Ericsson 4 stays on top

After two aborted days, the Volvo Ocean Race's Qingdao in port took place earlier in light conditions

Monday February 9th 2009, Author: Peter Rusch, Location: United Kingdom
Even in the light and shifty breeze off Qingdao in China today, it was all on for the four Volvo Open 70s as they raced in the third of the in-port race series of the Volvo Ocean Race. With three boats still in the process of being repaired after they suffered breakage on leg four, so just four boats were competing, however racing remained tight, with lead changes and some close match racing..

After a two-day delay due to lack of wind and poor visibility, race one finally got underway after a short postponement. It was Telefónica Blue and Green Dragon, both flying jibs, which crossed the start line first with Puma and Ericsson 4 setting code zero sails, crossing on port tack - a move that ultimately paid off for Grael, who was the ultimate victor in this race.

At the first mid-course gate, Ericsson 4 had the advantage over Telefónica Blue which, on port tack, had to cross astern of the race leader. Puma struggled with speed with the code zero and never really recovered from their second row start.

At the first windward mark, it was Ericsson 4 leading from Telefónica Blue, followed by Green Dragon and Puma. Telefónica Blue managed to close the gap to the leeward mark, but a slow mark-rounding allowed Ericsson 4 to rebuild her lead.

At the second gate, a great recovery from Green Dragon saw them challenge Ericsson 4 from their central position in the course, reducing the deficit to just one boat length in the shifting light breeze - a gain of around three minutes.

Meanwhile, Telefónica Blue split from the pack and took the left hand option after the gate, a move that initially brought them closer to the pack, but the windshifts did not work in their favour.

At the second windward mark, Green Dragon had moved from third place to first , but immediately after the mark rounding, Ericsson 4 rolled over the top of them and regained the lead.

The race split into two separate match races in the final run to the finish: Ericsson 4 versus Green Dragon for first and second place and, a long way back, Puma versus Telefónica Blue.

At the final mid-leg gate, Green Dragon held the lead in a slow, but thrilling climax to this in-port race which was in the hands of two of the world’s best match racers, Torben Grael and Ian Walker.

As the wind dropped in the final approach to the mark, Green Dragon gybed, dropped her spinnaker and hoisted a code zero sail, but it was Ericsson 4 which crossed the finish first, 37 seconds ahead.

In third place, Puma finished 11 seconds ahead of Telefónica Blue, a disappointing position for Bouwe Bekking who, after winning leg four, was hoping to close the gap further on overall leader Ericsson 4.

Race two

It was all change for race two, where speed off the start line was key on a course that was much shorter than race one.

Ericsson 4 pushed Puma over the line at the start, but it was a great start for Telefónica Blue, and a port tack start for Green Dragon was just what Ian Walker wanted. Ericsson 4 came off the line with better pace than Telefónica Blue who had the stronger position.

At the first gate, Ericsson 4 and Telefónica Blue were in a dead heat, neither boat having the advantage. Green Dragon was a full 37 seconds behind, but in the remaining part of the leg Green Dragon made up lots of ground and crossed ahead of Ericsson 4.

However, at the windward mark, it was all change again as Telefónica Blue had the advantage and rounded first, followed by Green Dragon, with Ericsson 4 putting the pressure on, and Puma trailing.

On the second beat, Telefónica Blue had nearly a half leg advantage, and after a fourth place in race one, it was critical that Telefónica Blue finished race two within the time 90-minute time limit in order for her score to count.

On the final beat, Telefónica Blue held on to her lead to win the race comfortably, but, further back, the chasing pack struggled to lay the finish line. Ericsson 4 eventually took second place, which was good enough for a win overall in today’s series, Puma moved up to third and it was disappointment for Green Dragon who finished fourth after such a good result in the first race. A tiebreak between Green Dragon and Puma favoured Ken Read's US boat as the rules require the results from the second race to stand in this situation.

Leg five of the Volvo Ocean Race, 12,300 nautical miles to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, starts next Saturday, 14 February.

Race One Qingdao In-Port Race Finish Position

1. Ericsson 4
2. Green Dragon
4. Telefónica Blue
Ericsson 3 DNS
Telefónica Black DNS
Team Russia DNS
Delta Lloyd DNS

Race Two Qingdao In-Port Race Finish Position

1. Telefónica Blue
2. Ericsson 4
4. Green Dragon
Ericsson 3 DNS
Telefónica Black DNS
Delta Lloyd DNS
Team Russia DNS

Qingdao In-Port Race Results (Provisional)

1. Ericsson 4: 4 points
2. Telefónica Blue: 3.5 points
3. PUMA: 3 points
4. Green Dragon: 2.5 points
Ericsson 3 DNS
Telefónica Black DNS
Delta Lloyd DNS
Team Russia DNS

Overall Leaderboard

1. Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA): 49 points
2. Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED): 45 points
3. PUMA (Ken Read/USA): 41 points
4. Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR): 30 points
5. Ericsson 3 (Magnus Olsson/SWE): 24 points
6. Telefónica Black (Fernando Echávarri/ESP): 21 points
7. Delta Lloyd (Roberto Bermudez/ESP): 12 points
8. Team Russia (Andreas Hanakamp/AUT): 10.5 points

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