Volvo Ocean Race fleet focused on scoring gate

Monday, 18 May 2009

Only one more scoring gate is left on the course for the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race, and that is a line set southwards from St Johns, Newfoundland, approximately 171 nm to the east of PUMA who holds a slim lead. 

All thoughts are focused on earning maximum points at the gate and, with the first five boats within seven miles of each other, and dense fog preventing visibility of the opposition, the race to the gate will be a serious affair. 

After passing through the gate, the fleet will have to swing south to avoid the ice exclusion zone.  The zone starts on its western side near the town of Lories, Newfoundland, extending 350 nautical miles southeast to approximately the same latitude as Boston but some 900nm to the east.  From there it extends 170 nm east then goes north east 250nm from where it extends north.

In the 2005-06 event, the ice exclusion zone was a mark set on the island of Newfoundland as there was no ice in the course area, but this year the ice extends approximately 250nm south of Newfoundland.

Unlike the ice in the Southern Ocean, which is uncharted and largely unobserved, the ice in the northern Atlantic is observed by the Canadian and US authorities who overfly the area each day and document the position of the icebergs.  In the Southern Ocean, the only surveillance is by satellite where the smallest size recorded is 150 meters.

With ice so far south, it is not surprising that the air and sea temperature is cold.  Kit bags have been emptied and extra layers of thermals have been put on in an attempt to keep warm.  For Ryan Godfrey on Ericsson 4, it will be a bleak week ahead as his sea boots have already become wet on the inside.  “I guess on the upside, a week doesn’t seem like too long at sea anymore,” he said earlier today. 

Onboard Ericsson 3, skipper Magnus Olsson fell asleep midway through his porridge.  When the crew woke him, he said in a shivery voice, “This is crazy.  I have seven layers of clothing on and I’m still cold.  I think and hope it will not be this cold for more than two days.  If it will take any longer, I don know how to survive.”  The crew accused him of being a ‘drama queen’ but there is for sure some truth in his words, and the crew has yet to experience the cold water stream of the Labrador Current.

Overnight, the fleet has been hooking up lobster pots, which litter this rich fishing area.  Green Dragon was the worst affected, suffering a damaged daggerboard when a line sawed into it.  The crew had to swap daggerboards in order to make good the damage.

Ericsson 4 has had pots hooked to every foil.  “Luckily they seem to come off relatively easily, but not before that ‘Jaws’ moment of the large buoys chasing the boat before they are sucked round the foils to their freedom,” wrote MCM Guy Salter. 

With such an abundance of fish, several feeding whales have been seen.  “We passed close by a huge whale this afternoon, which made a magestical sight with the low, heavy fog and the glassy ocean.  The whale soon disappeared into the deep apron, sensing our presence,” noted Ericsson 4’s Ryan Godfrey. 

For second-placed Ericsson 3, their close encounter with a whale resulted in the boat sailing clean over the top of one.  Luckily, the boat was not doing more than 10 knots at the time and there was no serious damage to either boat or whale.  Arve Roaas had the best view of it:  “We had just passed one whale when I saw a huge tail on the starboard side and the rest of the body was, of course, under the hull.  It was probably about the same length of the boat,” he said.

Leg Seven Day 3: 1300 GMT Volvo Ocean Race Positions
(boat name/country/skipper/nationality/distance to finish)

1. PUMA Racing Team USA (Ken Read/USA) DTF 2136 nm
2. Ericsson 3 SWE (Magnus Olsson/SWE) +1
3. Ericsson 4 SWE (Torben Grael/BRA) +1
4. Telefónica Blue ESP (Bouwe Bekking/NED) +2
5. Telefónica Black ESP (Fernando Echávarri/ESP) +7
6. Delta Lloyd IRL (Roberto Bermúdez/ESP) +17
7. Green Dragon IRL/CHN (Ian Walker/GBR) +26

Team Russia RUS (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT) DNS

Lizzie (Green) Ward
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Last Updated ( Monday, 18 May 2009 )