Bound for St Peterburg

Puma leads the Volvo Ocean Race boats from Sandhamn on the final leg of the race to Russia

Thursday June 25th 2009, Author: Lizzie Ward, Location: United Kingdom
Puma, which is now assured second place overall, led the Volvo Ocean Race fleet out of Sandhamn, on the outer edge of the Stockholm archipelago today - a spectacular day where conditions were perfect for the start of the tenth and final leg of the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 to St Petersburg in Russia.

Sailing confidently in 10 -12 knots of breeze, Puma, Telefónica Blue and Ericsson 4 were the front runners off the start line and a huge spectator crowd needed no excuse to get out on the water and watch what these ocean greyhounds do best. A steady breeze and flat water ensured plenty of white water spilled from the bows as the boats started a leg for the last time, fully powered up and under a cloudless sky.

Leading round both buoys marking the traditional ‘sausage’ before heading to out to sea, the crew of Puma had set the black boat up perfectly and extended their lead, while behind, Bouwe Bekking’s bowmen wrestled with their heavy code zero sail, which had remained furled and unused on the bow and was slowing the blue boat down. Green Dragon scorched past overall race winner Ericsson 4, who had the pressure put on by sistership Ericsson 3, while Telefónica Black and Delta Lloyd were in the second string.

Team Russia joined the pack once the racing fleet had completed the inshore loop, to sail, but not to race, homewards to St Petersburg, with owner Oleg Zherebtsov working the bow as he did in the earlier legs of the race.

Although speeds were good as the fleet left Sweden behind, the leg is expected to be predominantly upwind to Russia and race rules allow for Race Director, Jack Lloyd, to shorten the 400-mile course if necessary. The fleet must arrive in St Petersburg on Saturday morning in order to clear customs and pass through two bridges, which will be raised specially in order to let the fleet into the historic city.

Puma has now clinched second place overall, their performance improving hugely in the second half of the race. Telefónica Blue will take third after losing the battle for second when they finished last in leg nine after going aground in Marstrand, while Ericsson 4 is the runaway leader, winning the race with a leg to spare.

Overall Leaderboard
1. Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA): 110.5 points
2. PUMA (Ken Read/USA): 98.5 points
3. Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED): 92.0 points
4. Ericsson 3 (Magnus Olsson/SWE): 73.5 points
5. Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR): 64.0 points
6. Telefónica Black (Fernando Echávarri/ESP): 50.0
7. Delta Lloyd (Roberto Bermudez/ESP): 39.5 points
8. Team Russia (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT): 10.5 points

Guy Salter reports from Ericsson 4 :

So another jaunt into the unknown - Russia! Quite exciting in many aspects - the end of the race and the end of an adventure - all we have to do is hold out for the last day or so and get to St Petersburg in one piece.

Although we have completed our goal of winning the Volvo Ocean Race we will still be pushing as hard as normal onboard - there is no real off switch - we would desperately struggle to cruise Ericsson 4.

There seem to be a few changes in our galley curtain. Gone are the tea bags and cup soups and in there place are two bottles of port - which are strictly NOT for cooking, - but a nice small glass of port as we cross the finish line will be a pleasant way to end this race - after all we have a long motor to the customs dock in Russia.

The start loop is now complete and we are on the wind - in 12 knots of wind on a glorious sunny day. At present we have Puma leading followed by Telefónica Blue directly in front and on our line. Behind us are Ericsson 3 and, a way to leeward, are the other three boats. It’s looking like the majority of this leg will be on the wind - something we seem to have done more than our fair share of on this lap.

So we are all settled in for the last leg - the stack is complete and the snacks are being handed around - Jules has just this second mentioned that we have 306 miles to go to the finish - that sounds like part time work to us - but I’m sure there are plenty of stories left in the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09.

Stay Tuned

Gabriele Olivo reports from Telefonica Blue :

Here we are after another good start from Iker Martinez, we left the beautiful Stockholm together with thousands of spectator boats (again...). All these people watching the start during a normal weekday made me wonder if in Sweden people actually work at this time of the year, or if they stop when the sunshine comes out. Either way, it was sensational to see how many people are so in to this sport in this country and we all hope to come back next time.

We are now two hours into the race and we are less than half of a mile behind Puma and the same ahead of the two Ericsson boats. Our sister-ship put the pedal down as soon as we rounded the last mark and she's gaining quite a bit of bearing but losing separation. Same for Green Dragon and Delta Lloyd. Time will tell if they've been brave or not.

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