Telefonica Blue completes leg nine

Bouwe Bekking's team reaches Stockholm

Friday June 19th 2009, Author: Peter Rusch, Location: United Kingdom
Leg nine of the Volvo Ocean Race is one that the skipper and crew of Telefónica Blue would rather forget. Instead of anticipated heated racing against Puma for second place in the event overall, Telefónica Blue became securely wedged on a rock just outside Marstrand moments after the start last Sunday and had to return to the harbour to effect extensive repairs.

Today, as the team completed the leg and arrived in safely Stockholm, the mood was sombre onboard and what turned out to be more of a delivery from Marstrand to Stockholm had been no fun for the crew who had sailed silently, reflecting upon their misfortune.

“Finally we have finished, but not easy,” wrote skipper Bouwe Bekking shortly after the crossing the line. “No cheers, no handshakes, as we crossed the line. We know we had an absolute shocker and have given a better podium place away.

“On a personal note, this was the leg I have been looking forward so much to; sailing through home waters, going around a lot of corners, a leg which suited us well on paper, but the opposite happened. Now we will focus on the in-port race, where we have the best track record by far, and then it will be sweet to finish on top in St. Petersburg.”

His feelings were echoed across the team: “Since we left, there was not much talking going on. Everyone was pretty much into his own world, dealing his theoretical philosophy of what has happened,” said MCM Gabri Olivo.

The team will be ready to race in Sunday’s in-port race and the crew is hoping to salvage their pride by winning both this, the final of the in-port race series, and the last leg of the race to St Petersburg in Russia.

“This is the only way we can finish this race on a decent note. There is a lot of talent onboard as well as a lot of pride. We are a team and, as such, we want to show it to everyone. We will be back on the water as strong as never before. This is a must,” said Olivo.

At the time of the incident, skipper Bouwe Bekking offered his special thanks to Kimo Worthington, Neil Cox, Shaun Healey and Will Oxley from the Puma team, all of whom were out on a chase boat at the leg start and did not leave Telefónica Blue’s side until she was back in the harbour, even taking over the towing ropes to the big vessel.

Ericsson Racing Team quickly offered the use of their work container with all its boat building equipment, and it took the crew and shore crew two and half days to repair the boat in order to restart the leg on 17 June at 1916 GMT.

Bekking and his men now trail Puma by seven points. In the immediate aftermath of the grounding, Bekking conceded that “most likely, second place is gone.”

However, Puma’s skipper, Kenny Read, is taking nothing for granted. “It was a huge shame what happened to them. We are really happy that everybody is healthy and that nobody got hurt. They are, mathematically, not out of it by any means. We still have a battle on our hands,” said the skipper whose team claimed line honours in the leg.

Telefónica Blue has just one in-port race worth half leg points and the final leg to St Petersburg in which to make up the deficit. It will be a thrilling finish.

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