethered on to the yacht you are down below and trying to get in your bunk ASAP as this is the safest place to be - although there is little rest to be had.

It’s a bit like being on the log flume ride at one of the big theme parks - or at least like one particular part of the ride. I’m sure you have all laughed at the pictures of yourself taken as you plummet down the steepest slide to the guaranteed soaking at the bottom, well, being on Ericsson 4 is very much like the four seconds before and the four seconds after the flash has caught your expression on the log luge.

We are all enjoying the feeling of going fast and the acceleration and we know we will end up wet at the end of each surge down the wave – I’m sure there are looks of both exhilaration and panic on our faces - like the photo memento of our day out. The difference onboard here, is that the stakes are a lot higher. We don’t know what to expect in each trough and as we are not on rails we could easily find ourselves spearing off course - both of which are definitely not part of your fun park ride ( although I’m sure there have been some near misses at the travelling gypsy fairs).

It’s these moments of realism which dampen down the excitement of sailing in these conditions, most of the boys out here, and definitely all onboard Ericsson 4, are very much in control of their emotions - you don’t want to get too excited by the highs and you don’t want to open yourself up to the lows.

This emotional guarding is often seen as an arrogance or as if the boys are boring, when in realism its just an adaption for us to be able to push hard and be competitive in very tough and extreme conditions, which would see many tough people fold as the alarms ringing out in the brain are carefully analyzed and ignored in pursuit of performance.

It’s only when the ‘poo’ really hits the fan is the survival mode allowed to surface and you must keep a very cool head for this also - another reason why the emotions are controlled – it’s a survival adaption. I’m sure you see this in all sorts of endurance sports and activities from mountaineering to ultra marathons - these athletes will push the mind until it’s time to really take notice.

So it’s pretty wet onboard once more as we charge along at speeds in the low 30s at times. The fleet looks to have split so Jules (Jules Salter – navigator) is running and re-running routes to check we are happy heading north before it’s too late to consolidate our position.

The boat keeps ploughing into the back of waves and this created a slapstick comedy moment at my expense. It was as we were decelerating in one of these nose dives that I lost my balance and staggered backwards. As I did, my foot found a secure hold and stopped me toppling over. Unfortunately for me and to the amusement of the others, my foothold was actually in one of the buckets!

It was stuck fast and as I shook my foot the bucket remained unmoved. I walked aft with a step - clump - step - clump until Stu Bannatyne kindly freed my hoof - but not without a bit of effort.

I wouldn’t be surprised if I inherit the nickname ‘Mr Bean’ or ‘Harold Lloyd’ after that performance. Let’s hope there are not any banana skins left lying around or people with ladders on their shoulders being called by a colleague behind them.
The day is grey and wet and I think it has rained a little although I would not be surprised if it was a glorious day outside of our ball of spray. Looks like a few days to go of this!

Apologies to Galway - we may be bringing inclement weather with us!

Volvo Ocean Race

Friday, 22 May 2009

VOR: DELTA LLOYD LEG SEVEN DAY 6 QFB: received 21.05.09 1231 GMT

The crew discuss their course on Delta Lloyd. Image copyright Sander Pluijm/Team Delta Lloyd/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Wouter Verbraak (navigator)

Gulf Stream games ahead of big winds tomorrow

“This sailing makes you want to do this race again.” The smile on his face is telling as Nick Bice comes down after an hour of driving. The sailing conditions are absolutely stunning. Downwind, 25-30 knots, flat water and a red morning sun. With water temperatures up to 18C even the gloves and hats are off. This is the North Atlantic showing its pretty face.

Not that I get to enjoy much of it. I am stuck in the nav station monitoring the movements of the big anaconda. With her movements very irregular, the Gulf Stream deals us different cards all the time: 2.7 knots of current with us, then minutes later only 1.3 without much warning. Sure, we have the latest satellite pictures with the sea surface temperatures, but that only gives a rough guideline as to where to look for the best current. The best tool is the water temperature gauge that shows the transition from colder to warmer water. The trick is to find a good patch of current and try to stick with it by following its temperature trail. The result: constant monitoring and not much sleep... but very cool!

The happy smiling face of the Atlantic is about to change. Soon we are going to see her other side. The one that sent many a ship to the bottom of the ocean, the one that demands our deep respect. We have seen that face, and it can be pretty ugly.

