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Fire breathing - Galway style

20th October 2008

Ian Walker/GBR and the Green Dragon team is breathing fire on the rest of the fleet from their western corner of the Volvo fleet as the eight boats pick their way through the black clouds and squalls of the Doldrums.   The next 24 hours will be critical and it will be partly about luck and partly about who gets the new breeze first and can edge out into the south-easterly trade winds.

Although Green Dragon snatched the lead from the claws of PUMA (Ken Read/USA) at 1600 GMT yesterday, her lead is decreasing as Telefonica Black (Fernando Echávarri) creeps closer, gaining nine miles on the Dragon in the past three hours.   The fleet is now spread out over 254 nautical miles west to east.

Delta Lloyd (Ger O’ Rourke/IRL) is the most easterly yacht of the fleet, PUMA, in third place is 31 miles off Green Dragon’s port flank, and Ericsson 3 (Anders Lewander/SWE) in fourth has found a new friend in Telefónica Blue and the two boats are now happily latched together, both 28 nm to the west of Kosatka, Team’s Russia’s blue boat, currently in seventh place.

The last 24 hours has been good for Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED).  “The boat has been going really nicely, we’ve found good wind and we’ve really improved on things,” said navigator Simon Fisher in a radio interview today.  “Everyone is working very hard and hoping we will get the speed to get out of here,” he said.  “We have really, really been focusing on our strategy but it is good to get on deck and you can see quite a lot as well.  It is as much about using your eyes as using your computers.”    

Conditions are horrible for the crews.  Lots of big clouds and plenty of rain has meant that although the crews have been able to enjoy a fresh-water shower, the novelty soon wore off after the first five minutes when everyone got cold.  “The squalls come out of the blue, and everything has to be prepared in advance” says Mikel Pasabant, MCM onboard second placed Telefónica Black.

Today, a massive signal appeared on the radar and onboard the black Spanish boat, the crew got ready to experience the worst:  “Trimmers preparing peelings (preparing to change sails), helmsman pointing the boat to where the on-duty watch said, harnesses on, the MCM preparing his arms as if in a pre-war notice… still camera, handheld camcorder and the infra-red stern cam,” described Mikel.

Everything was in position to get the most from the situation, but as the boat approached the cloud, King Neptune intervened.  “The cloud started to split in two as if letting us go by without disturbing us and we crossed exactly through a gate that opened for us as if on purpose, with massive storm clouds each side,” Mikel explains.  “Thanks Neptune, it seems you are with the Blackies!”

Away out to the east, Delta Lloyd has had a problem with the rig, when, during a sail change from the A4 downwind sail to the masthead code zero,  the leeward jumper (part of the mast) came falling out of the rig, bounced down the deck and landed in the back of the boat narrowly missing the crew.  It has taken 12 hours to repair it.  “Martin Watts has come up with an ingenious solution to re-attach the jumper back to the mast,” explained Matthew Gregory in a radio interview today.  It took Martin and Johnny (Gerd Van Poortman) an hour and half up the rig to complete the job.  “It was a pretty big project,” said Gregory.

The next stage of the course will be the rounding of the Brazilian Island, Fernando de Noronha, approximately 673 nautical miles away to the south-west where another round of scores can be added.  The fleet is expected to be in the region in about two day’s time.

During the past three hours, only Team Russia (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) has lost out to Green Dragon, while the bulk of the fleet has made small gains.  Although PUMA has slipped back through the fleet to third place, she has averaged the highest boat speed over the last three hours, while Telefónica Black has the best 24-hour run of 223 nautical miles.   

Leg One Day 10: 1300 GMT Volvo Ocean Race Positions

(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to leader)

Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian Walker/GBR) DTF 4031

Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) +27

PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) +35

Ericsson 3 SWE (Anders Lewander/SWE) +41

Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) +45

Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) +46

Team Russia RUS (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) +51

Delta Lloyd IRL (Ger O’Rourke/IRL) +86 Team

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