Torben Grael and team clinch VOR Leg win in Rotterdam 10/6/06

Thousands of spectators lined the Maas river to cheer the Volvo fleet into Rotterdam today (10 June), as the boats finished the 8th, and penultimate, leg of the race.

The podium places were taken in the early hours of the morning by an exuberant Brasil 1, ABN AMRO One and Ericsson respectively. They were followed later in the afternoon by Pirates of the Caribbean, Brunel and ABN AMRO Two.

Their best result in the race to date, Brasil’s victory brings a new-found sense of importance to tomorrow’s in-port race and the final leg to Gothenburg, with only 4.5 points now separating them from Pirates of the Caribbean, the American boat currently lying in second place on the overall leaderboard.

The biggest shipping port in the world, Rotterdam gave the Volvo Ocean Race a spectacular welcome. Teams were amazed by the number of spectators out to support them; ABN Two’s Gerd Jan Poortman said that boats had followed them into the harbour from over 10 miles out, and that there had been 20,000 people watching from the shore at Hoek van Holland. The reception was well-received by all the crews after a psychologically tough, slow and frustrating leg.

During the light and occasionally windless battle around the British Isles the fleet effectively split into two, with the front three runners extending their lead all the way, and the chasing pack ever falling behind. Pirates of the Caribbean worked out their average boat speed over the nine days to be under six knots, slow-going for the fastest fleet of monohulls in the world!

Low speeds brought other problems too, as the ETA’s extended from Thursday to the weekend, the in-port race was postponed by a day, and crews started to get hungry; most only took enough food for six days, meaning that supplies were significantly rationed during the latter days of the race.

Shore crews have been frantically working throughout the evening to try and get the boats back in to shape and ready for tomorrow’s in-port race, for which light and shifty conditions are forecast.