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Spinnakers and spirits lifted on Dragon

9th March 2009

Last Friday Green Dragon explained how they were heading for the eye of the impending storm. “Straight through the middle. It is the fastest and safest way”, explained Navigator Wouter Verbraak. “The strategy will only work if we hit the centre perfectly.” So how has it panned out for the eleven men onboard Green Dragon? “We sailed into the centre of a low pressure and got a 90 degree left hand shift which was exactly as we hoped” explained Skipper Ian Walker.

With the shift came a welcome return to downwind sailing. “It feels great to have a spinnaker up and even better to see the miles ticking by. At least there is no more upwind sailing in the short term forecast. Life onboard has been very wet again, but nobody minds as that means we are going fast. The water is still warm due to our northerly route which is a bonus when it is hitting you in the face at 30 mph.”

However having suffered gear failure on previous legs caution is a frustrating but essential part of sailing these high tech Volvo 70 boats “We never cease to remind ourselves of this fact and how any sort of gear failure could make us late for the in-port race in Rio let alone the restart of leg six. The timetable set by the race organisers is very tight and we always have this balancing act in our minds. Yesterday was a perfect example of having to keep our heads. Having sailed through the centre of a low pressure, the problem was that it takes a few hours for the waves to shift round so we were now heading straight into the waves and the boat was leaping around dangerously.

We opted to sail for three hours with a small jib and reefed mainsail in only 16 knots of wind to try and safeguard the structure of the boat but at the cost of precious miles. It is very frustrating having to try and slow down when normally you are trying to go as fast as possible. Slowly, but surely, the waves came round and we have since been averaging more than 20 knots of boatspeed.”  Reported Ian Walker.

Spirits are high among the crew. “Today I couldn`t be happier, I find myself making jokes and hanging out with the boys on deck, and generally go around with a big smile on my face. It is a beautiful day! Today we are charging south east directly towards the first ice gate, and there is no upwind sailing in sight for at least a week!” reports Wouter Verbraak.

The Dragon has recorded the highest 24 hr run of the five boats competing in this marathon leg from Qingdao to Rio. They covered 486 nm, 57 nm more miles than third placed Ericsson 4, and 67 nm more than the leading boat Ericsson 3.

If that wasn’t enough to celebrate then the extra bar of chocolate bought out to celebrate Watch captain Damian Foxall turning 40 capped off a good day. “Yesterday was a special day onboard as it was Damian’s 40th birthday. Unfortunately all he got for his birthday was a bag of chocolate and a face full of sea water all day long. Happy Birthday anyway Damian and I hope you get to celebrate properly in Rio. Let’s hope we are not still out here for your 41st.” Was Ian Walker’s Happy Birthday message.

Read Ian Walker´s full blog here

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