And . . . They're off! - Wild Volvo Race start

Volvo Ocean race - Start from Alicante 11 Oct 2008

After the start of the Volvo Ocean Race at 14:00 hours local time, Mark Chisnell reported at 15:30 that:

The frigate, Principe de Asturias, is turning back, so we have a final update from Knut Frostad, four time race veteran and race CEO. It's still blowing 25+ knots out there, and the warship was doing 27 knots and only just catching the leaders when she turned back towards Alicante - so we reckon that the boats are doing 22-24 knots of boatspeed.


The fleet are now headed south to Islas Hormigas, about two thirds of the way from Isla Tabarca, broad reaching in a 25 knot north-easterly. Ericsson 4 have the lead, with Telefonica Blue just over a mile behind, and PUMA in third, half a mile behind the Spanish.

Then we have Green Dragon, pulled through into fourth, four miles off the lead, and at the front of the next pack of boats. Then at half a mile intervals behind the Dragon we have Ericsson 3, Telefonica Black and Delta Lloyd, with Team Russia bringing up the rear.

Ericsson 4 are just six miles from the Islas Hormigas. From there the course alters to the south-west. That will open up some options, the fleet can either continue out to sea on port, or gybe and head along the coast on starboard. At the speed they are going, it won't be long before they have to make those choices ...

The long-awaited start day of leg one of the 10th running of the Volvo Ocean race had dawned grey and very windy in Alicante, just as the forecasters had predicted, but it did not dampen the spirits of the 88 sailors who have been anxious to get this 6,500 nautical mile to Cape Town underway.

Nor did it dampen the spirits of His Majesty King Juan Carlos 1 of Spain and his two daughters. The Infanta Doña Elena left the dock with her father onboard Telefónica Blue (Bouwe Bekking/NED) and the Infanta Doña Cristina was onboard Telefónica Black (Fernando Echávarri/ESP). The royal party was then transferred by RIB to the Spanish Navy frigate Principe de Asturias where they joined Volvo Ocean Race CEO, Knut Frostad, to watch the start.

Green Dragon in the pre-start of Leg 1 in Alicante - www.volvooceanrace.tv
Out on the race track, conditions were wild. A strong north-easterly breeze of 25 – 30 knots meant a windy start for the fleet which had to sail a short lap of the Bay of Alicante before heading back round a turning mark and out to sea.

Waves were breaking over the boats as the teams held them into the wind to hoist their reefed mainsails. Most opted for small headsails, although Green Dragon (Ian Walker/GBR) chose a large masthead genoa.

As the start gun fired from the Spanish frigate, the fleet split, and it was Ericsson 4 (Torben Grael/BRA) who rounded the windward mark ahead of PUMA (Ken Read/USA) and Ericsson 3 (Anders Lewander SWE) in a surprise third place.

Further down the fleet, the two Spanish boats, Telefónica Black and Telefónica Blue rounded the weather mark fourth and fifth followed by Team Russia. Green Dragon, who had struggled to sail as high as the rest of the fleet with their large genoa, were seventh, and Delta Lloyd (Ger O’Rourke/IRL) completed the fleet in eighth place.

The power was on as the fleet hoisted spinnakers and smoked down the leeward leg towards the final turning mark. Torben Grael kept his pole position and led the fleet as they began their sleigh ride towards Gibraltar. PUMA maintained second place, while Telefónica Blue moved up to third and Ericsson 3 dropped to fourth.

Telefónica Black slipped to fifth place and Green Dragon moved up to sixth. In seventh and eighth places, as the fleet headed off on this 6,500 nautical mile leg to Cape Town, were Delta Lloyd and Team Russia.