Volvo Ocean Race Sailing Again

Sailing Galway, Ireland by Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race

Sailing Galway, Ireland by Dave Kneale/Volvo Ocean Race

The Volvo Ocean Race is sailing again! The fleet left Galway this weekend, sailing right into the teeth of a gale. The downwind start gave the hoards of spectators a real chance to see the Volvo Open 70 sailboats performing at their best. Guy Salter, MCM on Ericsson 4 suggested that the fleet burned around Galway Bay like a bunch of delinquents in a stolen car!

Leg 8 of the Volvo Ocean Race started with a bang. Almost literally in Ericsson 4’s case. In approximately 38 knots of wind yesterday, it became necessary to gybe – not the easiest of manoeuvres in these highly-strung racing yachts at the best of times, but in a strong breeze, it can become more than exciting.

It was a highlight for the Green Dragon team, who led the fleet round the Fastnet Rock late last night. They timed and executed their gybe perfectly whilst flying thief masthead spinnaker. They made the whole manoeuvre look easy, in spite of forgetting to swing the keel. PUMA and Ericsson 4, both of whom were right alongside at the time, did not fare quite so well.

A 38-knot squall hit PUMA just as they needed to gybe. “Along with a big shift, we decided to drop the kite and gybe to the jib, and jib reach for a bit until the squall passed. Good plan, bad execution,” said skipper Kenny Read. “Full gear up in 38.7 knots of wind is pretty touch and go. Just getting the kite down is touch and go, especially when it pops up and over the top of the mainsail and jams in the sheave,” Read said, adding, “Last time I saw Ericsson 4, they were laying on their side and blowing out to sea.”

“We should have been smarter and sailed a little more conservatively, but it’s hard when you are charging along right next to first place,” explained Ericsson 4’s MCM Guy Salter, who described Ericsson 4’s events. “We made a very big school-boy error and were caught in a huge gust. The boat seemed to accelerate in no time and before we knew it, we had ploughed into the back of the next wave and had white water everywhere. This sudden stop also sent us into a spin and we ended up on our side with the kite flapping. We had broken our leeward steering wheel and its cage. Luckily the spinnaker was still intact and all of us were still attached to yacht – just – but with a few extra bumps and bruises. We brushed ourselves down and got read after the wipe out. We went into the gybe, and I must say these boats are hard to manoeuvre at the best of times, but in 30 knots of wind, the inevitable happened and we spun out on the gybe.” The team carried on as if nothing had happened. Skipper Torben Grael steered from the leeward side while the broken wheel was removed and the emergency tiller put in place. The boat was also taking on a fair amount of water and on inspection, it was discovered that there is a relatively large area of delamination between the hull and the deck on the after starboard quarter of the boat. The team is happy that it is not structural and has set up regular bailing timetable, but it does mean more work for the crew once they reach the pit-stop in Marstrand, where assistance by their shore crew is against the rules.

Overnight, the sailing fleet has made very quick progress across the Celtic Sea, round the famous Fastnet Rock off south west Ireland, through the Western Approaches, leaving the Scilly Isles to starboard (only Green Dragon and Telefónica Black went to the south), past the Lizard Point and up into the English Channel.

The Volvo Ocean Race fleet is now sailing off the coast of Devon. After a wet overnight ride, the breeze has dropped, and the crews are able to finally catch up on some rest.

Volvo Ocean Race Fastnet Rock Rounding Order
1. Green Dragon 22:46:34 GMT
2. PUMA 22:51:51 GMT
3. Telefonica Blue 22:53:15 GMT
4. Ericsson 4 22:55:20 GMT
5. Ericsson 3 22:56:23 GMT
6. Delta Lloyd 23:14:15 GMT
7. Telefonica Black 23:23:50 GMT

Volvo Ocean Race Positions
Telefonica Black – 835 to finish
Green Dragon +0
Delta Lloyd    +3
Ericsson 3    +5
Telefonica Blue    +9
Ericsson 4    +9
PUMA Ocean Racing +10

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