The German yacht illbruck took the lead from the start line of the final leg of the VOR earlier today
The day for the final restart in the Volvo Ocean Race from Gothenburg to Kiel, dawned fair and clear, and the usual huge crowd seen in the race village every day since the arrival of the fleet in Gothenburg on the 29 May was depleted. The locals headed instead for the islands of the archipelago or down to their boats, picnic baskets loaded, and intent on having the time of their lives watching the eight VO 60s line up to do battle for the last time.
The crowds who did gather in Eriksberg fell silent as blessing of the fleet was held. Psalm 23 was the blessing chosen by the two religious figures, sweltering in their dark robes under hot sun. Reverend Agneta Olsson for the Parish of Örgryte read the psalm in English and Reverend Alf Österström for the Parish of Lundby read the psalm in Swedish. It was followed by the orchestral music of Pechebel?s Canon in D, which induced the spectators, sailors and families into a reflective mood at the beginning of the last leg of this premier ocean race. Blue and white balloons filled the air as local boat Assa Abloy left the dock, with two crewmen aloft waving the Swedish flag.
The start line was established to the south-east of the island of Alvsborgson, which is approximately two miles from the bridge marking the entrance to Gothenburg Harbour. The start gun was fired from the ramparts of the island fort at 1400 local time.
The fleet set starboard pole spinnakers early for a clean downwind start in a patchy 8-12 knot easterly breeze, illbruck setting themselves up directly to windward of Assa Abloy. After crossing the line, Amer Sports One gybed immediately onto port, followed by teammates Amer Sports Too. The very narrow channel, with banks of spectator boats on both sides, forced Amer Sports One to gybe back after ten boat lengths.
The incredible armada of spectator boats were kept under control by the patrol boats that did a marvellous job in preventing the spectators from straying into the path of the fleet. Initially, illbruck was in the lead from SEB, with djuice, Amer Sports One and Tyco all in close contention at the head of the fleet, all making four gybes in eight minutes. This start was all about finding clear air, which was made very difficult in such a narrow channel. The fleet were constantly gybing down the track, followed by the enthusiastic flotilla of supporters in a dying breeze.
As the fleet made its way towards the Trubaduren light, at the outer limit of the archipelago, it was illbruck just over a mile ahead of SEB, the rest of the fleet bunched together in a tight group, but all struggling for wind in the hot sun, the crews searching for whispers, or cat’s paws of breeze.
Once clear of Trubaduren light, the fleet will head south-south-west towards Storebaelt, which is the channel between the Danish island of Sjaelland, where the city of Copenhagen is located, and the island of Fyen.
The course of 220 nautical miles was lengthened by a further nine miles at 1100 local time today, although the Race Committee could decide shorten the course again once the lead boat reaches Kiel light tomorrow.
A sea breeze is expected today with an easterly gradient breeze of 10 knots, due to go light at the finish in Kiel.