After a slow start the wind arrives along with two more boats

After a slow get away from Qingdao on leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race (12,300nm – the longest leg in the race’s history), the wind has arrived on schedule and the five boats are moving fast away from China. Now first-night nerves have been banished, the fleet continues to pound south-east towards the southern tip of Japan, propelled by north-easterly winds of 20 knots.

Ericsson 4 is moving particularly well, with a maximum boat speed of 34 knots and a 24-hour run of 502 nautical miles.

By the 19:00 GMT Position Report yesterday (15 February), Ericsson 4’s lead over second-placed PUMA stood at 29 nautical miles. Green Dragon, 10 miles behind the cat, has been hounded over the past 12 hours. On the Race Data Centre there is a clear and present danger for Ian Walker’s men – Ericsson 3.

Green Dragon’s cushion to E3 and its grip on third place is becoming tenuous. Despite giving the fleet a healthy head start, Magnus Olsson’s Nordic crew are now just three miles behind the Dragon and closing. Meanwhile Telefonica Blue, delayed by 19 hours due to keel damage at the pre-start in Qingdao Harbour, is a further 170 miles back.

The crews have settled into racing mode on board, according to PUMA’s Media Crew Member Rick Deppe:

“As first nights at sea go, the one coming out of Qingdao was actually quite pleasant,” he wrote. “It was cold but luckily the seas were flat and we had no water coming over the decks.”

“This morning the breeze has built and it’s still cold but not quite as bad as last night. We are sailing through a fleet of Chinese fishing boats, they appear to be working in pairs steaming in the same direction about 200 metres apart and dragging a net between the two boats and its difficult to judge how much distance is required to safely take their stern.”

“One suggestion on deck was that we may have passed through a current line thereby explaining the fishing boats and the slight temperature increase.”