The lead changes but Ericsson still first and second

Ericsson continues to dominate the second leg of the Volvo Ocean Race with both E3 and E4 at the front of the fleet. There has been a change in the leader board however, as Ericsson 4 has stolen the slenderest of leads from its sister boat.

Torben Grael’s men are ahead by just three miles on distance to finish at 04:00 GMT (24 November), and are just two miles further to the north. The boats are close enough to be in sight of each other this morning.

Behind them, Ken Read’s Puma is between Telefonica Blue to the west and Green Dragon to the north, and has popped out just ahead of them – about five miles north of Telefonica Blue and 25 miles north of Green Dragon. The Telefonica boat remains handicapped by a damaged daggerboard, as Bekking explains:

“We manage just to hang in with the leaders. It is big disappointment for myself and the rest of the guys what happened to us, as we were in our minds ready to make more gains, as we know that power reaching is a strong point for us.”

“We will investigate the daggerboard once we will reach Cochin. There was only 15 knots of breeze, but I reckon an impact with a object is the most likely cause…I suspect that an impact damaged the board and this created the chain reaction…The boat is not easy to steer in these conditions, as we as we don’t have anything to prevent us sliding sideways…Normally if you look backwards, you can see a nearly straight line from the stern water, but now you can see that we zig-zagging all over the ocean.”

That means all three of the boats chasing Ericsson are damaged in some aspect: Puma suffering structural failure early in the leg; Green Dragon breaking a boom; and now Telefonica Blue damaging its daggerboard.

Further back, Telefonica Black remains the boat furthest to the west, while Delta Lloyd and Team Russia have squeezed together in the east.

“We see the Russians!” wrote Matt Gregory from Delta Lloyd. “They aren’t just a blip on the sched report anymore. They are just ahead and to leeward. Everyone is fired up. Racing a ‘real boat’, that you can see with your own eyes, brings out the intensity in everyone onboard. It’s much more fun than chasing blips on the computer screen around.”

On board Team Russia, navigator Wouter Verbraak is puzzling over how to approach the doldrums, the next major obstacle and passing opportunity for the fleet. The Russians are banking on an easterly routing:

“It is all on with the weather. The Doldrums are shaping up to be a great brain teaser for us navigators as the direct route to Cochin, India is blocked by a windless area the size of Spain…So do we go through it or around it? The fleet is storming with high speeds straight at it. A big hammer that is determined to smash through it.”

“On board the Russian boat we have…decided to attack it in a different way. Currently we are splitting from the fleet with a rather aggressive move east. It’s very expensive at the moment as it means trading in two knots of boatspeed plus a much longer route over the next 24 hours. Have we lost it completely? No way! There are rewards in the east with a much easier crossing of the light wind area and stronger winds for the remaining stretch to the finish.”