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Green Dragon Irish VO70 qualifies for the Volvo Ocean Race, reports skipper Ian Walker

Thursday August 14th 2008, Author: Lucy Harwood, Location: United Kingdom
The Green Dragon Volvo Open 70 has completed its qualification passage for the Volvo Ocean Race 2008/09. Having decided to find the most testing weather for the trip, conditions onboard were extreme, as the crew rounded the famous Fastnet Rock and headed north-east straight into the North Atlantic. During the 2000 mile qualifier, Green Dragon sailed to a waypoint 200 miles south of Iceland, the crew then set a northerly course to 59,32.2N 020.6W, approximately halfway between the Outer Hebrides and the Faroe Islands, before returning south to their training base in Cork.

Ian Walker, skipper of the Green Dragon Racing Team commented after the qualifier; “It took us exactly five days to sail 2,050 miles in predominantly strong downwind conditions in the North Atlantic. The conditions turned out to be absolutely perfect, Ian Moore did a fantastic job to navigate us around a strong North Atlantic depression in an anti-clockwise (downwind) direction. I have never felt so much excitement from going sailing without racing in my life. These boats are outrageous and awesome in equal measures, from hurtling along at 20-25 knots in the pitch black to repeatedly piling into the backs of waves that you couldn't see over 400 miles from the nearest land.

"Fortunately, the confidence of people like Neal McDonald is infectious and you could feel the crews' confidence and trust in the boat grow daily. The pace has been relentless; our best run came at the end of our trip, when we covered 524 miles in 24 hours, despite a few manoeuvres and a very dark and windy night. The experience of guys like Neal, Damian, Justin, Phil and Tom really shone through, but everyone onboard put in a enormous effort in testing conditions. It is really a huge milestone for the team and the boat to have completed this test. One false move or major structural damage could have jeopardised our whole program. Hats off to the team at Reichel Pugh Yacht design, ASTA structural engineers, and to McConaghy’s who built the boat - not forgetting Southern Spars New Zealand who built the rig.

"We now have a long list of small jobs for the shore team, the first of which is to give everything a thorough check through, and repair the broken loo! For the guys on board it is time for a Guinness and some Irish stew, before finding something dry to wear! It is strange to feel so elated at having just completed a qualifying passage, but the stakes are high in these boats and time is short for the Green Dragon Team. We have to push hard to learn fast, and we continue to take positive steps forward to try and catch up with the big teams. Next week sees us travel to Northern Ireland and Dublin before setting sail to Spain on 23rd August”.

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