Back from the brink

Bouwe Bekking's Telefonica Blue team claim final In Port races

Sunday June 21st 2009, Author: James Boyd, Location: United Kingdom
After a disappointing leg nine, which saw second overall in the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 slip away when they ran aground and had to return to Marstrand for emergency repairs, Bouwe Bekking and his crew on Telefonica Blue made a remarkable comeback today, to snatch the in-port race in Stockholm from nearest rival Puma. Their teammates on Telefónica Black were third.

The rocks and islands surrounding the course set today for the final of the in-port race series in the Volvo Ocean Race were black with thousands of spectators, while out on the water, in the Stockholm Archipelago, spectator boats lined both sides of the course and masts could be seen as far as the eye could see. The well-behaved spectator fleet was expertly marshalled by the Swedish Navy. It was the perfect day for racing.

As the breeze built to nine knots for the first of two races, the fleet of seven Volvo Open 70s, sailing with plenty of heel and producing foaming white water from their bows made a clean start, led by Delta Lloyd.

The two local boats, Ericsson 3 and Ericsson 4, fought for the pin end of the line and chose the far left of the course. After a slightly sticky start, Puma, followed Green Dragon out to opposite side of the course, where she gained clean air and took a lead, which she held on to until the end of the race. Ericsson 3, using their expertise in the lake-like sailing conditions, which are their home waters, were a consistent second.

Telefónica Blue, who was last on the first beat, made a terrific comeback and climbed steadily up through order to take third, which, coincidentally, was the same top three finishing order as the second of the Galway in-port races. So close were the next two boats, it was difficult to call the finish, however Ericsson 4 eventually beat Telefónica Black by a short head (one second) to take fourth, while Green Dragon was sixth, and, after a very promising start, Delta Lloyd completed the line up in seventh place.

It was in race two that the outcome for the day was decided as the breeze increased to 12-14 knots and a fog bank started to roll in across the course.

Telefónica Blue put in her usual polished performance and led the fleet from start to finish. Telefónica Black, with syndicate head, Pedro Campos at the helm, sailed a perfect race and spoilt the show for Puma by finishing second in race two, a result which prevented Puma from claiming overall victory today. With a third and a first for Telefónica Blue and a first and a third for PUMA today, the tie was broken in favour of the results in the second race, which left Telefónica Blue as the clear winner, from Puma and Telefónica Black.

It has been an exceptional day of racing and although the order on the overall leaderboard remains unchanged, Telefónica Blue has crept a little closer to second place overall, and is now 6.5 points behind Puma, with one more leg of the race still to come.

Puma skipper Ken Read (USA) commented on the dock after racing: “We went out there with one goal and one goal only today. To either get ourselves ahead of Telefonica Blue for the day, or finish within one place. What that would do is virtually lock up second place overall in the race. For the first time in our lives, getting on the podium wasn’t that important. Being within one place of Telefonica Blue was.

“We knew it would be tough, as they have always been good in these In Port races, especially in that breeze. Sure enough they were great, but we equalled them. We succeeded today. Today goes down in history as one of the best ever days for the Puma Ocean Racing team. Since we mathematically couldn’t win this race any more [as Ericsson 4 have] second overall is our ultimate goal. Today the team sailed spectacularly, the boat was going really fast. Rob Greenhalgh (GBR) did a great job tactically, especially a couple of really key moves. Our weather team also deserves a special mention, Ken Campbell and Will Oxley have been a massive help to our tactical crew onboard, helping us call the weather on the course. I couldn’t be happier with the entire team and the boat. Today was the ultimate success. Mission accomplished.

“I think there were about a half a billion boats out there watching us! But they were the best behaved half a billion boats. I have sailed plenty of America’s Cup races and I have never seen a crowd that big before. It was pretty spectacular. Huge kudos to the whole of Stockholm for their massive support, we feel it, and it’s pretty inspirational.”

Ericsson 3 skipper Magnus Olsson commented: "It was a fantastic day - a great day to show off the sport of sailing.. The races were well organised and it was great to see so many thousands of people on the water!. In so far as the racing was concerned, for us the first race was good, we had a great start and then sailed simply and well. However, the second race was a different matter! We were too late to the start line and in these extremely close races, if you do not start well, it is very difficult to get back into the game."

Green Dragon skipper Ian Walker said: "“It was a great days racing, and great way to round off the In Port racing for the race. The spectator fleet was huge, as far as the eye could see. Full credit to Telefonica Blue, they have had a hard week for both the shore and sailing team, so this is a great result for them today, I am sure they would have liked Puma to be further down the field but a good result none the less. We sailed well today and it was some close racing, but we suffered on some of the wind shifts and found ourselves closed out on the other side of the course. It is frustrating but we sailed our best and we are looking forward to the final leg.”

Race One Stockholm In-Port Race Finish Position
2. Ericsson 3
3. Telefónica Blue
4. Ericsson 4
5. Telefónica Black
6. Green Dragon
7. Delta Lloyd

Race Two Stockholm In-port Race Finish Position
1. Telefónica Blue
2. Telefónica Black
4. Ericsson 4
5. Delta Lloyd
6. Ericsson 3
7. Green Dragon

Stockholm In-Port Race Results (Provisional)
1. Telefónica Blue 4.0 points
2. PUMA 3.5 points
3. Telefónica Black 3.0 points
4. Ericsson 4 2.5 points
5. Ericsson 3 2.0 points
6. Delta Lloyd 1.5 points
7. Green Dragon 1.0 points

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

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