The warning is in that same beautiful morning setting. “A red morning, a sailors warning.” That warning sign is small but now clearly visible on the western horizon. A thin layer of clouds, steadily approaching and growing thicker. The weather models of modern technology confirm the sailors rhyme. They are predicting winds to build to 30 knots tonight and more tomorrow.

As we have known about the front for a couple of days, we have already made preparations for things to come. Yesterday we spent an hour folding the upwind sails into smaller packs, so that we can stack the boat more aft. The flat bottoms make these boats fast in medium and light air, but the downside is that they become ‘noisy’ in stronger winds. We need every kilo of stackable weight as far possible back as we can and we have made it our mission of the day to figure out ways to get even more weight back.

So all smiles covering worried faces as we are blasting our way towards Galway. Better get some good lunch in and enjoy the sailing on deck before it is all taking a turn for the worse. Keep your helmets ready, it’s going to be wet, we are going in!

Volvo Ocean Race


Fernando Echavarri, onboard Telefonica Black, on leg 7 from Boston to Galway. Image copyright Anton Paz/Telefonica Black/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Roger Nilson (navigator)

What a relief..! Winter turned into summer as we swept around the south east corner of the ice box. Water temp was suddenly up to 18 Celsius, blue skies and hot sun as we hoisted our big kite at lunchtime yesterday and started to go downhill.

Ericsson 4 was close in our heels around the imaginary mark and, after a short gybe to the north, we could even see the Blue boat on the south western horizon.

The reason for the warmth is of course a branch of the Gulf Stream which, at times today, was pushing us north east with two knots of welcome current. This famous current is the only reason why we in Scandinavia have an acceptable climate, otherwise Stockholm would be like Northern Alaska.

The warm current brought something with it that caused an unexpected little adventure today. Suddenly the whole boat started to vibrate and the steering felt very strange. Nothing was hanging on the rudders so what could it be? David Vera took the endoscope and put it through its hole in the bottom of the boat to inspect the keel and dagger board. He burst out into a roaring laughter.

“Look, look there is a big turtle stuck on the leading edge of the keel, unbelievable...!”

Nobody believed him until we all had a quick look through the optical instrument. Sure, there it was, a three feet full size ocean going turtle was hanging on the front side of the thin keel blade and desperately trying to free itself with all its four little paddle-like fins. Fernando Echávarri at the helm was doing everything to help it come loose, first by swinging the keel from side to side; finally he put the boat into a full broach in the modest 15 knots SSW’ly wind. Ericsson 4, only two miles behind us must have been wondering what we were doing, steering all over the ocean in order to free ourselves from a turtle!

No luck, the turtle was still stuck pressed onto the keel by 13 knots of boat speed.
“Let us stop the boat and back off..!” was the call from Fernando and soon we drop the kite on the foredeck, go head to wind, stop and with help of the staysail go backwards.

“There it is, just next to the boat..!” says David and we can all see the seemingly unhurt turtle swimming around on the surface in gentle circles. What a ride for the poor animal! It looks happy and we wave goodbye, hoist the kite and off we go again. Ericsson 4 is now a few hundred metres behind, but hours later they have passed us with their irritating edge in boat speed.

Another day in the office... Who said it is boring to be at sea..?

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: TELEFÓNICA BLUE LEG SEVEN DAY 5 QFB: received 20.05.09 1815 GMT

Sail changing for Laurent Pages, onboard Telefonica Blue, on leg 7 from Boston to Galway. Image copyright Gabriele Olivo/Telefonica Blue/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Tom Addis (navigator)

Finally around the ice box and into another chapter of the race. Out of the fog, cold water and radar watching and into ‘sailing around the high’ stuff in 19 degree water.

Also great to be in open water again with no crab pots and fog which turn the situation into a bizarre twist on Deadliest Catch, where the crabs try to catch the boat. I almost yelled out ‘MOTHER LOAD!!!’ once with one big haul around multiple foils, but managed to hold back as it would have confused Jordi Calafat even more about which way to turn the boat.

We just about feel as though we are back into the race after our group’s expensive escapade for the scoring gate points. We had quite mixed feelings as soon as we crossed, great to get the maximum points before the sudden realisation of the size of the job ahead of us to catch the boats who chose to ignore the scoring gate and who were now well ahead of us. At this stage of the overall race, every team has a different agenda when it comes to grabbing points, some going for leg wins, some for points against other boats in particular and some just going for points overall. It still makes it hard when the scoring gate is so much at odds with the long term strategy of the leg though!

