Final hurdle

Volvo Ocean Race prepares for its final leg to St Petersburg tomorrow, with the return (possibly) of Team Russia

Wednesday June 24th 2009, Author: Lizzie Green, Location: United Kingdom
It was like the end of a school term at the skippers' press conference in Stockholm today as the Volvo Ocean Race fleet prepares to tackle Leg 10, a final, short, sprint to the overall finish line in St. Petersburg.

With just 400 miles remaining in a race around the world that measures over 37,000 nautical miles, and the leaderboard almost entirely decided, the finish line - the real one - is now in sight.

One leaderboard duel does remain. With a maximum of eight points available to the winner of the leg, Puma leads Telefonica Blue by 6.5 points in the battle to finish second overall in the race.

The forecast is promising for the start on Thursday afternoon. A light Northeasterly breeze of 8-10 knots is expected. But as the leg progresses, the wind is forecast to ease. It could be a long 400 miles.

“This weather forecast is not perfect for us,” said Puma skipper Ken Read. “We don’t want it to turn into a light air crap shoot because anything can happen that way. Telefonica can go and win the leg by 100 miles if they want; (but) we just have to beat one boat.”

“I think, realistically, they have sewn it up," countered Telefonica Blue skipper Bouwe Bekking. "But it’s yacht racing and hopefully they sail the wrong way, come last and we come first. There would be a lot written if that happened. We’ll certainly be pushing hard for a win.”

Also making an appearance at the press conference today was Team Russia skipper Stig Westergaard, who brought the Russian boat, Kosatka, into Stockholm last night. They haven't competed since Leg 3 and the team is now engaged in a race against time to get rule compliant ahead of the start.

With Ericsson 4 having mathematically won the Volvo Ocean Race on the leg into Stockholm, the rest of the teams are sailing for pride. And, according to Telefonica Black skipper Fernando Echavarri, that will be motivation enough.

“This is the last chance we have to win a leg and we'll try to do that," he said. "It's more about personal pressure and trying to finish with a leg win, rather than pressure on the overall standing. It's going to be good (weather) conditions for our boats so we'll try to do our best to arrive in St Petersburg in the top position.”

Ericsson 4 skipper Torben Grael agreed it will be a competitive race: “We all owe it to our sponsors to get a good result and we are all very competitive people. A win is important to us.”

Ian Walker spoke about the final leg and their new navigator Jean-Luc Nelias: “We have someone fresh, new and motivated to do a good job onboard, which I think is what we need right now. It would be very easy to get caught just going through the motions, so I’m hoping Jean-Luc will help to keep us on our toes. The forecast is upwind and for conditions to become increasingly lighter as we get to the finish. Hopefully we won’t park up and we’ll get there in time, we are all looking forward to getting to St Petersburg.”

Also stepping onboard will be Sander van der Borch, who is a guest of Bwin, one of Green Dragon’s principal sponsors. Under race rules all teams are allowed to take a guest onboard for every leg, they are prohibited from sailing the boat in anyway, but can live with the crew and ultimately experience life on these extreme racing machines.

Green Dragon navigator Jean-luc Nelias looked in his crystal ball: “The forecast shows good conditions for the start out of Stockholm with a north easterly 8-12 knots and this should last for the first couple of hundred miles, but it will be an predominantly upwind leg with conditions become increasingly lighter as we approach St Petersburg. The leg will see us dealing with shifty conditions and some tactical options such as whether to sail south or north of the Gulf of Finland. It has the potential to be an interesting leg which may throw us some surprises along the way, at present the leg should take approximately 48 hours, with an eta into St Petersburg on Saturday afternoon.”

Crew line-ups

1. Roberto Bermúdez De Castro/ESP – skipper
2. Wouter Verbraak/NED – navigator
3. Sander Pluijm/NED – media crew member
4. Stuart Wilson/NZL – watch captain
5. Nick Bice/AUS – watch captain
6. Andre Fonseca/BRA – helmsman
7. Ben Costello/NZL – helmsman
8. Ed Van Lierde/NED – trimmer
9. David Pella/ESP – trimmer
10. Gerd-Jan Poortman/NED – bowman
11. Morgan White/AUS - bowman
No changes

1. Torben Grael/BRA - skipper
2. Jules Salter/GBR - navigator
3. Guy Salter/GBR - MCM
4. Brad Jackson/NZL – watch captain
5. Stu Bannatyne/NZL – watch captain
6. Dave Endean/NZL - pitman
7. Horacio Carabelli/BRA - trimmer
8. Tony Mutter/NZL - trimmer
9. Joao Signorini/BRA - trimmer
10. Ryan Godfrey/AUS - bowman
11. Phil Jameson/NZL – bowman
No changes

1. Magnus Olsson/SWE – skipper
2. Aksel Magdahl/NOR - navigator
3. Gustav Morin/SWE MCM
4. Thomas Johanson/FIN – helmsman/trimmer
5. Eivind Melleby/NOR - helmsman
6. Richard Mason/NZL - watch captain
7. Martin Strömberg/SWE – trimmer
8. Jens Dolmer/DEN - pitman
9. Anders Dahlsjö/SWE - bowman
10. Martin Krite/SWE - bowman
11. Arve Roaas/NOR – trimmer/helmsman
No changes

1. Ian Walker/GBR - skipper
2. Jean-Luc Nelias/FRA - navigator
3. Guo Chuan/CHN - MCM
4. Neal McDonald/GBR – watch captain
5. Damian Foxall/IRL – watch captain
6. Anthony Merrington/AUS – helmsman/trimmer
7. Phil Harmer/AUS – helmsman/trimmer
8. Andrew Mclean/NZL – pitman/trimmer
9. Justin Slattery/IRL – bowman
10. Freddy Shanks/GBR – bowman
11. James Carroll/IRL - trimmer
Jean-Luc Nelias/FRA - navigator
Ian Moore/GBR - navigator

1. Ken Read/USA - skipper
2. Andrew Cape/AUS - navigator
3. Rick Deppe/GBR MCM
4. Erle Williams/NZL – watch captain
5. Robert Greenhalgh/GBR – watch captain
6. Robert Salthouse/NZL – helmsman/trimmer
7. Shannon Falcone/ANT – trimmer/pitman
8. Jerry Kirby/USA – bowman
9. Casey Smith/AUS – bowman
10. Michael Müller/GER – trimmer/pit
11. Craig Satterthwaite NZL – helmsman/trimmer
On: Jerry Kirby/USA – bowman
Off: Justin Ferris/NZL – helmsman/trimmer

1. Bouwe Bekking/NED - skipper
2. Simon Fisher/GBR - navigator
3. Gabriele Olivo/ITA – MCM
4. Iker Martinez/ESP - helmsman
5. Jonathan Swain/RSA – watch captain
6. Jordi Calafat ESP – helmsman
7. Xabier Fernandez/ESP - trimmer
8. Pablo Arrarte/ESP Spanish - trimmer
9. Laurent Pages/FRA – helmsman
10. Daryl Wislang/NZL - bowman
11. Pepe Ribes/ESP - bowman
No changes

1. Fernando Echávarri/ESP – skipper
2. Roger Nilson/SWE – navigator
3. Anton Paz/ESP – MCM
4. Antonio (Ñeti) Cuervas-Mons/ESP – bowman
5. Gonzalo Araujo/ESP – watch captain
6. Jaime Arbones/ESP – watch captain
7. Pablo Iglesias/ESP – helmsman
8. Javier de la Plaza/ESP – helmsman
9. David Vera/ESP - trimmer
10. Maciel Cicchetti/ARG – trimmer
11. Michael Pammenter/RSA - bowman
No changes

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