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Green Dragon shredding and steaming

14th November 2008
Green Dragon shredding and steaming
On the podium in Cape Town, after two shredded spinnakers and a high speed collision, Ian Walker easily shrugs off the age-old superstition that painting a boat green brings bad luck.

What's more, the British leader of Irish hopes in the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) has conceded after the first leg that although the Green Dragon is not as quick as other entries at times, there are still plenty of tactical opportunities for the Galway-Chinese entry to stay at the front of the fleet.

Fourth on the water but third highest points scorer, Walker has brought an immediate return to his Chinese and Irish backers but the Green Dragon’s result comes at a time when even the weak-kneed might be forgiven for taking maritime lore to heart.

 

In the space of little over a month, both Ireland's green painted boats have either been sunk or damaged after striking underwater objects.

Asgard II remains the subject of a salvage operation to lift her from the
sea bed off Brittany after the sail training brigantine sank in as yet
unexplained circumstances there a month ago.

In the south Atlantic, a similar fate was avoided when the Green Dragon hit
a still unidentified object at speed, damaging her keel and bringing her to
a standstill. The incident left an impression on Walker in his first foray
offshore. “It’s insane, racing at 25 knots, 2000 miles from land, in the
pitch black of night”.

He's not superstitious and that's just as well. Walker sets out into
uncharted waters on leg two tomorrow (Saturday). The colour of the hull will
not bother him but instead he is focussed on boat speed - particularly as
competitors have come from behind in leg one and just sailed past.

Instead of being able to outrun Puma or Ericsson tomorrow, he may be relying
on a tactical move or another rub of the green. He's coming to terms with
boat speed differences that other teams have eeked out over much longer
campaigns. Ericcson 4 for example is effectively a fourth generation boat.
By comparison the Dragon boat was on the drawing board a year ago. The fact
it is now on the podium is just cause for celebration. The Dragons speed
will improve as the crew learn more about her, says Walker, the problem is
the rest of the fleet will speed up too.

“We do see [boat speed] differences. We’re obviously light in the bulb
[keel]. As soon as we get into stability sailing mode, such as upwind or
reaching, then boats with maximum keel weights do grind away from us. We
lose miles each schedule so that is a bit depressing.”

It’s an unhappy situation because more weight in the bulb equals more power.
"In car terms it's like racing against someone with bigger horsepower", he
admits.
 
But there are still many unknowns and more details will come out of this
second leg. Green Dragon is a strong boat and a conservative build that may
well fare better over the next 10 marathon legs than others who may have cut
things too fine. Damage sustained by both Telefonica boats is an example of
this.

The 4,450 mile leg to India is also a race into the unknown. Apart from the
pirates they may encounter, Walker predicts it will be a much harder course
than leg one. The scoring gate runs north south so what might get you to the
gate first does not necessarily get you to the Indian finish line. There is
also a much wider doldrums area of 250 miles.

In all of this the Dragon will be competitive, Walker maintains, if they
continue to sail like they did in leg one and – superstition aside – manage
to avoid things that go bump in the night.


Box item: Ger O'Rourke is to sit out tomorrow's second leg to Cochin, India.
It is just a one of a number of crew changes the Limerick skipper has made
to his Delta Lloyd entry that lies seventh overall.
Published in Editors Blog
Afloat.ie Team

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