Almost back with the top of the fleet now after a really good night last night, we chose to press up quite hard against the ice fence and made good gains on the guys further offshore than us. It was not easy to get the positioning that we wanted with very unstable conditions around the first ice box corner, but we got there in the end. When the fog lifted this morning, we had a much nicer painting in front of us with Ericsson 4 on the bow, Delta Lloyd to the south and going back and PUMA behind them and going back further and faster.

We’ve now squeezed around the high, which has given us the soft reaching conditions for the last 24hrs and it’s into some nice gentle running before a frontal build tonight which will see some action to keep us very busy for the next few days into Galway. Every time a satellite pass comes in, the dramatic looking line with the shift and pressure is ever closer. There will be a gybe in there somewhere with one last bit of the ice box to deal with; hopefully we won’t be faced with the same dilemma as at the scoring gate reconciling long term and short term plans. That’s this afternoon’s project for me.

Its Daryl Wislang’s birthday today, we tend to get things that remind us of home as presents and with him being a Kiwi and me an Aussie, many of his food presents are great home reminders for me too! Just had my last pineapple lump – I promise...... I just knew there had to be an upside to associating with Kiwis!!! Ha Ha. Happy birthday Daryl.

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: ERICSSON 4 LEG SEVEN DAY 5 QFB: received 20.05.09 1642 GMT

by Phil Jameson (bowman)

Who would have thought it would be this close?

Telefónica Black and ourselves are absolutely neck in neck, running along with masthead gennakers on.

The guys on their boat have just completed a backdown right in front of us. It's not hard to see why. There is plenty of debris in the water and a good lookout is required so as not to plough into anything.

The other thing we have to avoid, are turtles! We must have seen 7 or 8 of them in the last four hours. They are a reasonable size too. I'm sure they are doing everything to get out of our way also. It sure would hurt having one of our rudders touching you at 18 knots.

The boat seems to be going well. We are slowly getting ourselves prepared for the strong breeze that is forecast later on. We try to avoid any 'downtime', because of the fleet being so competitive, you just can't afford to be slow ever.

Last night and this morning was rather cold. The guys have had every stitch of clothing on in an effort to stay warm. There is no shortage of guys wanting to grind on the pedestals in those conditions. Anything to keep the blood pumping. Ryan Godfrey and I have had some very cold adventures on the foredeck so far. I can't describe the feeling when the six degree water hits you in the face like a fire hose! It's like having an ice cream headache that you can't get rid of! Oh well, we're the idiots that signed up for this!

Temperatures are on the up a bit now, so that’s good. Everything else seems to be rumbling away okay. The boys are all happy so far and are all looking forward to drinking a nice big Guinness in Ireland.

Better go and get some shuteye.

from Guy Salter...

Been a lot of wildlife in the last few hours, as Phil describes above we have seen eight turtles in the last two hours and I have been trying to film them, but as soon as you press the record button and wait for the red light to say all things are go than you have passed them by.

As I came up from below after filming from the spreader cams I was told I had missed the Whale - we haven’t seen too many and this one passed between the two yachts just a couple of hundred metres away. I asked if anyone had picked up the camera and filmed it - but no one had - even though I had left everything ready. That’s life I guess! There used to be an advert in the UK for Kit Kat that showed a man waiting at a zoo wall to film a Panda - as soon as he had his chocolate break the Panda came out of hiding and was dancing. As soon as the man looked back the performance was over. That is exactly how I feel some of the time - as soon as you back is turned........

Plus just heard we have had some dolphins whilst I’ve been writing this - so much for my look outs!

Volvo Ocean Race

VOR: DELTA LLOYD LEG SEVEN DAY 5 QFB: received 20.05.09 1802 GMT

Nick Bice tries to stay warm on board Delta Lloyd. Image copyright Sander Pluijm/Team Delta Lloyd/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Sander Pluijm

It could be worse...

After a rather disappointing night when Telefónica Blue overtook us, it was yet again a fabulous day of sailing as we rounded the ice-gate mark and started the Atlantic crossing downwind as fourth boat in the fleet today around 1400 GMT.

