Green Dragon heads further east while the remainder stay south. Ian Walker comments

The Volvo fleet have headed into the Pacific Ocean and split. Ian Walker (Green Dragon) has taken the more northerly road and headed further east, whilst the remainder of the fleet stay further south. Green Dragon is now 60 miles due north of Ericsson 3, and 120 miles to the northwest of Ericsson 4.

Ericsson 4 still leads the race, but not far behind is Ken Read’s Puma – within 8 miles of them. And whilst the conditions have eased a little from the ferocious start that sent the fleet out of Qingdao, the wind is still holding in the mid teens and from the north.

So why head further east? Leverage over the rest of the fleet. They are all heading for the north east trade winds and as Volvo’s Race expert Mark Chisneel explained: “As everyone turns in a slow, wide curve towards the south as they sail into the north-east trade winds, Green Dragon will be able to get further east”.

Interview with skipper Ian Walker, 17 February 2009:

How is everything onboard Green Dragon?
Not too bad the last position report was a bit better for us we took a few miles back on some of the other boats. It is tricky reaching, we are making good progress but it is very shifty, gusty and frustrating having to keep on changing sails. We are trying to get east, but it’s not easy. Other boats are sailing lower and still managing to get east as fast as us! Initially we were trying to protect the east so we didn’t end up crossing the doldrums too far west. But judging from the latest weather we are probably going to change our plans slightly and drop down a little bit towards the south. It is very tricky as we don’t really know what we are aiming at, we are aiming at something two weeks away with only 5 days weather!

Do you take it one day at a time?
A little bit yes, or at least one weather model at a time. But I think the main thing is to keep the boat on a fast angle and keep the boat sailing quickly. That tailors your thinking quite a lot. We didn’t mean to come as far north as we have, but we had a period of light and lifted winds, which meant we couldn’t dig a path south. Then we had a reasonably good period and got back out to the east. So it is a little bit of the cards you are dealt. But right now we are just trying to get round some Japanese Islands, we had to change sails to get up round the top of one and now we are trying to thread a gap through another two.

Over 3 days at sea now – are you happy with your progress so far?
We are making good progress towards the finish, we are making good speed after a very slow start, but it is frustrating to see Ericsson 3 and Telefonica Blue have such good conditions when they started later than us. It is hard for us, we are sailing against the fastest three boats in the race right now.

Is that the thinking to hang onto their coattails as long as you can?
We just need to try and stay in touch. We have the doldrums coming up in 10 days time and there are plenty more big weather patterns coming up. So at this stage it is about trying not to go too mad and take too many risks, whilst keeping the boats going fast and stay as close to them as we can.

Is there an element of trying to conserve energy, as it is very early on in this long leg?
Not really, it has been quite tiring the first few days. It really was quite windy for about a 36 hour period so that is hard as people don’t get much rest whilst they are off watch. The last 24 hours have been better; people are starting to get some sleep now. People are quite tired but we are all better now we have caught up a bit and it doesn’t look difficult sailing the next week or so.