Only two miles separate first and second
At 13:00 GMT today Telefónica Black (Fernando Echávarri/ESP, pictured) took the lead in the Volvo Ocean Race. Only two miles separate the Spanish team with second placed boat Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR), and only three with third placed PUMA (Ken Read/USA).
The last 24 hours have seen the fleet charge down the coast of Brazil with the help of the trade winds. There is still over 3,000 nautical miles to the finish, however, and before the fleet can head to Cape Town, they have to skirt the South Atlantic High, which means at least 1000 nm of sailing in what feels like the wrong direction.
“It’s quite depressing to be sailing and getting no nearer to the finish line,” wrote the skipper of Green Dragon, Ian Walker/GBR, who’s fragile lead has just evaporated. “Today feels a bit like the morning after a big night out – only without the hangover.”
“Personally I feel a bit tired right now and I am sure it is down to not eating and drinking enough. Green Dragon is not sailing as fast as Ericsson 4, PUMA and Telefónica Black. It is clear that the boats behind are a little quicker than us?but we are going to fight tooth and nail,” Walker said.
The fleet are sailing approximately 55 nm off Sao Luis do Quitunde on the Brazilian coast, with masses of water coming over the deck as the teams sail upwind on a port tack. “Man, are these boats wet,” exclaimed Andreas Hanakamp/AUT (Team Russia). “Every hour we bail 10 buckets out of the boat.”
As the boats head south, Stu Bannatyne/NZL from Ericsson 4 reports that subtle changes to living conditions are now occurring. “With each passing day, the temperature is slowly decreasing and with it we can use the bunk fans a bit less, and even some extra items of clothing are now appearing,” he says. He added that he is now wearing sea boots after a period of days when just barefoot was preferable.
As this leg reaches its half way point, the food menus onboard have now rotated several times and meal times are less of a focal point. For some, like Ian Walker, they are an evil necessity.
“I hate freeze-dried food. I have perfected the art of getting the food (that’s what they call it), from my spoon to my throat with minimal contact with my mouth, lips or tongue – the teeth play a key role in getting it off the spoon – there is certainly no chewing required,” he described today.
For now the teams can only look forward to the anticipated freeing breeze which will make conditions for sleep easier than the back-breaking jolts the crews currently have to put up with. During the last three hours (1000 position report), the fleet has been making steady inroads into the lead. The top four boats are within eight miles of each other after 14 days of racing and the spread of the fleet, from first to eighth is 87 nm.
Delta Lloyd (Ger O’Rourke/IRL) and Ericsson 3 (Anders Lewander/SWE) who enjoyed a spell at the head of the fleet, are toughing it out together, just two miles apart, while Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED) is only 24 nm off the lead. There was no visit from King Neptune to this boat, but Bekking had had a personal chat with the King who agreed to visit the boat at a later date. “We are racing and not partying right now,” says Bekking explaining that King Neptune will now become angrier. “Harder torture for the first-timers,” he says. “It is the first time for Pablo Arrarte and he is very worried.”
The fastest 24-hour run has been Telefónica Black (378nm) but the whole fleet has averaged over 325 nm. Telefónica Black had the highest average boat speed of 17 knots over the last three hours, two and a half knots faster than Green Dragon.
Leg One Day 14: 1300 GMT Positions
Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) DTF 3242
Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian Walker/GBR) 2
PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) 3
Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) 8
Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) 24
Delta Lloyd IRL (Ger O’Rourke/IRL) 40
Ericsson 3 SWE (Anders Lewander/SWE) 42
Team Russia RUS (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) 87