Apart from the few hours on the last leg, it was since the start of leg two in Cape Town the first time that we did some real downwind sailing on the Delta Lloyd. There has been a lot of upwind sailing during these past legs, so the boys are happy and smiling. Finally the big kite is dancing in front of the boat and the speedometer is going up. The sun is shining, temperature is going up, wind chill is up because the wind is coming in from the back, and life could be a lot worse on board the Delta Lloyd... Everybody who loves ocean-racing has got to love downwind sailing as well on these boats! They are like surfboards gliding down the waves in a perfect ride.

And the best of all, we are in fourth place and we can see our direct opponent Telefónica Blue on our bow. So the next couple of days will be a big fight for the third place because on our stern we can see the PUMA-boys aiming for our spot.

More breeze is coming in the next two days, up to 40 knots. So we are up for some serious downwind racing. Already guys are discussing the ETA because there will be another 1000-mile ETA-bet organised. Questions are: will navigator Wouter Verbraak be allowed to bet again? Will he have to pay double or more? Will everybody else as always be too optimistic again? And will Stu Wilson, in the same way he answers every 'when’ question, bet on Tuesday again..? Will Morgan White win again? All to be answered in the next couple of days.

A few guys have a cold and running noses. But apart from that, the boat and crew are in good shape and ready to start the classic crossing.

Scrambled eggs and bacon
Power shake
Roast lamb and mashed potatoes

Quote of the day after saying sorry for waking him up again for a tack: "Sander, it could be much could be raining" (Andre Fonseca)

Volvo Ocean Race

Thursday, 21 May 2009

VOR: PUMA - Bolt vs. Il Mostro

Actress Salma Hayek gets a few points from the PUMA skipper, Kenny Read, while driving before the start of Leg 7. Image copyright Bizuayehu Tesfaye/PUMA Ocean Racing.

by Rick Deppe

Sitting here with Capey, talking about Salma... again. It was brilliant having her on the boat the other day for the start of Leg Seven from Boston to Galway. As you can imagine, she is a very lovely lady. It seems that since she christened the boat a little over a year ago, she gets briefed regularly on our progress and has been following some of our exploits. She seemed to really enjoy some of the stories from the crew and was especially grossed out by Ken's "manky" finger from his accident in the Straits of Taiwan. This conversation led to a discussion regarding our ‘late’ (according to the PR team) arrival in Boston. Turns out that Usain Bolt- the Olympic champion and athletics sensation from Jamaica, who wowed the world during the Beijing Olympics, was waiting for il mostro on the dock at Fan Pier. We took just that bit too long getting there and unfortunately he had to...ermm BOLT, a few hours before we made it into Boston.

It's hard to believe that we are part of the same team as Usain. I'm talking of course about the PUMA team, a diverse group to say the least. African football players, French race car drivers and golfers as well as pro skateboarders and many other sports.

This train of thought got me thinking about Usain and il mostro. Perhaps you can hear the cogs creaking in some under-used part of my brain. His event takes 9.6 seconds, and ours takes nine months! Usain covers 100 meters in I believe around 9.5 seconds. Currently, il mostro is travelling at a nice clip, around 15 knots (this is a nice average speed for us) and at this speed we will cover 100 meters in 12.5 seconds- not bad!

I think I'm on to something here.

Perfect trim is necessary for sailing at the best possible speed in the direction you want to go. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing.

il mostro's top speed during the Volvo Ocean Race so far was 40 knots, this was recorded on Leg Two. At that speed we covered 100 meters in around five seconds- not bad for an 18 ton sailboat. So by my reckoning and with all practicalities aside il mostro would easily be the 100 meters world champion! Our average speed around the world so far is around 12.3 knots. I figured this out by doing the day count so far and making a prediction on the balance. Its 135 days total for the race. The total distance for the race is around 40,000 nautical miles. Divide them and you have 296 miles per day, divide this by 24 and bingo, 12.3 knots.

Now it’s time to do it in metric and see how Usain does on a marathon: 40,000 nautical miles, multiplied by 1.85 (thanks Capey) equals 74,0000 kilometers, divide this by 135 and you get 548 kilometers per day. Divide this by 24 and now we know that our average speed around the world is 22.8 kilometers per hour. We already established that Usain competes at a remarkable 37.8 kilometers per hour so amazingly if he could run on water (some say he can!) and keep it going round the clock, he would make it the 70,0000 kilometers around the world in around 81 days. At that speed he would easily be winning the Volvo Ocean Race right now.

And at this point I'm going to sign off because this is getting silly! All is good here on the yacht.

PUMA Ocean Racing
Volvo Ocean Race